‘My bio is this: born 1947, not dead yet.’ ‘Personal info... addicted to Porridge. Much prefer animals to people, tendency to Anxiety/Depression. Married 47 years to the same woman. In same house last 42 years. Despise change. Scratching away at DNA, family tree. Very fond of donkeys, turkey vultures.’
Timothy Elliott has lived in Hudson, a small Quebec town overlooking the Lac des Deux Montagnes all his life. Hudson is surrounded by trees and farmland. He is a Hudsonite born and bred. He went to high school here and this is where he met his wife, Franki, a calm and gentle partner that tells me, she’s just happy to be. Together I suspect they have weathered many creative storms. After all, this is a union that has lasted 47 years. As a young teenager, Timothy went out Saturday mornings fall and spring with The Lake of Two Mountains Sketching Group, which was led by James Crockart. This led to studies in Montreal (one class actually taught by Arthur Lismer) at The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts School of Art and Design and L’école des Beaux-Arts de Montreal, having majored in Arts Graphiques: etching, litho, and other printmaking techniques. He graduated in 1969. Timothy had his first solo show in 1975, in Hudson and has shown his work in Montreal and Eastern Ontario ever since. His last exhibition was in 2014 and was titled An Oblique Midwinter Winter Morne. But he is at work again, preparing for a solo exhibition in September 2019 at 2 Barn Owls, a renovated barn converted into a gallery space where I first met him and Franki last summer when I was exhibiting my work there. We share many things: a love of crows, stones, and animal bones amongst other things. Tim tells me straight away that he deals with anxieties and some OCD tendencies.
‘Stopped painting for a bitsy in order to split and stack a huge pile of wood’ .
It’s obvious that Tim has great deadpan humour. He’s intelligent, thoughtful, self aware and completely honest. I visit him at the house he has lived in with Franki for the past 42 years. It’s a simple, neat cottage painted grey where I discover several perfectly stacked piles of wood.I tell him I want to write about him and photograph him. He hesitates.
‘I’m just a bit careful of what gets on-line. This comes from trying to live as much as possible in the Nineteenth Century.’
That’s certainly true… I Google him and end up finding a single entry advertising his last show and a single photograph of the invitation piece. It features a blue and white landscape. It’s both evocative and abstract. This single image drew me to him; I wanted to know more about the artist that created the work. It typically takes Tim a year to get ready for a show. This does not include actual time spent painting. That’s because Tim’s process is filled many rituals that have to be observed to create the perfect space both physical and mental in which to begin. Order in his one room studio is fundamental. He prepares the boards that he is going to paint on. He coats them with gesso. He makes sure his favorite colors are there: Phtalocyanine blue, bronze yellow, vivid red orange. When he is ready mentally, and there is nothing left to organize, Tim still struggles to find the decisive moment to start painting. But when that moment finally arrives, the work just pours out of him. Within 3 weeks, he has painted 30 panels which are then framed with a ¾ inch black wood frame already purchased and ready for display.
How does he accomplish this? It takes me months to finish one painting. Where do the bold strokes, the freedom in the brushwork come from? I only mention Tim’s OCD tendencies because I think it helps understand his process. There is a lot of struggle at work, a painful process that eventually results in an incredible burst of creativity. Tim’s struggle to put paint on the board is epic at times but I think it helps to explain what I consider his genius.Tim’s paintings are abstract landscapes. They are at the same time coherent and organized compositions and yet, they are free of constraints. There is no hesitation in his brushstroke. There is a perfect balance in color. They are dreamlike compositions that come from the psyche. They are places he has driven by or walked to a million times. They are familiar to him like the mountains, rivers, lake, fields and houses that surround him. He shows me a book of photographs from the Scottish Borders. He’s never been there but feels a connection through his lineage. Somehow, these echoes of Scotland are also omnipresent in his work.
I’ve absorbed the landscape and draw on that without any preconceived idea of what I’m going to get when it comes down to applying paint. It’s intuitive rather than cognitive, not Knowing so much as Feeling.
Meeting Tim and Franki has brought me into a quiet, protected universe. I feel a connection to them both. Creative types tend to feel that kind of kinship. It’s a rare gift. It has inspired my own work as an artist and Tim’s honesty about his struggles helps me understand my own.