The Art and Soul of Timothy Link By Sandra Castillo
So many of the images are enigmatic dreamscapes encapsulated in a mind’s eye succinctly focused on the ethereal, otherworldly. Whether it’s a golden-haired enchantress atop a majestic stallion, illuminated by starlight, or a sensual vampire seduced by his own insatiable hunger for immortality, the Art of Timothy Link is beholden to a chimera graced with the lush, untold riches of his soul. His masterpieces line the corridors of gilded mansions ruminating in the mysterious, beguiling wiles of his exquisitely woven fantasies. When his imagination is left to its own devices, one may contemplate how he even finds the time to sleep. Then again, it will come as no surprise to those who know this extraordinary visionary, whose work ethic and remarkable self-discipline have supported his mainstay and love for Art since he was a child growing up in Arcadia in North Carolina.
RG Magazine sat down with the renowned artist to discover the world in which he resides and creates, and it’s truly a place of wonder and enchantment. Here is what he shared with the publication…
Looking back on your early beginnings, recall the moment you picked up a pencil, paint brush to experiment with drawing. How old were you when the art muse first struck?
I grew up in a creative environment. My parents always supported me in my art choices and career. I am not sure I ever had that “ah hah” moment, an epiphany, that maybe a lot of people have. I always knew that being an artist was what I wanted to do and what I was meant to do. I just knew in some mystical way, as I got into my early twenties, that I needed to honor the gift I was given and go from there, to be true to it. Being creative in all areas of my life, having that extra spark, has always been there for me. It drives me. I don’t have a competitive personality, as far as others are concerned, but I do push myself to be as good as I can be. My art teacher in high school really encouraged me to pursue my art, as well. She was very supportive, and it was reassuring to have that validation that, just perhaps, I was on the right path, after all. In college, the same thing-my professors were very encouraging, as well. It was in college, in fact, when I really developed an affinity for drawing people, painting portraits, etc., but more importantly, to create characters who were magical, spiritual, otherworldly and paint them in a realm in which they existed beyond the veil of our reality. College was great for me in that it gave me the discipline I needed to work on my technique, create my own style and to hone my craft. I have been very fortunate in my artistic career to have always had tremendous support and understanding from the people in my life. That is so important.
How would you define your work?
I have always seen my art as ethereal, sometimes hopeful, mysterious, powerful, symbolic. There’s always a “story” there behind the subject’s eyes…always a separate life. I have done various pieces over the years where, after completion and if the paintings remained in my possession, I would have to put the paintings away. They would just be too heavy. The character would be so intense that there was no way that I could live in their presence. Still beautiful, mind you, but just very all-consuming. Sometimes life and love can be like that, too. How many times do we say, ‘I love you, but this shouldn’t be this hard…love shouldn’t be this difficult.’ And then we put it away. Some of my darkest paintings are like that, though at the time of creation, I didn’t realize they were that “heavy.”
What are some of your favorite subjects to create?
Goddesses, shamans, mermaids, sorcerers, dragons. Always beautiful, maybe a bit tragic. I am not a “happy” artist. I am much more creative in the darkest hours, and maybe that’s why, in those moments, I gravitate towards painting light, alluring images. As I have mentioned, I love to illustrate people, not exclusively people, but that subject is the one I always go back to. I have done quite a few commissioned portraits over the years. I also remember doing a lot of Rock star portraits in the early years: Pat Benatar, Tom Petty, Barbra Streisand, Debbie Harry and Blondie, Jim Morrison and Stevie Nicks. These paintings were very profitable for me because no one else was doing them back then, outside of my magic circle of friends. As well as my “people” portraits, I also started free-lancing, doing pet portraits, designing logos and notecards. Creating pet portraits became fairly lucrative, and to this day, I still have several of those same clients who were with me way back when. A lot of times, animals will become part of the paintings that I do for myself to exhibit or sell, because animals can become very symbolic, mystical. Animals, such as ravens (and other birds), horses, cats, dolphins, have found their way into my work. I have been illustrating and designing notecards under my own company name-Still Night Productions-since 1981, and that has been a very creative venture, too, and one that I started out of necessity so that everyone could enjoy my art. If they couldn’t afford a large painting, they could certainly afford some notecards and, hopefully, be inspired by a bit of my magic. I have marketed my notecards and prints here in the Golden Triad, on Ocracoke Island, NC, in Washington, DC and New York City. As inspiration, I have always been drawn to other cultures and lands, as well: The Welsh Mabinogion and the tale of the Norse goddess, Rhiannon, especially, the Arthurian Legends, the Celtic Myths, the Egyptians, the Native Americans, the Greek classics, and in recent years, after traveling there on several occasions, I have become inspired by Mexico and the Spanish culture. I am presently painting a portrait series inspired by a few of the figures that are prominent in the culture/religion of voodoo, such as Marie Laveau, Mami Wata and Papa Legba. Not sure how many portraits there will be in the series, once I am done. These were inspired first by a series of books written by Jewell Parker Rhodes that I read years ago, but then after doing more research on voodoo, the fascination for me grew.
