We had the good fortune of connecting with John Paul Thornton and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi John Paul, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?

The Tyrannosaurus-Rex skull at the Los Angeles County Museum was the featured highlight of my childhood. I took all my friends on annual pilgrimages to see it each year for my grade school birthdays. Its fossilized teeth were huge and I imagined it coming alive before my eyes. I dug deep holes in backyards and vacant lots, dreaming I was an archeologist. I climbed trees, built forts, splashed in creeks and drew and painted. I knew I was an artist since I was six. Both my parents were artists. They never discouraged me or dismissed my art. I never doubted myself.

As I got older, I traveled. The wonder I felt for the T-Rex skull was matched with the wonder of seeing stained glass windows in cathedrals, Renaissance frescoes in Florentine palaces and the soaring temples along the Nile. Digging holes and playing in creeks were activities replaced with travels to India, Nepal and Haiti to work in refugee settlements and create art education programs to revitalize communities.

I recognized that other people have always been essential to my journey. My parents demonstrated kindness. I have loved a number of women who all taught me powerful lessons. I am a Father to a teen-aged daughter who is beautiful and smart and creative. All these relationships have been the deepest of all my experiences. I am grateful for them.

In the last year, during the pandemic, I found a kind of peace. I began painting portraits of family members and people who have meaning to me. I filled my studio with large canvases of intimate faces. The frenetic movement and traveling ceased by necessity. For once, I appreciated the quiet.

I have always been enamored with life, always driven by creativity…balancing between my desire to connect with other fellow humans and the tingling sense of adventure that came from gazing into the mouth of that T-Rex…

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?

Faces are fascinating and paintings of faces are absolutely magical.I paint people’s faces to invoke their souls, so that they may live forever. The first portrait paintings were created in Egypt, 2,000 years ago. They were made to accompany the deceased to the afterlife, to represent their souls to the Gods. What could be a more vital task for an artist? I am obsessed with the way paint and color can depict spirit and flesh.

My road as a professional artist began when I was working as a teacher at a school for at-risk youth. One of my students was reported as “Missing.” In those days, before the invention of the Amber Alert, fliers were distributed through the mail with the faces and names of missing children. I simply could not bring myself to throw these disposable fliers away. Week after week, I put them in a drawer. One day, inspired by the information on the fliers, I began painting large, color-drenched portraits of these missing children. Over time I painted hundreds of them.

My studio space filled up, I had a vision that somehow, these missing children could unify people around America. I launched public displays where participants could carry these paintings in large public happenings. In fact, the missing children paintings were displayed on the National Mall in Washington DC, in front of the White House and on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. I met many of the parents of these children as well as some of the children safely recovered by the efforts of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. These paintings were not for sale. They had another task: They honored the children depicted and brought thousands of people together for a common cause.

From this project, I was invited to travel to India, Nepal, Haiti and Mexico to create art educational programs for refugee communities. These experiences snowballed into further opportunities leading art tours and lecturing around the world while building bodies of work reflecting my travels.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, I launched online art-history programs and virtual travel experiences, generating enough revenue to donate large sums to food banks, homeless shelters and hospitals. I also began a new series of painted portraits: this time depicting the faces of my much-loved family members and portraits of hope and inspiration. I am proud that my paintings are representing the United States of America at the Chiba City Museum of Art in Japan , coinciding with the 2021 Summer Olympics.

Along my journey I have learned more and more that gratitude and compassion are the most healing disciplines.
The people we meet along the way are all functioning as our teachers.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?

I Love Los Angeles. Since I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, I would like to propose a daringly nerdy tour of some the Valley’s most intriguing and endearing hotspots:

Do you fancy yourself enjoying an elegant brunch beside a pleasant lake, beneath a grove of oak trees, watching ducks and geese swim by? Then make a reservation for “The Oaks at Lakeside”, 16817 Ventura Boulevard, Encino, CA 91436

Ready to get lost browsing in one of the greatest and largest used Bookstores? Visit the “Iliad Bookstore” at 5400 Cahuenga Blvd, North Hollywood, CA 91601, The smell of used books is divine. They have two cats names Apollo and Zeuss who roam the store, and sleep on the counter top…

Want to visit Italy without paying the expensive travel fare? Explore the grounds at the forest lawn mortuary, Glendale. They feature gorgeous, life-sized copies of Michelangelo’s David, Moses, Vatican Pieta and Medici tombs.

“Flame Pizza” in Reseda serves authentic Pizza. I mean real pizza fired in a brick oven by master Chef Richard Florczak. It is at 19309 Vanowen St Reseda, CA 91335. Eat pizza here and be spoiled for life.

Perhaps a Bar-B-Q duel between two of the Valley’s most legendary vintage spots: “The Bear Pit” ( 10825 Sepulveda Blvd, Mission Hills, CA 91345 ) and “Dr Hogly Wogly’s Tyler Texas” (8136 Sepulveda Blvd, Panorama City, CA 91402). Both beloved venues are fifteen minutes apart, and have gloriously meaty fare.

“The Valley Inn” features the most elegant Bar in the entire Valley, carved from dark Antique wood and rescued from an old ship. Enjoy cocktails and drinks.(The food is terrific too.) Sophia and Boris are the owners who will treat you right
!4557 Sherman Oaks Ave, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I want to dedicate my Shoutout to Toni Scott, a fellow artist who has long inspired me to think deeper about the power of Art and History. Her friendship has been a luminous presence in my life. Her multimedia artwork is profound and her compassion for humanity shines.

Website: www.johnpaulthornton.com

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