Christopher Thornock: Fine Art


Christopher Thornock is an active gallery artist and received a BFA from Art Center College of Design and an MFA from Brigham Young University. He also teaches art as an adjunct professor. Thornock’s illustration work was profiled previously at The Krakens. Thornock lives in Utah.

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How does your religion affect your art? My paintings are about looking and transcribing. I feel that the humble nature of our world needs examination and by ‘re-creating’ it as a painting, I am both trying to understand the complexities of its existence, but also mine. God created for us, I am looking at those creations and wanting to have others stop and see the beauty as well. I don’t think this is peculiar to Mormonism. I guess to put it simply, my painting helps me see the beauty in life.

How do you like to work? Music? Working from photos or models? Any unusual tools or techniques that you use? My studio practice is pretty basic. I make it a typical job. Start early, try to eliminate too many distractions and focus. I always have something to listen to. Lots of podcasts, audiobooks and music (usually really loud). Sometimes I work from life, other times from photography. There is a silly debate among ‘realist’ painters about working from life or photography with strong opinions, usually voiced by the working from life crowd. I don’t care one way of the other. Whatever it takes to get me to the end of the painting and that can vary on lots of factors. What is important to me is good drawing.

Recently my technical process starts with a canvas covered panel. I draw out a compositional grid (think golden section or dynamic symmetry) and then transcribe a drawing on it in graphite. After that is finished, I just go straight to color with oil paint. I tend to use a variety of small brushes and most paintings take about two or three passes to complete. I used to eliminate most of my brushwork making a more illusionistic image. I am not as interested in doing that anymore. I am finding a lot of pleasure in breaking the brushwork, using knives, etc. to create a more varied surface.

Visit Christopher Thornock’s website.

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Margaret Morrison: Good Enough to Taste


Margaret Morrison is a master with two new intriguing series. She has been described as, “Best known for her detailed still-life and surreal figurative paintings, Morrison’s figurative imagery is expertly lit to invoke a foreshadowing element to the composition. Developing her still-life palette from a more muted tone to the brilliant colors seen today, Morrison’s super real, larger-than-life paintings of food, for example, are good enough to taste!” Morrison lives and paints in Athens, Georgia. She is an Associate Professor of drawing and painting at the Lamar Dodd School of Art at the University of Georgia. She was profiled previously on The Krakens for her series Larger than Life and Child’s Play.

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She created a series of oil paintings called Both Ways (below) that addresses all that time we spend in our cars.

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You once said you like to ‘cast old symbols in contemporary language’. What is the language in your exhibit Both Ways? In my series Patron Saints I portrayed some of the patron saints of Catholicism after researching their stories and attributes. I was intrigued with the idea of painting time-honored subject matter and symbols with models who were wearing contemporary clothing in a modern setting.

With Both Ways I was ‘casting’ the older, time-honored tradition of landscape painting in a new and very personal way. I think that this work came about because both my parents passed away recently and found myself looking backward to where I grew up. All of these landscapes are very meaningful to me, an extension of my own sight line. I realized after painting them, that all of them face west.

You teach at the University of Georgia. Does working with students affect what you do in your own studio? I have found that teaching fuels what I do in my studio, and what I do in my studio impacts my teaching; it truly is the perfect balance. I love the constant dialogue, the energy that stems from new conversations and ideas. I’m a better artist when I’m teaching and a better teacher when I’m up to my eyeballs in my studio.

What are you working on next? The field is white. I’m just keeping my eyes open, taking visual notes and have no idea where it’s leading me. That’s part of the adventure.

Images courtesy Margaret Morrison/Woodward Gallery.

Visit Woodward Gallery’s website.


Leslie Graff: Just Desserts


Leslie  Graff is a prolific painter with an intriguing collection called the Just Desserts. She holds Bachelors and Masters degrees from Brigham Young University. Graff lives and paints outside of Boston with her husband and three sons. She was profiled previously on The Krakens for her series Domestics.

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Where do you live? How did you art career evolve? I live in Sutton, MA, a quintessential New England town about 40 miles west of Boston. New England isn’t like suburbs and everything is distinct towns. You get really used to lots of trees and having your own space, everything is on a more intimate level. My town only has one stoplight, just got our first grocery store, and it’s quite charming. My husband, Allen, is a mechanical engineer and designs the home entertainment products for Bose. So he is creative too, but in a much more technical way, we both share a love of modern design. We have three boys 15, 11, and 8.

I have painted since I was young and always took art lessons growing up. When it came time to go to college I was really torn between creative and academic loves. As an education major doing practicums in schools it was really incompatible with studio art classes on campus. At the time, I felt I had to pick one thing or another, luckily now I have learned its ok to be more than one thing when you grow up. So I taught elementary school, went back to grad school in Marriage, Family and Human Development and also trained as a child life specialist, doing therapeutic play and psychological preparation in hospital settings, at Johns Hopkins, I taught at BYU and Ohlone College in CA, worked as a child life specialist, at UCSF but I could never let go of my art. I started painting again, as every artist knows, that need to create is an incredible strong drive and as much as you try to cage it at times, it claws its way out. I left teaching and hospital work, right before my first child was born to focus my time at home; this gave me more time to paint again, which I intended to do just for my own enjoyment.

