About

 

Tim JoyceMy motto is “never ask permission” to make something. While it is true that art can help us settle the flotsam and jetsam of life, I prefer a touch of chaos when it comes to creating it. Anarchy is my muse. Making art is an event that embodies freedom – freedom from worrying if what I’m doing is “artistic.”

Doodling got me through school and got me paddled on more than one occasion. I drew on every surface I could find: walls (pencil lead takes nicely to cool smooth plaster), newspapers (devil beards and mustaches on the men and women in the photographs), and the rough-hewn texture of manila paper. I built miniature baseball and football fields on a drywall board in our basement, using plastic soldiers as players (their weapons bitten off and replaced by clay baseball gloves and football helmets). I was a benevolent deity ruling over a tiny world of my own making.

I have no formal training. The Catholic schools of Cleveland during the fifties and sixties were not interested in producing artists. Artists were immoral, period. There might have been an art class at the all-boys parochial high school I attended, but girls were interested in football players and rock ‘n’ rollers, and I was interested in girls.

My mother took us kids to the Cleveland Art Museum once. We felt a little like poor, unwelcomed relatives at a mansion, but the huge “Water Lilies” by Monet brought peace to my wild heart. One day I discovered a book of Cezanne’s bathers in our attic. First, it was the thrill of the taboo – pictures of naked women taking baths! But there was nothing prurient about those paintings. I looked at the shapes and colors in wonder. In later years I was moved by artists who show what life does to people: Rembrandt’s self-portraits, Caravaggio’s extreme dramas, the skies behind El Greco’s saintly tormented figures.

But it was my love for jazz music that made me want to create something of my own. I envied the freedom of those dignified ambassadors of the world of let’s believe, and loved the artwork on jazz albums. I was living in Los Angeles the time I dared to buy decent paper and a set of pastels. The smog-bleached softness of sunrises and sunsets there really lit me up. I started keeping a watercolor journal – instead of writing about or taking photographs of the places I saw, I painted them – not necessarily to “represent” something, but rather to lose self-consciousness and express freedom.

In the early eighties I went to a Latino art show at the Los Angeles County Museum. At the entrance was a fabulous convertible painted over with the most remarkable designs and symbols I had ever seen. After that, it was on for me!

As a young man I spent six months in Cuernavaca, Mexico, and was stunned by the vibrant color and spirit of the local art. Hardworking nameless souls, who would never think of themselves as artists, creating works of beauty out of tin and other inferior materials. This taught me that you can make something out of just about anything. One of my suppliers is the swap shop at the town dump. People throw away ugly old paintings; I take them home and paint over them, give them a second chance. The local community theater breaks up old sets and throws the pieces in a woodpile outside; I make woodscapes and strange figures out of these discarded treasures.

Sometimes I wish my creations could tell me where they came from. The source of inspiration is mysterious, however, so perhaps my wish should simply be that my art will inspire other people to make something – “artistic” or not – without asking permission.