What mediums do you employ to create your pieces?
For my small notecard designs, I prefer simple pen and ink and Prismacolors for truly rich colors. Layering is very important. For a lot of my portraits, I use pastels. I think certain clients like the sophistication of pastels, the look. There’s something very organic-to me, anyway-very basic about pastels, yet you can really get some intense colors and depth with them. My preferred medium of choice and the one I use the most is acrylics. I like to paint large pieces, and acrylics give me great coverage and the option of a quick or long drying time. Acrylics lend themselves to the abstract painting style, as well.
Talk a bit about how you begin the process of cultivating your masterpieces.
I love to read, to discover new things. An idea might come from a novel or movie. It might come from a song or one of my own lyrical poems. Rarely do they come from actual dreams; once in a while, they might. If that happens, then I know this vision must be painted on canvas at some point. I had this one dream several years ago, so vivid and the idea was so detailed and so different from what I have ever done that I immediately got up in the wee hours of the morning and sketched the concept out. I have never gotten around to doing that painting, but one day, I will. I will occasionally pull that sketch out and think, Oh, Tim, you really need to do this now! It will be huge in size, and it will happen. I see it in my head, the exact colors and main character in the scene that came to me in my dream. It will happen when it’s meant to. If I work on something in its rough stages, and it becomes a struggle, then I know it might need to be put on the back burners, and I need to move on. Luckily, this hasn’t happened to me too often. Once I have an idea or a character concept in mind, I start with some very quick, rough sketches. If a particular character exists either in a myth or legend or specific culture or history, I throw myself into the research process-which I love-to make sure my symbolism is as authentic as it can be and to learn all I can about that person and the realm they lived in. This is how the character comes alive for me, becomes real in my mind. That’s usually when I really start figuring out what I want them to actually look like. Once I get a general idea down and do a color chart for the painting, gesso my canvas and then sketch the idea there…working on proportions, perspective, balance, and I start painting, my process goes pretty fast. I may spend up to five or six hours on a painting and then step back-observe it for a day or two-and then paint on it again for several hours. It usually depends on the character in the painting. Some characters materialize quicker than others. Some like to hover on the fringe, revealing themselves in stages. It usually takes me three or four weeks to complete a painting, once I have begun one. That usually includes down-time in between for other things that require my attention.
This is your time to laud the praises of your fire-and-muse, the Rock Goddess herself, Stevie Nicks, who has been the centerpiece of so much of your work. Talk about how you came to discover her and eventually incorporate her into your work. For the record, how many pieces have you done on her?
I first became aware of Stevie back in 1979, 1980. I can remember the exact moment. I was flipping through my brother’s album collection, flipped over the back of the Fleetwood Mac album, Fleetwood Mac, and there she was, this ethereal beauty softly veiled in a photographer’s misty photo. Then, I saw the Rumours album cover, and the spell was cast. I listened to the albums, and the rest is history, as they say. I rushed out to acquire my very own copies of these two albums and discovered a bonus-the Buckingham/Nicks album in the record store, as well. I think Stevie’s beauty and her songs resonated with me so powerfully in the beginning, because, by then, I had just begun drawing and painting beautiful, magical, mysterious creatures that would later become my own trademark, my own muses, and certainly, I was writing my lyrical poetry by then, too. I thought, this is someone who was a kindred spirit. It wasn’t difficult, even back in the early days, to see that she was authentic, real, a true believer and immensely talented. I first started using Stevie as a model or muse for my illustrations and paintings simply because of her innocent beauty, her style. Sometimes I would paint a lady, goddess, angel, and she would happen to look like Stevie. She is the perfect inspiration-beautiful, talented, ageless, mysterious, strong. She’s a survivor. I would say that from small illustrations to large paintings, I have used Stevie as a model in about 30 pieces or more.
