Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Raymond Thornton. I am a fine artist/representational oil painter
Where are you from?
I grew up in Dyer, Indiana down the road from Kahler Middle School. We moved to Tennessee when I was twelve, however it didn’t take and two years later we moved to Schererville, where I live today.
How did you get started?
When I was fifteen I started serious art classes at an artist’s studio. He was a professional portrait painter and I attended his studio twice a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7:30pm to midnight. I studied with him for five years. I went to college at the American Academy of Art of Chicago and I also took side classes at Columbia College in Chicago. When I was nineteen I was hired by an art studio to do digital imaging on what was then a top of the line paint box computer called a Shima Seiki. A half a million dollar machine that in a few short years would be totally replaced by a desktop Mac and $600.00 piece of software called Photoshop. I continued to paint. I entered art competitions and exhibitions and would do portrait. commissions. A few years ago I stepped back from full time imaging to concentrate more on my fine art. Although I still do it on a freelance basis, but my main focus is on the painting.
Do you have a side hustle or hobbies?
I did, but no longer have time for any side things.
What was one of your biggest mistakes and what did you learn from it?
My biggest mistakes is trying to do too many things at the same time. I would have too many projects going in different directions all at once. The result would be that it would take far too long to get any one of them done. I have to say there is still the temptation to do this and do that. So I have to maintain my focus on one direction or concept and see that through. That is what I am doing now. I have started an entire new brand with an all new catalogue of work. It certainly is a big project, but it is all has the same identity.
What are the top tools you need to do your job?
I am an oil painter., so I need oil paint. I use on particular brand called Rublev Oil Paints from Natural Pigments. My supports or what I paint on are aluminum panels that I either adhere canvas to or put gesso on the aluminum straight out. Then I am able to paint on it. I primarily use Rosemary Brushes to paint with. I have a very nice camera, a Nikon D810. When drawing I use an assortment of charcoal pencils and such. And of course models, which is always the hardest thing to find. I am always in need of good models.
Who or what inspires you and why?
A year ago this would have been a more difficult question to answer. Or I would have said whatever I come across that sparks the imagination. However 2017 has been a year where everything has changed. I have Identical twin three year old nieces, Georgia and Rayne. In March 2017 Georgia was diagnosed with High Risk A.L.L. Leukemia. This was the beginning of the storm. We spent most of last year and the beginning of this year at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis. Early on my mother and I would become legal co-guardians and took on the responsibility of caring and raising the girls. In July 2017, Georgia had a severe reaction to a new chemo and without the quick work of her doctors and nurses could have died, however the stress of that event caused my mother to have a stroke . On that very day she went into a coma and would pass on eleven days later. I found myself alone and having to care for two toddlers and make sure one of them would continue her cancer treatments. So the question is what inspires you. I have my inspiration now. I spent a great deal of time sitting at night in the dark in a hospital room praying and asking for inspiration. I would think and meditate on how and what I can do. Of course now the girls are my motivation and inspiration, but we are looking for what inspires you visually as an artist. One of the things that Georgia liked to do during are many and long stays in the Hematology Ward was to walk around the hallways. I should actually say I walked she was carried by me with one arm and I had to push the machine she was connected to in the other. We would do this ALL DAY. It was exhausting. In the hallways are pictures of different things, such as animals, bugs and flowers. During these walks is where I was inspired for my new line of work and hopefully how to use it in a marketing and branding way that can not only help me and the girls but others as well. I should end this question by saying Georgia is doing fantastically well. She is right on course with her treatments. Her hair is growing back and is running and playing with her sister. If she stays on track she will be done with her treatments next summer of 2019. I am also in the process of adopting the girls and moving forward as father and daughters.
What do you love about Northwest Indiana?
I’ve lived here most of my life. We have a great city, Chicago, close by that we can take part in all the cultural aspects that it offers while being far away enough to not have to deal with all the bad parts. My father grew up on Lake Michigan and I have many strong memories of us hanging out together on the beach and enjoying the beauty and calmness that it brings. The people here are real and I have been blessed with a fantastic church family.
What resources are you finding to educate yourself?
Well of course the internet is a great resource for any endeavor. Social media allows you to connect with other like minded people, but also see what other artists are creating. Also connecting with other people or creative’s and sharing in their community.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in your industry?
Again this is one of those questions that has changed for me a little bit. I use to say, and still is true, to learn to draw or paint. Have a mastery of your skills that you wish to develop. The question then is how do you do that. You have to find someone or someplace that has those skills and can teach them to you. I was lucky enough that I did. However that is not enough. And this is maybe much harder then the first and something that I myself am still learning and I think many artists struggle with. You have to learn how to market yourself. And that is much more then just posting on the internet. I mean really learn how to get yourself or message out there and be able to achieve whatever it is that you are trying to do with your art from making a living , showing or educating people.
What’s next for you?
Like I said before I had to take over a year off so I am just now revamping my whole life. I am starting a new catalogue of work. I am creating a new identity by incorporating myself called Willow Mae inc. The name of the corporation are the middle names of the girls. I hope to add a charitable aspect to Willow Mae and give to prevention of children’s blood disease such as Leukemia. This is all the beginning stages, but something I am building up to.
Where can we find you?