I am not exactly sure at what point art became my career or one of my careers or even classified as “work”. It was something I sort of fell into a little by accident, after all everyone tells you can not make a living as an artist, so part of me never considered it in that light especially given I already had multiple professional tracks I could keep pursuing. I have to say it probably started when my first son was 2 and I did my first solo show in Massachusetts. It happened after a woman saw a piece of mine in my home and asked to buy it and invited me to do a show, it caught me off guard. I figured why not, then I sold most of the show and its grown and evolved since then. When my children were little I confined painting to the hours when they were in bed, as I found it hard to have the emotional presence I wanted with them and paint at the same time. Now that they are all in school, I have time to be a part of the art community more and do shows, art events, work with galleries, and produce more (and better work). It fits so seamlessly with my mothering. I am a very energetic and passionate person. Art is a lot of hard work, and I take it seriously, I constantly require myself to learn more, to study, to explore techniques, practice skills, and dig deeper. I still travel doing humanitarian missions as a child life specialist and train physicians in psychosocial issues around the world. It is really rewarding to continually have opportunities in multiple areas that I love and feel like I am contributing to the world in useful and creative ways.

Visit Leslie Graff’s website.

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Heather Theurer: Understood By All

Heather Theurer is a formidible artist with paintings of ‘religious symbolism, fantasy realism, equine, and wildlife’. Her unique style includes up to 20 multitude layers of paint and glazes. Theurer is, remarkably,  a self-taught artist. Her work has been recognized by the Los Angeles Times and USA Today. She lives with her family–including five kids–near Portland, Oregon. She was profiled previously on The Krakens for her Disney artwork.


You speak about your faith and the inspiration in your work. Although your work is not overtly religious, it feels spiritual in nature. How does your faith play into your art? My faith absolutely plays a role in the creation of my artwork. Like anyone, I have personal battles, experiences that I try to understand, and I am also affected by the struggles that tear at the world around us. My faith is what determines my attitude and inevitably what I create as a response to these things. Early on in my career, I would paint for the sake of painting. If I saw something I perceived as beautiful (which could range anywhere from a majestic horse to a lumpy toad), I would paint it. As my art matured, however, it took on a new purpose. It became a way to connect. And surprisingly, even though my faith differed from that of many of my viewers, I was able to connect with them through my art, in part because of its allegorical nature. I feel my faith is very clearly expressed in my work, but now that I think about it, my paintings are a little bit like the parables in the New Testament–meant to be understood by all, by some more than others, according to their own experience and willingness, but with no judgment attached to that understanding.

What’s your approach to juggling kids, travel to shows, and time in your studio? My approach is one of daily introspection. With all of that going on, and especially with children, I never know (entirely) from day to day what is going to be required of me. I have to be flexible. There are times, of course, when deadlines are looming and I have to get something done so I have to put my foot down, so to speak, but I strive to let the Lord guide. If it works out, I’ll paint for ten hours straight. If I see that my family needs me to spend time with them, then I do my best to be there for them. Throwing the shows in there is actually a good thing. They can be super stressful, but they also offer preset goal-lines that help to keep me moving in a steady forward motion creatively.

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Heather Portrait 2015

Jorge Cocco Santangelo: Arte Contemporaneo

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Jorge Cocco Santangelo is an Argentinian painter who also works in sculpture, lithograph, etching, ceramics, and washi zokey (art with handmade paper). He has worked in a number of styles during his career with a particular strength for contemporary artwork. His work has been acquired and exhibited at museums in Argentina, Japan, Mexico, Spain, Uruguay, and the United States. He has lived and worked in both Spain and Mexico. He maintains studios in both the United States and Argentina. He’s also now on Instagram @sacrocubismHe was profiled previously on The Krakens for his religious artwork.

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You are well-known for your religious art. Talk about your non-religious art. In my case, I cannot fully separate modern or contemporary art from religious art. In religious art, the elements purely artistic such as rhythm, composition, color, etc., are unavoidable, but obviously they are there to facilitate the interpretation of the scene depicted. As for my own style, I use those same elements to try to reach for the metaphysics; I try to move the observer into the realm of the transcendent, the spiritual, and its connection with the subconscious. Other series of works that I have created are more symbolic, bringing to mind sacred places with enigmatic constructions for worship. Even in my abstract paintings I include signs seemingly esoteric, marks utilized by ancient cultures during their rituals. In a subtle way I am trying to tell the viewer that there are truths out there to be unveiled, hidden in plain sight.

What’s next for your career? Currently I am working on a commission by the Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City, UT. It is series of paintings about the ministry of Christ. The unusual about this project is that I am depicting the already known scenes in Christian art with a new interpretation, from the perspective offered by modern art schools such as cubism and constructivism. On the other hand, I continue experimenting with materials and techniques such as handmade paper, etching, collages, and what I call “sculpto-painting”, a combination of sculpture and painting, to name a few. One of my permanent purposes is to teach and make art accessible, as a means to refine the human spirit and expose more people to the art world.

Visit Jorge Orlando Cocco Santangelo’s website.

Follow Jorge Cocco Santangelo on Instagram.


Special thanks to Jorge’s art manager,  Amiel Cocco-Verbauwen, for the translation.