Hi, and welcome back to another week on the Chrissie Murphy Designs blog. It’s Artist Interview time again, and this month I’m interviewing my friend, and painter extraordinaire, Tim Liebelt. I’ve been looking back on the interviews I’ve done and most of them have been with artists whose main focus has been drawing, either with pen and ink or graphite. Tim brings something new to the blog because he’s the first painter I’ve interviewed, so I’m keen for you to see his work and read his story.
I first met Tim around 2012/2013 (if my memory serves me correct) as we used to work together. In 2013 I had started to explore drawing, and Tim was the first artist I had regular contact with as a budding artist. I looked to him for advice, tips, techniques and ideas and I was in awe at what he was painting. I was particularly fascinated with Tim’s artistic process and how he put his “style” into his work. There’s this beautiful depth to Tim’s work, his skill with light and shadow is incredible and, like fine wine, it’s only getting better with age. Tim has always been so accommodating of my questions and open to sharing what he’s learned, so I’m thrilled to be in a position where I can repay some of that kindness, and in doing so share his awesome work and creative process with you.
So let’s get into this week’s interview.
Welcome to the blog Tim, tell me a bit about your background and how you got into this style of art? It appears you are a very active painter…
I am originally from SA. I started painting around 2010 when I was living in Port Augusta and working around the Flinders Ranges. I was a Hans Heysen fan and he produced some magnificent paintings of that landscape. I was doing a lot of driving around the area and was taking it all in. I was living out at the shacks, a fairly isolated area and decided to have a go at painting, basically to keep me occupied after work and on weekends. I have always liked the impressionist style, especially the Australian brand and this is the style which I have tried to emulate.
Where are you located and what sorts of things in your area inspire your art?
I have been living around Far North Queensland for the last seven years in places like Babinda, Mena Creek, Mission Beach, Mossman and Innisfail. The tropical landscapes and beaches inspire me. The heavy cloud, the mist… Florescent green grass, rivers and rays of sunshine. The random tangled rainforest. These are all things that inspire me to try new techniques that capture the atmosphere of Far North Queensland.
You have developed a unique style to your work, what would you say is your favourite piece?
My favorite piece is a portrait of my partner Jacinta which I have finished only recently. It was based on a random photo I took. It is a good likeness and captures a feeling. I like the pallete and composition. It is in oil and the colours have remained vibrant.
My favourite landscape is a boat on a river. It has a chiaroscuro feel and captures that shadowy stillness you get on a mangrove lined river here in Far North Queensland. You can feel that it is about to rain. The white highlight on the transom of the boat brings it to life.
Over the years I’ve watched you hone your skills and develop real precision in your work. Acrylics, oils, charcoals…. what are your favourite tools for creating?
I started off using exclusively acrylics. I learnt colour mixing and brushwork as well as inventing some techniques of my own. I use rollers, all sorts of kitchen utensils, rags, sponges, spray bottles. Just about anything… It helps me avoid my landscapes feeling contrived. It is especially good for rainforest scenes when often there is no rhyme or reason as to what branch or leaf is where. Using things other than brushes to apply the paint helps to capture that Australian bush randomness.
I have recently switched over to oils and this has forced me to be more disciplined when it comes to colour mixing. I have also started doing some charcoal portraits.
What would you say has been the most difficult aspect in being consistent with your art and how do you handle this?
Every artist evolves and I guess you find your own style eventually. I tend to get bored with myself and look for new ways of doing things. Different subjects, compositions. Different ways of applying paint. For this reason I would say that being consistent is a challenge. People identify artists by their recognisable style. For example you can tell an Arthur Streeton the second you look at it. I guess I keep a degree of consistency because I like the classics. I study the methodology of painting and apply it in my paintings. I don’t know if I have achieved a recognisable style and I don’t know if I ever really will.
Do you have one tip you can share with us for combating artists block?
To combat artists block, my tip would be to have a break for a while. I look at stuff on Pinterest a lot and this gives me some inspiration. If you do landscapes, go on a long drive and hone your observational skills. I would say that everyone is different. You just have to find what is best for you.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
I am going to work on my portraiture. I want to try and get some more commission work. This might include pets. I want to simplify my style a bit and give my paintings a looser feel.
And lastly, tell us all the places where we can find you online.
Ok, so that wraps up today’s Artist Interview with Tim. Isn’t he a legend! I love his techniques and how he uses anything and everything to bring authenticity to his work. He is drawing inspiration from so many different elements, I really like how he’s bringing landscape elements into landscape paintings, it’s so inspiring.
I’d also love to explore a gap I see between the artist and the observer. Tim has said that he doesn’t know if he’s achieved a recognisable style, and I really believe he has. But what’s really interesting here, is that as an artist I’ve thought the exact same thing, “I don’t know my style, or how to achieve it!” As observers, we can clearly see “style“, we can look at another artists work and see their style speaking boldly from the page or canvas, but as artists, we can’t see our own styles as clearly. Why is this? There’s a gap…
There’s this quote by Ira Glass that says,
“All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.”
Over time your work does get better, but at the same time your sense of taste starts to become more refined. Where you were once happy to drink Nescafe, now you’re only content with Zaraffa’s… your taste refines. You start to notice artists that are killing it, and the reason you notice them, is because they’re doing something you like the flavour of. You apply this flavour to your own work and you pull up short because you haven’t mastered the skill needed to apply it. The real gap is not between the observer and the artist, but between your sense of taste as an artist and your level of skill as an artist.
This is why I believe artists have a hard time seeing their own style. I believe your sense of taste is always going to be more refined than your level of skill, because your taste is what drives you! Accepting and trusting your sense of taste is what will refine your style as an artist… in time. I have concerns for any artist who’s sense of taste never changes. Put it this way, it’s ok to like pasta, but it’s concerning if you only like one type of pasta, served one particular way and that’s all you’ve eaten for the last 20 years.
So where’s your sense of taste at? Do you trust your sense of taste, I mean really trust it? Or do you see it as something not to be trusted because it’s just too out there? I hope you can take some time this week to really reflect on why you like what you do. Also have a look at what you’ve liked in the past and see how it’s influenced your work as an artist. I guarantee you that your sense of taste has been a big driving factor in your life as an artist. It’s what’s enabled you to level up time after time, and it’s what will cause you to level up again and again. Learn to trust it, and it will define your style.
In the meantime, let me tell you a little secret…. if you want the heads up on things before the rest of the world, if you’re after the latest news, shop discounts and the odd freebie or two, you’ve gotta sign up to my email list. It’s the monthly email you don’t want to miss.
Until next week, connect with the Creator. Let Him inspire you, His magnificence and beauty is everywhere, even in art and craft.