I’ve always heard it said that painting is similar to photography. It finally made sense to me this year when, in my ravenous quest to understand light, began studying the way classic Dutch artists used light in their paintings. Beyond discovering the common ground between the mediums’ techniques, meeting Timothy showed me the similarities between the two ways of making art. It takes learning the rules before breaking them. It takes a hunger, a drive, and a unyielding passion and commitment to make art seriously.
For Timothy, that drive and vision has made him a rising presence in Maine’s art scene and beyond, with shows in New York City, Boston, and San Francisco among others. For now, he’s chosen Portland as the place to devote himself to work as an oil painter, designer, and screen printer.
TELL ME HOW YOU FOUND YOUR WAY TO ART.
I think it was probably from my parents and my upbringing. My mom is a musician and my dad is a woodworker. I was in a creative household, and my parents were always working or practicing something. Where I grew up in West Lebanon, Maine; it was somewhat isolated, so I was kind of left to my own devices for entertainment. So, I started to draw a lot. Being able to create new worlds was really exciting to me.
HOW DID YOU FIND YOUR OWN VISION?
Through a lot of frustration. A lot of trial and error and just trying to be aware while I was researching where my interests where. A lot of it stems from art history. It I went to school for illustration, and I was affected by a lot of illustrators and their style. When you are in school, you kind of need to adopt it, and if it fits for you great. And if not, it’s still part of your muscle memory. You can grow and evolve past that. It takes a lot of dabbling to find your voice.
WHEN YOU MAKE A PAINTING, WHAT’S THE CREATIVE PROCESS LIKE FOR YOU?
It’s been a lot of different things for me. For me, I started totally different than this. Definitely doing a lot of rendering and making things more obvious and direct, I guess more illustrative. I started becoming more obsessed with oil painting, I realized that it was the process of painting and being able to layer things, and move things around. Being able to almost lose the vision, to pull something out from this ether. Now, for me, it’s more about the actual art of painting. And not being able to know where something is going and allowing it to evolve over time. That’s exciting for me. And it took years and years of obsessing over human anatomy and doing lots of studies to getting to the point where I feel comfortable just leaving the figure hidden.
WHAT DO YOU FEEL LIKE WHEN YOU ARE MAKING ART?
You know, it’s still really frustrating. But I keep on doing it. But every time I labor on something and it doesn’t come out the way I want it to, when it finally comes to a resolve, it’s very gratifying to have stuck with it. I learn every time. It’s not about being a good or bad artist, it’s about having a good aesthetic, and you know what would look good and you just haven’t been able to make your hand do it yet. I’m trying to be aware of how I can continue to pursue being an artist and sustain myself. Previously I thought it was all about getting shows and selling work, but at the same time it was compromising my work because I was always worried about, “Oh, I’ve got to get ten paintings done in two weeks.” Rather than let the painting rest and take time to form. I’m kind of doing the opposite now. After an upcoming show in Manhattan, I don’t have anything except a fellowship in Vermont in October. And, I’m just going to see what happens without a predilection of things to come.
WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN LEARNING ABOUT THE REALITIES OF BEING AN ARTIST?
I just love that people love that I appreciate that I’m trying to do something creative and artistic. This past year has been a little disillusioning just because the climate of the art world is being affected by the economy. I was going to go to grad school and I got a scholarship that turned out to be one of the best ones, but it wasn’t enough for me, financially. I was going to do it because it was going to put me in Chelsea and meet all these people and go to openings. It was a world that I didn’t want to be in. I wanted to focus on my work rather than how stylish my new shirt is that I can wear to the opening and get my photo taken in next to the gallery owner. I hate that kind of thing, and I don’t want it to be about that. But the reality is that there are so many artists and so many ways to get your work out there, that you need some way to get seen. You need luck. You need some sort of connection to get started. You have to sacrifice a little bit to the beast. I luckily have good connections and some good patrons that have helped me out. Hopefully with those things in place, I can focus on my work.
WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT TO YOU?
Freedom. Freedom, in the sense that I like to be able to pick up projects when I am excited about them. To work on something even if it seems absurd to pursue it. I like having ideas and being able to instantly start them. It’s difficult as an artist to balance that because if you are trying to have a relationship with someone or other things, you can’t always drop what you are doing to focus on art. The last few years have been me dealing with that and realizing that it’s a difficult lifestyle. I love being able to work or leave. Or one of the things that I love about Maine is being able to go to the ocean and just be by myself. There was a claustrophobia about living in the city, that I don’t have here. It’s really about having that freedom to create.
WHAT DO YOU WANT?
I don’t want to be famous, but I would like to be known for what I’m doing and my excitement for that. I don’t want to be rich, but I want to continue to be a self-sustaining artist, and I think one things needs the other. So I’m not actively pursuing these things, but I want to make things unrequited for the rest of my life. To exist like that. I think it’s possible, I think it just takes a lot of trial and error and hard work.
TELL ME ABOUT A LESSON YOU ARE LEARNING OR HAVE LEARNED RECENTLY.
If you are excited about something, just do it. A lot of the things I was excited about pursuing, I thought I needed help with. As it turns out, I can do it on my own. And it’s even more gratifying when I do. I believe in the energy of the universe, and certainly good vibes bring good things. You just need to put the energy out there, and you’ll get an answer and a reception for what you are trying to do. If it is something that you aren’t supposed to do, it won’t work out. But you will have tried, and you will have something to show for it.
WHAT IS THE BEST MOMENT OF AN AVERAGE DAY?
It’s the in-between. If I am working a day job or in the studio, I always take a fifteen- minute walk or coffee break where I can relax or reflect. That’s really important for me, to relax and focus on the next thing.
To see Timothy’s work, click here.