["Portrait of a Missing Girl" by John Paul Thornton]
A little girl I knew was abducted.
I was very affected emotionally, and when I looked around my home town in the following days, I finally noticed all of the little fliers asking for help finding missing children. ( In America there are 1,500 missing child cases open every day. The fliers are often printed on the backs of coupons and are distributed as junk-mail.)
I just began saving the fliers, and after a year had a drawer full of them: Disposable mailers with tiny monochrome photos of missing children. It didn't seem right that these faces were so small and bland.
One night, out of nowhere, I was inspired to paint a full color portrait from one of the cards. As an artist, the question was this: How does a person paint a portrait of a missing child? I could not just approach it like an illustration. I could not just go about it as if it were a polite painting.
I began by throwing away my brushes. They were too smooth. Too pretty. Too controllable. Instead, I began using palette knives. They were difficult to control and allowed for unexpected deviations. At times, I laid out my palette and created these in very dim lighting. Surely the way a person is painted may reflect the circumstances of the person...At times the process becomes very emotional for me. Each portrait may take as many as thirty of forty sessions, as each layer adds to the depth. It's like taking the long way home. The long process avoids superficiality. I think that the complexity of the paint reflects the complexity of the child's situation.
Years later, I have painted hundreds of missing children.
I have met many families who thank me for painting their child. They found comfort in knowing that "someone" was thinking about their family.
Occasionally, A recovered teen will write me. They find it fascinating that a stranger was compelled to paint them during their darkened childhood.
Actually,To me, these paintings are about love.
[Missing Children portrait Exhibition- John Paul Thornton]