Published Issue 087, March 2021
REPORT OF INVESTIGATION BY BIRDY EXAMINER: KRYSTI JOMÉI
SUBJECT: DS THORNBURG
OCCUPATION: I’ve been a business owner for many years. My partner and I sold the business, and currently I’m working hard to shift to being a full-time artist.
RESIDENCE: I split time between Santa Cruz, CA and New Orleans, LA.
BIRTHPLACE: I was born in the very small and conservative town of Kingsburg, CA.
TYPE OF ART: Profound, reflective and dimensional. That’s my goal at least.
PROBABLE CAUSE OF ART: I mainly use white chalk and charcoal on black paper these days. I actually owe the shift in my work to Covid. As horrible and terrifying as the pandemic is, it kept me home, and allowed time to absorb the feelings and emotions of this deadly age.
CASE FILE REFERENCE: INSTAGRAM: @Ds_thornburg | FACEBOOK: @Darin Thornburg
When did you start making art?
When I was a child, my family attended church three times a week. My mom would bring pencils and paper in her purse. She had me draw during church services, mainly to keep me quiet! I’ve actually never had any formal training. Art school did not exist in my town. I definitely learned the hard way. The amount of paper I’ve wasted over the years is criminal! At this point in my career, I fear that if I took art courses, and learned the “CORRECT” process from start to finish, it will work against me.
What’s it like being an artist today in Santa Cruz, CA?
Santa Cruz is a small town, but for some reason is packed with artists! That being said, to get attention or notoriety for works that don’t fit in a comfortable box is extremely difficult. I commend anyone who creates, and all art has value, but personally for me, my art needs to bring forth an emotional response. Every piece is a part of my life story, although meanings are often cryptic somewhat, because I want my art to speak and relate to anyone who looks upon it, so I try not to create anything obvious or contrived.
You’re such an open, energetic, bright sunray of a person, yet your art dances in a realm of darkness, the macabre, deep brooding emotion, shadowy colors and subjects and scenes. Where do these creations come from? How did you come to your particular style?
Great question, because if people see my art before they meet me, they assume my daily demeanor will resonate with my portraits. I am actually quite an optimistic person. Ha ha! My art is a kind of purge of past traumas that I work through when I pull it out of my head and heart, and make it into a physical, tangible entity. It’s actually quite healing.
Describe your art-making environment and process.
Well, I’d love to tell you that I have an amazing studio, but homes are quite small and very expensive in Santa Cruz, so my living room is my studio. It makes it pretty crowded, and I find charcoal stains everywhere, but recently my partner and I bought a home in New Orleans, and there was an old shed in the backyard. We tricked it out in an old New Orleans style, and soon it will be my amazing studio. I feel like a real artist now. Ha ha!
What piece are you most proud of? And what piece broke you as an artist, if they differ?
I’m actually most proud of Cold Reader 2, because that was my first piece ever published, and it was Birdy Magazine who gave me a chance, and published it. You gave me the one thing I was missing, and that was confidence. You gave me a foundation to build from, and I will never forget it! Thank you for believing in my work.
You never seem to stop, a bonafide entrepreneur, dipping your toes into several different industries and businesses — all creative of course. Tell us more this.
Yeah, people worry about me … I’ve been known to cram too many things in a day. I attribute my behavior to some very close calls with death. When you survive dire situations in life, you realize how fleeting it is. Time is ticking, and I still have so much I want to accomplish, so I pretty much live in overdrive. Just don’t ask me to go to the bank though. Ha ha! I hate going there!
My husband, Phil, and I at one time had three successful salons in the Santa Cruz area. After 15 years, we decided to sell them to our employees, and all three locations are still open.
Speaking of never stopping, had NO idea you were a musician too!
