Shame on you if you don’t already know Paul Alexander Thornton, but in case you don’t it’s better late than never. This fantastic illustrator and fine artist from the UK is going to make you look at a ballpoint pen from a completely new angle. Read about birds and skulls, and patterns.
What do birds mean to you? What do skulls mean to you? And why do you choose to combine them?
Every bird is different and has a different meaning, some symbolise freedom, a dove symbolises peace, a crow or raven can symbolise death, a phoenix represents coming back strong after adversity, a robin can represent the countryside, or being humble. It really depends. As for the skulls, I’m not sure, I guess they represent death but for me they also look great and are a lot of fun to draw, it’s not like drawing a person where people have strong pre-conceived ideas of how it should look. They are complicated enough to be interesting, and human enough to be engaging. Ultimately they are fodder for my own creative process, which mainly consists of repeatedly and obsessively drawing the same things in great details, often with pens, until it becomes in part both frightening and beautiful. Most of my individual skull drawings are made with the intention of being used later in a larger piece. I combine skulls and birds because, depending on the type of bird, they can have a nice relationship. Symbols of death and freedom together for example, seem to suggest that there is some freedom in death, this has implications on how we view life, perhaps it suggests life is full of trappings that we want to be free of.
What fascinated you most as a child?
Hmmm, probably drawing comic book characters, manga characters things like that, and trying to come up with my own cartoons, when I was very young, then from the age of about 11 or 12 I started trying to copy pictures perfectly, I became interested in photo-realism as a teenager.
What kind of material do you love to use? We know about ballpoint pens, but what is the most complicated stuff you ever worked with?
The most complicated stuff I’ve done? Well, on one hand the first paintings I ever sold were layer upon layer of mixed media, and they could be described as being complicated because there is so much to them, but at the same time it was not something that had to be exact, or precise. As I could really make them look however I wanted to, and nobody could ever say it was wrong, they came out quite nicely. But I would say the most complicated process, and most difficult process that I do is repeat patterns. Particularly when drawn in pen. This is because once you have drawn something to begin with, like a skull, when you draw it again as part of the pattern, it has to look close to identical which means a lot of stress, it’s a very lengthy and complicated process.