Tim Cantor is a superbe artist, he has the art written in his DNA, his great-grandfather Lioyd Dundas Whiffen was an artist who travelled a lot, and Tim paints since he was only five years old. His first work, the seascape, is a beautifully obscure and fascinating oeuvre considering he was only a kid. His vision was already extraordinary and full of passion.
He has always had a vivid, fantastic imagination and his works are so incredible that an entire rainbow of emotions comes to the minds of the spectators. Is a huge honour for us to present you this interview made in collaboration with two amazing writers and art lovers, Martina and Vania Belli who gifted this piece with a familiar, personal and precious touch. The questions are posed to both Tim Cantor and his beloved and sweet companion, his wife Amy Cantor.
Tell us your journey becoming Tim, from your very own perspective.
TIM - From my earliest memories of childhood, I always seemed to find myself alone in my room, drawing or painting. I was five years old when my father realized this obsession and gave me a box of oil paints and brushes that once belonged to my great-grandfather. I never met my grandfather, but I always felt this deep bond with him as he was an artist himself. I grew up with his paintings that filled the walls of my childhood home and heard stories of his adventures from around the world. He was English but he was born around the turn of the century and lived in India where he painted the landscapes of his travels around the globe. To this day, I have his collection of art books and that very box that contains his worn brushes and used paints. It is my most prized possession. I began painting so early in life, staying up alone through the night experimenting with my work. I consider myself a self-taught artist due to the fact that I have always needed to be alone to paint. At the age of fifteen, I had one of my paintings acquired by the White House and that began my professional career. I started showing my paintings in galleries and by my mid-twenties, my art could be found in different parts of the world. In the year 2000, I opened my very own art gallery in San Diego’s Historic Gaslamp Quarter. It is where I place all of my work and hold exhibitions of my paintings upon the release of each collection. It usually takes me 1 ½ to 2 years to create a body of work that consists of about 25 to 30 original oil paintings in total. Just recently, I began allowing other galleries to represent my art. I have a big exhibition coming up in June in New York City that I am very excited about!
How does your creative flow works? From the basic idea to the final result, what happens? And where does your inspiration come from?
TIM - Often I do not know where the ideas come from. I just see things in my imagination. As far as inspiration, I have always said that there is one thing that I can say without question that influences my art, and that is music. When I hear music, imagery floods my mind. It's a beautiful thing. When I first conceive of a composition, I do not question it; I begin to sketch, draw, and paint various conceptual works as the images come to my mind. Sometimes I go through fifty or more stages of this process. It is during this important practice that the art begins to take shape and evolve into something that will one day be a finished work of art. When I decide that I want to commit to creating the concept into a refined oil painting, I choose the substrate, whether it be paper, canvas, linen or wood panel, and begin the intense and time intensive process of bringing a work of art to life. After layers of gesso are applied, I begin with creating the background in colour, and then patiently move through an echelon of oil paint and transparent glazes, often up to 50 to 70 layers to bring the images to light. My favourite part of painting is creating all the intricate details within the composition. All those fine little lines and threads, rings and gears. It is the most laborious, but it is what really gives me the greatest gratification.
Is it there a moment in your life that you consider like a turning point?
TIM - That is a fascinating question... Since I began painting as a boy, I feel that there have been 1,001 different times that I felt as if my work or my life as an artist took a turn. Whether I discovered a new found way of bringing something to life after days or sometimes years of experimenting, the incredible feeling I have each time I.
How would you describe your adventure with the Imagine Dragons? The first feelings when you got the collaboration call, the work on the project, the relationship with the band.
