Artist Profile: Sarah Lawrence’s Number One Wizard

Sarah Lawrence tends to create ubiquitous characters that stand out in anyone’s experience at the school. Each year these characters change; they even change depending on who you talk to. Next semester, SLC will lose one of these characters at graduation; there are few as well-known or beloved as Thornton Wheatcroft Blease (‘15), referred to by those who know him as Thor. One of the biggest advocates for SLC, Blease has an unadulterated love for the community that has become his family.

Blease posing with his camera as he shoots one of his films.

Blease posing with his camera as he shoots one of his films.

I came to know Blease, as most come to know him, when he attempted to kill me outside of the Pub. Blease has a tendency—which some find endearing and others find insufferable—to “cast spells” on them. An avid “Harry Potter” fan, Blease’s biggest joke is coming up behind people and surprising them with the killing curse, “Avada Kedavra”, or, if you are lucky, the non-fatal “expelliarmus”. One day, as I sat quietly eating my chicken tenders, Blease grabbed my shoulders and shrieked his classic curse at me. While many find this sense of humor loathsome, in fact it is one of the biggest reasons why Blease can be misunderstood by his classmates, I thought it was absolutely hilarious (despite nearly choking on a piece of fried chicken).

“A friend gave me ‘Harry Potter’ when I was 5, to read when I grew up more, but I didn't wait,” Blease explained of his discovery of the series. That spark grew stronger over time, as Blease started going to every midnight book release and movie opening that he could and took a special Harry Potter class offered at Montclair State University in his home state of New Jersey. Unable to choose just one, his favorite installments of the series are “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” “Two words describe my love for ‘Goblet of Fire,’” Blease started: “Hungarian Horntail.”

There are more than just stories of magic and adventure in the “Harry Potter” series—there are also valuable lessons about character and morality. Luna Lovegood, the quirky, moon-eyed mystery of the second half of the series, was an inspiration to Blease: “My favorite character is Luna Lovegood,” Blease said, “because she doesn't let anyone influence her. She lives her life to meet her goals. I found myself identifying with Luna in my own life.”
His passion for the series led him to attend a fundraiser at Radio City Music Hall, where J.K. Rowling did a reading alongside John Irving and Stephen King. Surprisingly, “John Irving, by far, did the best reading of his material,” Blease said. “His voices inspired me to do voices at readings and Open Mics when I read my own work.” After the reading, Blease sent his stories to Rowling, which was pretty brave considering he was only 11 years old at the time. “She actually sent me a letter encouraging me to keep on writing,” Blease continued. Sadly, Blease has since lost that prized piece of correspondence.

Blease grew up in Stewartsville, N.J.—a small town in a rural area of the state close to the Pennsylvania border near Bethlehem where his father owns a small veterinary practice. It followed that Blease began to develop a relationship with animals. When his nose wasn't deeply buried in a “Harry Potter” book, Blease was at the stable. He was only two years old when he started riding horses, and entered his first show when he was two and a half. One of the first things that Blease talks about when he meets new people is his horse, Sequel, which he stables at Elk Brook Farm near his family’s home. Though living on campus, Blease still gets to spend quality time with Sequel because his internship with Lou Reda Productions brings him home on weekends and gives him enough free time to ride.

Thor stands next to his beloved horse, Sequel. 

Thor stands next to his beloved horse, Sequel. 

Here at SLC, Blease is like most SLC students in that his studies have encompassed a cornucopia of topics: creative writing, screenwriting, filmmaking, ancient medieval history, biology, chemistry, psychology, and literature. He loves to write, which is fitting since Blease was named after Thornton Wilder. But, it is Blease’s drawings, not his writing, that he is known for around campus. Keeping it simple with vellum paper and markers, Blease’s ironic comics of dragons and conference week monsters decorate the doors of buildings across campus, providing encouragement to students struggling to get their work done. “I place my drawings wherever I can,” Blease said. “I hope that people like them, but when they got removed from McCracken, I wondered if that was true.” As it turned out, this removal was not malicious: maintenance removed them to clean.

One of Blease’s other biggest passions is filmmaking. He uses a Panasonic AVCCAM AG-150 to make his movies, many of which feature Sequel. He once showed me a hilarious Star Wars parody featuring himself and Sequel, with funny speech bubbles and over-the-top special effects layered to create a comic book effect similar to his drawing style. This makes sense, because Blease told me that most of his cartoons come from characters that he has dreamed up for children’s stories that he is working on. After graduation next semester, Blease wants to pursue an MFA in children’s writing and screenwriting. “I think that to stay fresh in publishing, you have to be as imaginative in promoting the book as the stories that you write are,” Blease mused about the potential children’s books, graphic novels, and fairytale storybooks that he wants to create.

But, Blease is admittedly a bit more nervous about graduating than he is excited—he really loves SLC, and will be sad to leave the community that has embraced his kooky sense of humor. Blease reminisced: “When I visited, I just knew that Sarah Lawrence was honestly my only real college choice. Once on campus, I felt vibrant and alive. I felt that Sarah Lawrence was a place where I could be myself, and thrive. I was 100% correct.”

With just two more conference weeks to go before he is out of here for good, Blease imparted some final advice on the hellish ordeal that all SLC students are subjected to: “to be honest conference does not frighten me. If you start your conference work from the beginning of semester, and work at  it in small bits and bites, conference work is not impossible. If you pick a subject you love, such as ‘Horses in Ancient Albion,’ you can lose yourself in the pleasantries of research and creativity. So the best advice I have is: Don’t procrastinate now, you can procrastinate later. In other words, the only good procrastination is procrastinating procrastination.”

by Wade Wallerstein ‘17

all images courtesy Thornton Blease

SLC Phoenix

The Phoenix is a non-profit, student-run publication representing the voices and opinions of Sarah Lawrence College community members. Our print edition publishes bi-weekly on Tuesdays, and our online edition is updated multiple times per week. Anyone may attend our open meetings at 9:00 PM on Wednesday nights in the North Room of the Pub.