Tim Sheaffer is an artist who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. His work is very painterly http://www.sheafferdesign.com/ and he seems to love painting objects and things all around him. I wanted to find out what inspires him and here's our cool chat below …
MICHAEL: Hey Tim, Your paintings are so warm and elegant. They have a wistful quality that really respects the subject. Your color blocking has a flowing quality. Why and how do you do this?
TIM: Hi Michael, Thank you for the kind words about my work. I have been painting with aerosol paint for about five years now and love to use it as texture contrast to my brushwork. The aerosol is the base that I am building from; it is applied via a spray can or through a stencil. This helps me to map out the composition. With the spray can, I can hone in on an image only so far, with results of an image like a blurred photograph. This technique works great for my 'Jars Studies' and my 'Marbles' Paintings,' because the softness of the spray to me resembles reflections on glass, then I sharpen the image using paint pens, followed by brushwork to bring it together.
When I spray the paint on through a stencil, I get crisply defined shapes and bold colors, like in my 'Classic Cars' series and my 'City Reflections' work. From stencils, the automotive or architecture design is mapped out with defined shapes, followed by paint pens to refine the image even more and then by brushwork to give the color some depth. The process of creating a stencil is basically three steps: Step 1 - I draw the image I am working with on brown paper with pencil or sharpie. This step is to scale and focuses on the composition of the overall piece. Step 2 - Using the drawing, I outline the color layers with a sharpie on a dura lar overlay. This has a cartooning effect. Step 3 - Cut out the shapes from the dura lar with an exacto knife. The process is time-consuming, but I find that by the time I get to the brushwork, I have a good idea where the piece is going.
MICHAEL: Your work appears to have some photorealistic elements or perhaps the paintings begin as photographs? What role does photography play in your work?
TIM: I would say 90% of my work is from photographs. I have never been a plein air artist, although I admire their courage. The studio has always been my refuge. Part of the process for me is collecting images to work from, with my camera. When I get an idea for a series, I will spend a day hiking around the city, the train yard, the auto show or wherever, collecting images. When I get back to the studio, I pick through my collection and find images with a common thread and form a series. Most of my work is done in a groups of 4 to 12, although I recently did a group of 55 'Sunflower' paintings. Working in series allows me to explore different nuances of an idea and I love the way it engulfs me.
MICHAEL: You've traveled around quite a bit. What has travel meant for your painting and you personally?
TIM: Wow, great question. I was born with an itch to travel, but after I read Kerouac's 'On the Road,' I was hooked. I was born and raised in Michigan, so I am a Midwestern boy through and through, but I would not have known that if I had not met some many wonderful and inspiring people along the way. I left Michigan for Chicago to pursue an art career and I fell into a self-exploring bohemian culture, all the while I was painting. Working with oil paints at the time, I painted urban landscapes on found windows and worked as a bartender to pay the rent. My move out west was completely inspired by Kerouac. Spent time in the Northern California Mountains, San Francisco, Portland Oregon and lived in Seattle for three years. I have been in Charlotte, North Carolina for about 15 years now and continue to explore my surroundings and my craft. Everywhere I went, I was inspired by the artist and the landscape around me; my work changed, but it was still my voice. I think if I were to say there was one thing that travel meant to me and my work it would be, find your voice as an individual.
MICHAEL: Finding one's voice as a creative individual can be lonely, no? I mean, so much in our society tells us to follow the crowd and try to "fit in" so you won't seem like a misfit.
TIM: Society does try and tie you down and make you "fit in," but as an artist, it is hard to "stand out" and "fit in" at the same time. So there are sacrifices you have to be willing to make, but when painting is all you ever wanted to do, you find a way. As for the lonely part, there are millions of artists out there, living in this subculture and I am inspired and motivated by so many.
MICHAEL: What's a typical painting day for you? Do you paint all day long? What goes through your mind while you're painting? Do you listen to music or have the TV on?
TIM: I don't have many typical days. My work as a landscape designer creates a rather unpredictable schedule, very busy in the spring and fall, and sporadic winters and summers. I do try and work on my art everyday. I think it is important to stay in tune. A typical day in the studio starts around 7:00 am with sending and answering email, updating the website, Facebook and any other 'necessary business.' Usually around 9 am, I'm working on some part of some project for at least 3 hours. Then I like to take a break and get out of the studio for an hour or two, running errands, meetings, whatever it takes. When I get back to the studio, I will work for another 4-5 hours, often longer. The act of painting is like a meditation for me, in between thoughtful meditations, there are a lot of moments of organizing distractions. I do like to have either music or a movie on to relax my mind. Being slightly distracted helps me to work in the peripherals of my mind.
MICHAEL: I think it's interesting that you paint things like trucks, bicycles, etc., and you also zoom in on sections of objects. Why do you do this?
TIM: I have not always worked this way. My work as a landscape designer has inspired me to look deeper into things around me. When I walk through a client's yard, I try and find the direction that the energy flows through the space, looking for patterns, textures and color changes and differences. This practice has changed the way I look for and choose images to work from, finding simple patterns and color changes and by cropping the image, I can bring the viewer into that world.
MICHAEL: Apart from a couple of museums and the Jerald Melberg Gallery, Charlotte isn't known as an "art city." Why do you live there? Shouldn't you be in NYC or at least Philly or DC?
TIM: Charlotte is not known as an "art city," but there are a lot of great artists here, working very hard on their craft. When I left Chicago, I had decided that the need to develop my work was more important than the need to show my work and I needed time to refine the craft. Here in Charlotte, I have been able to find my voice as an artist, have a great family life with the loving support of my wife Kara and son Liam and the overwhelming support from a very hardworking art community. NYC, Philly, Miami, LA, DC all of those cities have great art cultures and being there is important, but for me, Charlotte has given me the time and the courtesy to self explore at a pace that is right for me. With my experience and my network of peers, I have been able to keep up on developments in the larger markets and I am inspired daily by artists around the world. I think we are moving into a world where the quality of your art is more important than your address.
MICHAEL: Very interesting. If you could change a few things about the art world/ art market, what would they be? I mean, art still seems to be a mystery to many people.
TIM: If I could change anything about the art world, it would be to make art less of a mystery to many people. Art education is extremely important on every level. I have grown through a society that represses the artistic instinct or creative mind, when it should cultivate it. The artists I follow and appreciate, open my mind to new perspectives, helping me to think for myself with more clarity and less hesitation.
The art market is going to be a mystery for awhile, with the exploration of different venues, whether online or brick and mortar and a flush of new artists on the market. Given that, an under-educated art consumer is both underwhelmed (with knowledge) and overwhelmed (with a surplus of art) simultaneously. I am not sure how this will evolve, but I am here for the ride.
MICHAEL: Finally Tim, what's the point of art? And does your work have a message? What do you want people to see in your work?
TIM: What is the point of art? Individual expression, alternative points of view, beauty, style, design, finding a common thread through our differences, all of these and more. I am not trying to convey any particular message with my work. What I am trying to do is let the viewer see the world through my eyes, for a moment, give them another perspective and the freedom to change perspectives. I want my work to be positive and thoughtful and I want to pull you into a moment and to make you think about what you see.
MICHAEL: Thanks Tim. This has been great.
TIM: Thank you very much Michael. I really appreciate you taking the time to ask me all of these great questions.
Check out Tim Sheaffer at http://www.sheafferdesign.com/.