Part 20 of an interview series in which I invite artists to respond to six questions about art, process, and creativity (previous interviews: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19). Today I talk to painter Tim McFarlane, from Philadelphia. Tim's paintings are an absorbing combination of symmetrical pattern overlaid with sensitive gestural mark-making, a procedure that is sometimes interestingly reversed, with a rough background giving way to a geometric shape. Looking at his paintings reminds me of the way that passages of music follow each other in a composition -- indicating that it's no accident that music and visual art use the same term.
|Imposition (indeterminate passage), 2012, acrylic on panel, 36 x 36 inches|
Philip Hartigan: What medium do you chiefly use, and why?
Tim McFarlane: I use acrylic paints in my work, primarily. I began my art studies in high school using oils and really liked them. I still like oils, actually. However, during a five-year hiatus from college, I began experimenting with acrylic paints and discovered that they fit my somewhat impatient personality being a fast drying medium. I can work my way through ideas a lot faster with acrylic paints than oils and while acrylics might not rival oils for their luminosity, I have found ways to make them work very well for me.
Philip Hartigan: What piece are you currently working on?
Tim McFarlane: I am currently working on several small panels (six at12 x 12 inches each) that are a part of an ongoing series, and a couple of works on paper. I usually work on several pieces at once, so it varies from day to day.
|Sequencer (folded), 2012, acrylic on panel, 24 x 24 inches|
Philip Hartigan: What creative surprises are happening in the current work?
Tim McFarlane: With a lot of my works on panels lately, I have been building up layers of images with stencils using different colors in each layer, covering everything with a solid layer of color and then sanding the piece. I never know how the layers of color will interact once I’ve sanded through them, so there’s always a nice surprise as the layers are revealed-different combinations of patterns emerge that I don’t expect. It’s interesting to watch the new patterns emerge during the sanding process. I liken it to a kind of ‘reverse drawing’.
Philip Hartigan: What other artistic medium (or non-artistic activity) feeds your creative process?
Tim McFarlane: Photography is another medium that I really enjoy. The images that I take with a camera don’t relate directly to my painting. I see photography as a separate way of being visually active. Music and reading are other ways that I feed my creative process. I don’t make music, but I listen to a wide range of music and am always looking for new things to listen to. I have a special affinity for electronic-based music, like deep house, techno, experimental electronic music, etc. There’s no telling what you’ll hear from one moment to the next when my iPod is set to ‘random’: Tom Waits, Nina Simone, Depeche Mode, the xx, Dead Kennedys, and on and on. Reading fiction or poetry usually gets the visual creative fires going, also. I love comics and read a lot of graphic novels, as well.
|Cossia, 2012, acrylic on panel, 12 x 12 inches|
Philip Hartigan: What's the first ever piece of art you remember making?
Tim McFarlane: The very first piece of art that I remember making was a cardboard figure of a man made out of a shoebox that my mother had. I was probably seven or so and that was the first thing that I put together by myself, using only my imagination. I remember it being a very spontaneous act: I pulled the box out from a bottom drawer in my mothers bureau, started cutting it up with scissors and wound up with a rough, squared off approximation of a figure. I don’t know what possessed me to do that, but it was the first time that I remember consciously making something.
Philip Hartigan: Finally, and you can answer this in any way that's meaningful to you: why are you an artist?
Tim McFarlane: I’m an artist because I have always been very drawn towards visual expression. That, and art was the only thing that I really wanted to work at when I chose to return to college after taking five years off. As I stated earlier, I began seriously studying art in high school and was counseled by my art teacher to study something else in college and do my art on the side. I followed his advice, tried a couple of other majors and left school for financial reasons. I continued making art in the meantime and thought that if I ever got the chance to return to school, art is what I wanted to pursue. That’s what I did and have been happily making work for almost thirty years. What I really get out of being an artist is the excitement of dealing with mainly two challenges; that of using abstraction to make visual sense out of my internal experiences/reactions to the world and to make meaningful work that will provoke thought.
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