Thorpe grew up in the struggling industrial town of Middlesbrough, England. Since art materials were an unaffordable luxury for a family of nine, young Mackenzie's did his first color studies with his mother's make-up! He recalls, "I'd spend my time getting cigarette packets, unwrapping them, flattening them and drawing on them. I'd just draw and draw and draw." Thorpe struggled with undiagnosed dyslexia throughout his childhood, but he always found solace in his art. After leaving school at fifteen, he did odd jobs until a friend suggested he try art school. "My application form was terrible, the spelling was all wrong and it was clear enough that I couldn't write essays. But I had literally thousands of drawings. At that time I used to carry an old school blackboard around on my back. I fixed a drawing board onto it, and some haversack straps. I was out at six in the morning drawing in the parks, everywhere. And because I had this huge pile of work there was no problem at the college - I was in!" His extraordinary talent eventually won him a place at the prestigious Byam Shaw Art College in London.
Presently, Thorpe's worldwide exhibitions are sell-out events. His 1995 exhibition at Allerton Castle was largest one-man show ever held in northern England, and Artexpo LA selected him as their official artist in 1996. That same year, Elton John's AIDS Foundation asked Thorpe to design their holiday card; the British royal family now commissions Thorpe for their shepherd-themed Christmas card every year.
Mackenzie now resides in Richmond, North Yorkshire, with his wife Susan and his children Owen and Chloe. Thorpe paints during the day in the window of his small shop (Arthaus) near Market Place so that passersby can watch him at work. 'Everyone can see in, see what I do - there are no tricks! It's not a gift from God, I'm just a normal bloke, doing my job like anybody else."