Looking back on your career as an artist, what are some of your personal favorites that you’ve created?
A favorite picture of mine that I would say is the ultimate representation of my style, my artist’s heart and soul and what I try to convey to the world through my paintings and visions is a Prismacolor pencil piece that I did in 1990 of Rhiannon, Goddess of Birds and Horses. In my illustration, Rhiannon is draped over the back of her steed, her long, golden hair falling over him and becoming his star-speckled mane. Rhiannon’s three, healing magic birds are flying around her. It’s a simple, gentle piece, but then it’s not, really. You want to know her, you want to love her, she could be attainable, but are you worthy of such a gift? It’s very powerful, in my opinion. Another painting that is one of my favorite pieces that I have ever done is called “Raven Queen.” I had written a lyrical poem about a lady who was known as “The Raven Queen” in her realm, her kingdom. She was, of course, under a love spell, cursed to walk as a human at night and live in the guise of a raven during the day, thus separated from her lover. Well, my lyrical poem became a story, and my story became a living, breathing woman to me. My vision or my interpretation of what I wanted her to look like was challenging, but as fate would have it, I ran across an exquisite photo of one of my favorite artists/musicians, Tori Amos, at one point…and “The Raven Queen” was born. I doubt that anyone would see that in the painting, but Tori was certainly my muse for this piece. I ended up painting “The Raven Queen” as a woman, but in the painting, she’s removing her mask-which really isn’t a mask at all-to reveal her dark eyes and raven feathers underneath. She is surrounded by her “unkindness” (a flock of ravens). I have at least three more paintings that I would love to do of her in different phases. Her illustrated “story” is just beginning.
When you are not creating Art, what else do you like to do?
Photography is a passion of mine. I was first bitten with this creative bug back in college. It was really interesting working in the darkroom, processing the film and seeing what developed. I also write lyrical poetry constantly and have for as long as I can remember. I have all those old, velvet journals from many, many years ago, filled with the musings of an “old soul,” which I have always felt I had. Writing is something, like my Art, which I have always done. Writing lyrical poetry, for me, anyway, is a way of putting my feelings into a form without revealing too much. Inspiration can come from anywhere-life, love. They say we all have at least one book in us, and I ended up writing mine a few years ago. It’s a very original story, but the initial inspiration came from my fondness for the tale of “Beauty and the Beast.” The main character in the book just happens to be an artist, also, and a singer/songwriter who lives in New York City, but due to circumstances beyond his control, he is thrust into this dangerous, yet magical journey to discover his real lineage and find out why he starts having the cryptic dreams and visions. It’s a very compelling story, very enchanted, kind of scary, too. The love story that is interwoven into the main character’s journey is very unique, modern. The novel is called The Crystal Twin, and I created a companion booklet to go with it of portraits of all the main characters. I did these in charcoal and pencil. This project was the perfect union between my writing and my illustrating.
Aside from Art, you have also pursued photography and writing, with both genres incorporating your images and musings between the covers of books. Talk a bit about that.
My first lyrical poetry collection was called ‘The Shining Ones’ and combined my writing with my illustrating, but in more recent years, I have used photography, exclusively. This creative interest of mine is still something I do whole-heartedly, thirty-some-years later, because I write so much. Self-published titles have included ‘The Blue Rose,’ ‘Rock and Roll Angel’ and ‘Tears & Talismans.’ This is a project I started doing in between larger projects/freelance assignments, just so I could keep my creative mojo in motion, and it just stuck.
What do you consider your grandest achievement?
Balancing my Fine Arts passion with my career as an award-winning, professional computer graphic designer for 37 years-plus. I experience the best of both worlds, artistically speaking.
For more information and a place to view Timothy Link’s art, please visit: Timothy Link at Facebook-Album-Tim’s Photos, Artwork and Other Rarities. The artist may also be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org