TIM - In September 2014, I received a call from the band’s manager telling me that Imagine Dragons loved my art and would really like to see if I might be interested in creating their upcoming Smoke + Mirrors album cover. This was amazing to me! To hear that a band that I had so much respect for musically loved my art meant a great deal to me. They sent me a couple of songs to be inspired by and I only had a week before we were to meet for the first time, so I listened to their songs over and again until images in my imagination began to transpire. I was overwhelmed and then quite nervous to share what I had made for them. I then opened a box with some of my conceptual works, and thankfully, they loved everything that I had created with their music in mind. I had never done anything like this before, after meeting the band for the first time in their studio and having them play the album in its entirety, I immediately realized that this collaboration was meant to be! Not only did I love the sound they were creating, but lyrically, it was exactly what I am drawn to and parallels my own art and writings as well. It was incredible to listen to their songs and hear them evolve along with my paintings. Foremost, I am so grateful that the band gave me complete freedom to paint what was in my heart and mind. The art was created organically. Nothing was forced. Ultimately, what was supposed to be the album cover, turned into an original painting for every song on the album; as there are fourteen works of art in total. Shortly after the art was selected, it seemed as though every single morning was an adventure! I would wake up and discover that the band took my paintings and had them blasted on the world's largest billboard in Las Vegas, or murals of my art in New York, or posters that blanketed Paris. Soon after, the video for SHOTS was made where I was able to experience seeing all my paintings come to life through their music. And just when I thought that I couldn't ask for more, exhibitions of the art of Smoke + Mirrors were held in Las Vegas, London, and Paris. Then due to the creation and success of these unique exhibitions sharing our collaboration, the band asked me to go on tour! We loved experiencing how fans would react in all the various places that we visited around the world. I have always been so independent as an artist. It was the first time that my art was part of a great, big family. We love Dan, Wayne, Ben and Platz, their families and friends, the crew, and of course, Imagine Dragons' EXTRAORDINARY fans! To imagine all the friendships we have made and all the memories that we will have for a lifetime!
I read somewhere that you hide messages in your paintings, is it that true?
TIM - I have been paintings all sorts of symbols and messages in my art for many years. Most often, I will hide the letters of my wife's name A-m-y subtlety within the composition. When the band found that I love doing this we collaborated on weaving a number of cryptic things into the art! It was so much fun to hear their thoughts and ideas, then try to create an inventive way to integrate it with my paint and brushes. As time goes by, fans have discovered many facets of the hidden messages in the album cover itself. I love to hear all the revelations and hypothesis!
There are still more to be found!
What would you do if you had a magic wand in your hands? (question for both Tim and Amy, his lovely wife)
TIM & AMY - We love this question!!! I asked Tim and I could tell it was too much power therefore, his reply was: "I would give it to Amy." My reply, being my overly sentimental self: "I would wish to spend all eternity with Tim.”
If you were asked to describe Tim through one of his works which one would you choose that represents him the most and why?
AMY - Tim has made this question easily definable for me through The Conduct of Life. This oil painting was created over the course of two years time. It is a self portrait of Tim in three distinct phases of life: A boy, A man, and a Man of Old Age. He truly captured himself in this piece. I see him as the boy, so wide-eyed and tender, so pure of heart. He is still so very much that way. As a man, you can see his sensitivity and feel his will. His gaze is thoughtful and intense, his fist is clenched, even the bird is in a frenzy above him. Finally, an old man. He is still seeing his world in his own unique way. The white rose suspended above his hand. Having grown to old age, he is at peace knowing that he stayed true to his art. One will find in all of Tim's work the element of time is persistent in almost all of his compositions. There are always references, both strong and subtle. To me, this painting is Tim expressing that he is doing the very best he can.
You experienced the success of Tim by his side, and you where there at the ID Tour, how did you live all this? Is it there a particular moment, a memory, a face that its still vivid in your mind related to that time?
