Turning Cayman’s sea scenes and sunsets into works of art

Monte Thornton works on a sunset captured at Smith Barcadere.

A dive instructor, businessman, teacher and underwater photographer-turned-painter is creating waves on canvas, inspired by his fascination with the sea.

Monte Thornton, 60, grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, in a family of five and spent most of his young days enjoying the great outdoors – camping, fishing and hunting. His fascination for the great outdoors grew even more when he moved to the Cayman Islands after Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

“In Houston, I had a little sign on the outside of the house which read, ‘Thornton’s home away from the Cayman Islands’ – [the] place I always … wanted to live in was the Cayman Islands,” Mr. Thornton said.

His move to Cayman followed many diving trips here with friends and business associates. After meeting his wife Irene during her enrollment in one of his scuba diving courses, the couple got married, had their son Alex and moved to the Cayman Islands to take up residence along South Sound Road.

Mr. Thornton’s method to get the best scenery for his paintings is to go to Smith Barcadere and snap about 50 photos of the sunset.

“When it comes to style, I want to create the illusion of depth in the paintings. I start with a crimson red to lay down where my outlines will be – the red then seeps through the colors to cause a three-dimensional look,” he said.

Ocean waves, turtles and beautiful sunsets are captured by Mr. Thornton’s camera lens before he sits down to recreate those images on canvas. Smith Barcadere is his latest and favorite artistic subject and backdrop.

Monte Thornton works on a sunset captured at Smith Barcadere.

He captures the sunset, highlighting it with magnificent colors, blending red and orange. The sun sinks deeper into the sea, creating a dreamy state of blue and purple as a single beam of orange and yellow light hits the water, making it dazzle and dance. Mr. Thornton hopes to display his work, which has sold for thousands of dollars, at The Ritz-Carlton Gallery.

“I am very into painting clouds, oceans, waves, landscapes and animals. All my life has been involved with water and animals. I just want to capture that calmness and to draw attention to things like the colors of the sunset and waters that come up on the beach,” Mr. Thornton said.

On Cayman Brac, the south side of the bluff and Peter’s Cave have captured his attention.

He says his best time for painting and studying his art and designs is early morning, when everyone is still asleep.

“Four to five o’clock in the morning, that’s the time I am able to concentrate better; the house is quiet and my wife and son are asleep,” he said.

Mr. Thornton also lends his talents to the Cayman community by volunteering his time to the National Gallery, teaching outdoor painting.

His paintings have been featured in several art contests, such as at the Agriculture Show on Cayman Brac, and various displays on Grand Cayman.

Mr. Thornton started painting at age 9 and won his first art competition at age 18, with a painting titled “Stairway to Heaven.” At 21, he joined the army and later moved to Houston to work for a dive shop, where his adventures took him to the Cayman Islands.

His advice to other artists is to carry a sketch book and doodle every day.

“Draw something over and over until you figure out the right composition,” he said. “Every day you need to draw something and you need to draw it multiple times and then come up with the final [version]. That is where you will develop the skills where you can be proficient at it.”

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