Engraver David Tim overlays time and materials to capture individual stories

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Find unique stories within common ground with the people he meets, engraver David Tim listens, interprets and shares what he learns by translating them into narrative engravings.

Tim grew up in Montreal, Canada for a minute, but mostly in Ames, Iowa, where he also attended college. After earning his BFA in Printmaking and Ceramics from Iowa State University, he moved to the Bay Area in 2013 to pursue graduate studies at the San Francisco Art Institute and received his MFA in 2015. Resident of San Francisco, he works in his art studio in West Oakland. He exhibited in many cities across the United States; his piece “Procession” was selected for the permanent collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Tim says he became an artist because it allowed him to be himself and determine his own way of creating. “Since I was a kid, Sunday comics and other art forms were amazing to me. Just being surrounded by so many variations of art, creation, colors, styles and fashions drew me into the arts, ”he said.

David Tim, ‘Look Both Ways’, 2021, mixed media woodblock print

A skilled printmaker working primarily in woodblock prints, Tim’s work switches between conventional stand-alone reduction technique prints and multi-layered images enhanced with mixed media. Her imagery is a direct reflection of her relationship to family and the wider community. Daily interactions with a variety of people serve his job as it takes in each person’s life experience, each job is a reflection of sui generis yet another discovery of familiar and parallel lines. “It’s always interesting to find the moments of similarity over time,” he said.

Tim’s motto is to always question yourself. To continue pushing the skills he possesses to a place where he feels the challenge, it is essential to step further out of his comfort zone. The change also pushes him to keep his creative momentum. This urge manifests in her work by adding more layers to a print or trying to incorporate a new element into her art practice or individual piece. He describes his work as unique, layered and timely. Perhaps in the sense that it captures a moment or a visual image in the way life itself unfolds.

One feels an impression of imaged pages in a book illustrating a story when viewing his prints. Use of a minimal color palette throughout sekishu paper, one of the oldest papers in the world still handcrafted from kozo fibers, Tim brings his surroundings to life with precision. His choice of sekishu is both for its durable and semi-transparent properties, which allows added material to be seen under the paper. Printing by hand because his wood blocks are too large for a press, Tim carves mahogany or MDF wood blocks from door skin and polishes them with a wooden spoon. Using application methods like sponges and brushes, he adds color and texture, just enough to provide the perfect contrast to his storytelling.

David Tim, ‘Procession’ 2015, mixed media woodblock print

A day in the studio begins with a good dose of contemplation. Performing edits of a piece that will be the base image of a print, Tim begins to manipulate each print by pulling it in different ways onto the block of wood and / or incorporating different media such as acrylic paint, charcoal and fabrics. Finally, the cutting and mixing of the different layers is carried out as he decides on the areas to highlight, or to push back, to create a feeling of space and volume. Once each piece is complete, it is then moved back once more to its final dimension.

When choosing the subject, it is the memories and still images that remain with him throughout his life, knowing intuitively when a special moment has taken place and needs to be recorded, recreated and shown. Acting like griot—The historian storyteller in West African culture who carries oral tradition through time —he translates through his medium, keeping stories alive and relevant, telling stories that are timeless in creation but resonate in the future .

Spontaneity is also key to Tim’s process. Surrounding himself with different items of fabrics, colors and images, he assembles the different pieces to fit into a narrative. Maintaining that quality of freshness and momentum throughout allows the separate parts to come together and culminate in a finished piece, even if the end result deviates from its original intention.

David Tim, ‘Coming Home’, 2021, mixed media woodblock print

“I’m constantly trying to reinvent and create different ways of manipulating any piece I work on, so no piece is the same. Having access to multiple media allows me to challenge myself, explore and struggle, ”he said.

Tim enjoys spending time in different places where he can relax and slow down for a minute. Hanging on with her family and just existing in a non-artistic environment helps her stay open to different topics and allow the elements to make an impression. Tim admits the pandemic has given him more time with his family and put a stop to activities that normally consume him. He noted how recent difficult times have allowed him to quietly observe and find rich sources, highlighting people in his immediate circle and neighborhood.

“My work evolves more to express the duality that is life, be it time, love or place,” he said.

Tim is busy working on two bodies of work. A collection encapsulates movement in time and space, music and the many forms and places where rhythms can be felt. The other is the continuation of a body of work that highlights the small moments and aspects of life that are often overlooked.

Tim is grateful to have been on a show at pt. 2 Gallery in Oakland last July with artists Lenworth McIntosh and John Martin, whose work he admires. He works on placement to exhibit new work, but primarily he focuses on process and creation. And offering us two simple words in the meantime, until we have the pleasure of the exhibition: “Be blessed”.

For more information on the artist, visit davidtim.com.


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