Yes, I’ve led many noisy rock bands in my life. I play guitar, and I’m a singer/songwriter. You know, in my spare time! Covid unfortunately put a stop to live shows, so I met this amazing artist and musician on Instagram from the Jackson, ME area. We’ve never actually met in person yet, but he feels like a brother to me. I love when something good comes out of social media, because mostly I think it’s the pit of Hell. His name is Chris Rawls, and he’s a musical genius! Our name is REBECCA NURSE, a darker, more synth ladened sound, which I love! Rebecca Nurse was executed as a witch in Salem, MA, and oddly enough was my eighth great grandmother! How cool is that?! Must have been the reason I was a goth kid! Chris writes amazing tunes, then sends me the files. I write lyrics and sing, then it goes to my dear friend Gene Williams aka MINDSPAWN, and he records my vocals, and does absolute magic in his mixing and mastering of it all! I consider myself so blessed to be surrounded by such lovely and talented friends.
What’s your connection to New Orleans?
Ah, New Orleans feels like a spiritual connection for me. I feel a constant pull from that city. Every artist I know loves it there. For me, I feel displaced when I’m not there. Every piece of my work has an underlying influence from New Orleans. When I’m there, it’s like that city unlocks my creativity. It’s in the air, the streets and buildings, the smell, the history, and most of all, the people. It’s culture is rich in creativity, including visual arts, live music on every corner, and even in the food. Everyone has a ghost story too! I’ve only run into a few people in life who said they didn’t love it there. I’m fairly certain they didn’t have soul. Ha ha!
Biggest challenge you’ve faced on your creative journey?
My biggest challenge has been to have my art be my sole source of income, although I will always strive to manifest that and make it happen. I’ve never understood why artists are undervalued. Without art and music, where would we be as a human race? Everyone needs it. Why then, don’t they feel that it’s worth every penny in the price? My heart, soul and guts go into every single thing I create. I think as artists, we need to consider all of those things, and value ourselves and truly understand that for whatever reason, we were given these gifts of creativity. All I know is that the world would have a lot less color in it without us. Anyway … that’s my two cents.
What do you hope for this year for yourself? And for other artists and creatives?
Well, I have been thinking about possibly opening a small gallery for my own art in New Orleans. We’ll see where we land after Covid, then make a more definitive decision.
I would like to see more artists collaborate to help each other achieve their goals. If we ban together and be more of a community, I think we can all achieve what we want a lot easier collectively.
You have to leave your home immediately. You have time to take one thing with you. What is it?
My cats, hands down! I can get over the loss of my belongings.
You get one wish. No consequences. Anything goes.
If I had one wish with no consequences, I’d wish my parents could live forever. My biological father and my stepfather have passed, so I hold on to my mom as tightly as I can. I spoil her whenever I can. It’s the very first thing that came to mind when you asked the question.
Describe your perfect day of chill.
When I’m in New Orleans, I love to walk with my husband, Phil, to our favorite diner on
Bourbon Street called Clover Grill. They have the best waffles in the world! After we eat, we stroll around the French Quarter, until we’re hungry again, and just eat like pigs. At some point, I will draw, because I get so inspired in the Quarter. Good times …
A quote, saying, lyric, word of advice that’s stuck with you and got you through in life.
A successful artist friend of mine had great advice. He said, “Price your work high for your dignity. If it doesn’t sell, you keep your dignity. If it sells, you’ve made your money.” That advice was very pivotal in the way I do business.
The advice that set it all in motion for me though was given by my two wonderful friends, Glenda Benevides and Gene Williams. They are both amazing artists and musicians, so I’m all ears when they give me direction. Their advice was both simple, and brilliant: “There is only one rule in creating art. THERE ARE NO RULES!” I instantly stopped doubting my skills as an artist, and with that boost of confidence, reached out to the Birdy folks and took that big, vulnerable first step to attempt to have my work published.
Any advice for striving creatives?
I’d tell them to be confident in their work and keep unleashing their art into the world, no matter how many people tell them they can’t succeed at their passion, and to never apologize for their methods. We all create differently.
Anything I missed?
Thank you for the opportunity to express the values of my artwork. Birdy Magazine is a tangible forum for artists like myself to share our visions and expressions. I am honored and eternally grateful to you both.