AMY - On May 6th, Tim and I are celebrating our 25 year anniversary of the first time we met! We were very young that day, Tim was 21 and I was only 19 years old. Over the years, there are countless memories and milestones that I have been so fortunate to be by his side to celebrate! I have watched him and his art evolve extraordinarily. To this day, with each collection, with every painting and writing, there is some sort of special something that astounds me and makes me fall in love with him all over again! From the day that Imagine Dragons called and everything that has taken place since, feels like a wild dream to me! Since I have had time to reflect on everything that took place, all the memories, all the places and faces, I still cannot capture just one moment in time that stands out as particularly profound. Every time I try to focus on just one, thousands more come rushing into my mind! If I had to pick one thing that is a result of all that has taken place since we met the band is watching Tim overcome his shyness. Before, he was becoming increasingly more reserved, spending hours upon hours in his studio and never coming out into the gallery except for an exhibition. The moment that we began working with the band, they set up all these interviews and appearances upon his behalf where Tim was forced to get up on stage and talk about his art and his life. It was a phenomenal thing to watch unfold as I never imagined him to have the courage to get up in front of so many people. Today, he still retains his kind nature and humility that made me fall in love with him all those years ago, but he actually loves sharing his art and talking with people about his work. To me, when I look at the Smoke + Mirrors cover, I now see Tim as that beautiful bird, flying free.
Looking back at the past now, would you say "I did exactly everything I wanted to"? Are there things you wouldn't do the same way (or not at all), and things you wanted to do but you couldn't in your fantastic life journey?
TIM - Great question...I have given this quite a bit of thought. Since I am self-taught as an artist, my first reaction was to tell you that I wished I would have been exposed to the art that now inspires me, as a boy. By travelling around the world I have been able to spend time with some of my favourite paintings, and artists who have helped guide me to be the painter I have become. I always wonder what - if I had been able to see the artists of the Northern and Italian Renaissance as a kid - would my paintings look like now? After considering this notion for a while, I realized that I wouldn't change a thing about the way my artistic self has developed. Perhaps if I did, everything would be different now? I am very happy with my life and wouldn't want to change a thing! What I would LOVE to do in my future is to live in Europe and have my own gallery. It would be amazing to be in a place and permanently show my art where I am most inspired. It will happen one day, I am sure.
In a scale from 1 (minimum) to 10 (maximum), what is your level of criticism towards yourself while you create a new piece of art? Are you satisfied with the final result or you carefully analyse it looking for imperfections?
TIM - During the long process of painting a painting, I become completely immersed. If I am not travelling, I go into my studio every night from midnight to six o'clock in the morning. But even when I am away, painting is always somewhere in my mind. I'm a bit obsessed. For the last seven years, I began a new practice of not showing anyone in the world, including Amy, until my paintings are finished. I feel I can follow the painting through to every detail without disruption or taking into consideration other thoughts or opinions. Ultimately, it gives me great motivation to know that I will one day show Amy for the very first time. I wait for her reaction as it is always pure. While I am working on a composition, I am highly critical, 10 +! I am always searching for imperfections and doing everything I can to paint to the best of my ability. I never rush. If I am not feeling it, I move on to another painting and revisit it when I am in a better state of mind. I find that it is the best way. I also love that if I let it rest, when I return with new perspective, it will ultimately become a different painting than it was originally intended due to the time away. After an original is complete, I am usually really happy and have a difficult time parting with it, as over time, I grow quite attached. If I come across something that I created years ago, knowing what I know now, I might wish I could have rendered it in a different way, but I do like that over time, I can look at my art and see an evolution.
3 tips that you would like to share with young artists.
TIM - 1. When I was young, I wanted to grow up and go to a big art school. Thinking back, I am happy that I didn't. As a self-taught artist, I have learned so much on my own through experimentation and learning to develop my own unique style. I feel that as an artist, it is the best thing one can do. Though, I do love to study artists that I admire in a museum setting, I try to never visit contemporary art galleries. That is why I opened a gallery dedicated to my art sixteen years ago. Today, if I allow another gallery to represent my art, unless I am having an exhibition, I kind of stay away. I like to keep my mind free of what others are doing and remain true to my own artistic path.
2. Find a passion! Look at things that you are really attracted to and study it yourself. Figure it out! It will drive you!
3. The best thing I could tell any artist is to pretend that there are no other options. That there is no other choice than to succeed as an artist. No fall-back. It's either sink or swim. Therefore, you put everything you have into making it happen. If that much conviction and devotion goes into anything, one will find their way. It's good for every artist to suffer and starve a little! It makes you appreciate life more!