detail of one of Tim Young's paintings

‘Being you is all the credential you need to be a true artist’: Q&A with artist Timothy Young

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Northern Minnesota artist Timothy Young got in touch with some responses to our very special Q&A. It’s uplifting, empowering and positive, but then he does aim to ‘instil a sense of self confidence in others’. Have a read, be inspired and be yourself


What role does the artist have in society?

To me, it’s like that old adage, “Think globally, act locally.”

As an artist, I want to reach the whole world with my message, but I have to create personal expressions right where I am. From my own “local” mind.

And what is your message?

It’s pretty simple really… that you matter. That what you feel and what you have to say, is valid and important.

Society seems dead set on making us feel bad about ourselves.

Almost anyone who has ever heard me speak in public, has heard my soapbox. That you are unique in all the universe. No one else has your particular viewpoint and experiences. Being you is all the credential you need to be a true artist, whatever form your art may take.

So going back to your first question, I think a good role for me as an artist in society, is to instil a sense of self confidence in others.

People will criticize you. So take constructive value from that critique and ignore the rest. Find the gift in it and continue to shine rather than feeling bad about yourself or quitting.

The really important things in life are invisible.

What is an artistic outlook on life?

I think an artistic outlook is seeing the meaning or significance in something. We have the power to interpret what we see. Our bodies collect information through our senses, and our brain then has the ability to metabolize that information into spiritual meaning.

Every word in this sentence is just a string of letters, or symbols. Our brains understand the meaning because we’ve learned the language they are written in.

In the same way, our brains or spirits can extrapolate spiritual meaning from the beauty or pain of the world. As artists, we can highlight and share what we see and how it makes us feel or think.

I think that’s an artistic outlook.

What memorable responses have you had to your work?

As nice as it is to hear someone say “I love that,” it is also valuable to hear negative comments.

Someone once told me “I reject your thinking” because he didn’t like the order in which I layered paint into a landscape.

It really made me stop and think, and only strengthened my instinct to capture light at the end rather than paint the furthest away objects first.

Criticism offers us another, objective viewpoint. I think the comment made me a stronger, more focused and intentional artist.

Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?

I think life is lonely. I don’t think art makes it so.

Art, for me, is social and interactive. Sometimes friends come over to watch me paint in my studio. We play music, talk, laugh. Sometimes I go to other artists’ studios to paint with them. Not necessarily to collaborate, but to commiserate. Sometimes I paint in front of a gathering of people, doing a painting demonstration and talking about my life and my art.

But mostly I paint alone in my studio. That is not sad or lonely. It’s regenerative. I often say that painting is like a meditation for me. But even those paintings most often end up on a wall and become interactive.

For me, it takes work not to be lonely. Art is one way I connect with people. It is also a way for me to connect with myself. Is the artistic life lonely for some people?

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Long after his death, I found a handwritten note from my grandfather which said “Don’t imitate your teacher. Don’t let your teacher make you imitate him. Be yourself.”

Timothy Young, thank you!

See more of Tim’s work on his site, and you can check out some of his biographical details on the Grand Maria Art Colony site.