17th March 2020 Blog

Mackenzie Thorpe speaks to The Guardian about his last three decades in the art industry

Our incredible client Mackenzie Thorpe spoke to The Guardian last weekend about his last three decades in the art industry.

With his life transforming from an aspiring artist on the shipyards of Middlesbrough in the 1970’s to becoming the best-selling British contemporary artist of our generation in the modern era, Mackenzie has seen and done it all over the years.

Here’s what Mackenzie had to say in his ‘How I Spend It’ feature…

“My approach to money has been shaped by when I was in my late twenties and I risked everything to try and achieve my dream of becoming a full-time artist and to open a gallery in North Yorkshire.

“I did zero research and because of that, we nearly lost everything! Suddenly we were struggling to pay the rent, brown envelopes containing red demand letters arrived daily on our doorstep and there were times when we literally had no money for food. To this day, the awful fear of money vanishing at an accelerated speed stays with me.

“Eventually Susan (my wife) and I managed to turn things around, with both of us taking multiple jobs including cleaning, waitressing, night shifts and newspaper delivery to pay the bills during the toughest times.

“From here, I started selling original pieces of my work and today my art is sold around the world, with my prints starting from around £450 and my originals starting in upwards of £10,000″.

‘All Our Yesterdays’ Artwork by Mackenzie Thorpe

“When it comes to bills, I don’t have a clue. Susan sorts all that out for me. I don’t even use technology, I’ve never turned a computer on in my life, with Susan again managing that side of my life for me. I know our mortgage was paid off years ago and like with most people, that is a nice thing to have done.

“In terms of my actual habits though, I’m really not a spender. I asked my daughter what she thought I spent my money on and she replied ‘not electricity!?’ I still go around turning off the lights because I hate waste; to me a shirt is a shirt irrespective of whether it’s ten years old and the collar dates it. I’m not into fancy things and in fact…I had mashed potatoes for my dinner today!

“I fly so much, that doesn’t really excite me much anymore either. I don’t have big expectations and although as an artist I get treated like a star and am fed great food when I travel,. I prefer the simpler things in life. I’d much rather have a tin of beans and watch an old John Wayne film instead of living a lavish lifestyle. As long as my family is safe and comfortable, that’s what is important to me.

“In terms of spending, I do like to spend my money on good art materials that benefit my work. I invest in paper made from recycled rag and wood pulp and handmade pastels with a high density of natural pigment.

Mackenzie Thorpe Art Studio

“An indulgence of mine is enjoying an occasional meal in a nice restaurant. I can feel a bit uncomfortable that I am spending so much money on a meal, but I totally respect and appreciate the skill, time and vision which goes into producing a plate of high-quality food, which looks like a work of art itself and equally tastes like heaven.

“After a lot of deliberating and soul searching, a few years ago Susan took out private health insurance for both of us. Within around two months, I had a perforated bowel; the wonderful NHS saved my life and, in the process, discovered I had bowel cancer. The insurance covered my subsequent chemotherapy and whilst the consultant assured me the treatment I would get privately would be exactly the same as on the NHS, he said it would relieve pressure on the system and if I had insurance, then I should use it, so that is what I did.

“I remain grateful that we invested in private health care, whilst also acknowledging that I am extremely lucky. I now provide private health insurance for staff members in my team who want it.

“Away from direct spending, over the years I have also supported many charities which are close to my heart. I feel I have a moral duty to do this and am thrilled when a piece of my work raises money for a deserving charity. I have helped both big and small charities, nationally and internationally over the years and this will continue, after recently donating 15 hand embellished, limited edition prints of Shankly Gates for The Children’s Charity Ball

Mackenzie Thorpe at The Children’s Charity Ball donating limited edition prints of Shankly Gates

“I’m originally from Middlesbrough in the north and will always fly the flag for this fantastic town, which has struggled economically, since the industry of the area went. Last year we celebrated 30 years since I took that enormous leap of faith to be a full-time artist; my Arthaus Gallery in Richmond remains open and I exhibit my work internationally. I marked the event by developing a sculpture called Waiting For Me Dad and paid to cast it, in bronze and it was placed next to Middlesbrough’s iconic Transporter Bridge in honour of the men and women who made my town great.

Mackenzie Thorpe ‘Waiting for me Dad’ sculpture next to Middlesbrough’s iconic Transporter Bridge

“I have made some irresponsible decisions and won’t be making any impulsive moves again. I take a relatively modest salary and annual dividend from my company and am focused on making sure we have a solid financial foundation under our feet. We have paid off our mortgage, and we have a property we rent out in Winchester, and pensions and ISAs and premium bonds and property which will hopefully give us security in old age and with a bit of luck there will be some left for our children and grandchildren.

“I don’t intend to retire fully, I will always paint, sculpt and create.”

For more information on Mackenzie Thorpe’s work and to see more about his incredible life in the art industry visit www.mackenziethorpe.com or Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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