I've been drawing and creating bronze sculptures for all of 30 years amongst other endeavors like ranching and farming and a little logging. My brother, Eddy and I had a hunting camp for 15 years in the Little Belt Mountains. We wrangled dudes for part of that time, but mostly it was with the pleasure of good company among a few good friends.
I am a self-taught artist and do not have an art degree, but I am thankful for the couple years I attended MSU Art classes. It broadened my horizons and opened the door to working in bronze. I've had the pleasure of sculpting for 35 years and having operated my own foundry for about 12 of those. I find inspiration in wild and domesticated animals – and occasionally in undomesticated humans.
Some of my work is inspired by my memories or imagination, some by the animate world around me. I've always lived close to the heart of nature and my eye connects me to that world. I like to know what the undomesticated world knows.
I've dabbled in painting and drawing since I was a kid, but my priorities shifted when I realized the limitless dimension of sculpting. I've always regarded painters as the masters… and have thought when I get old enough I'd start painting again. Meanwhile, I continue to chase my pencil around in my sketchbooks… or on the backside of placemats… or napkins… whatever is handy when spirits soar and stories are being told.
Primarily a bronze artist for 36 years, when I got old enough I began painting backgrounds for my small cast bronze critters. Before I knew it I was struggling with a 15 foot canvas - actually it was three 5 foot canvases in a triptych...again from a memory...
“At sunset, I had 200 head of elk squirt by me on the Missouri River. I was so close I could hear them breathing. I couldn’t get my horse to move, and I’d already killed my elk, so I just got to be a witness. I had dreams every night about those elk, so I exorcised that out of me—after I painted it, I stopped having those dreams.”
That painting took me 8 months and initiated an exploration of and passion for paint. It evolved into an over abundance of possibilities that has captured my imagination and driven me to pursue these images with one more painting...then another...and another...all the while learning the language of the paint. These initial paintings began as a process of reconnecting with past experience, a way of reminiscing. Many of the images are of memories from my days of riding, ranching and hunting.
It's sort of an alchemy of transformation to coax these memories and flights of fantasy onto a flat surface without interfering with the energy that generates the image. Sometimes I feel like a conduit for this energy to make a mark. I call it “chasing my pencil”, or in this case, my brush.
Tom Thornton MAM 2016