We’ve been speaking with Tim Fowler, a professional artist working out of a warehouse studio in Frog Island in Leicester.
From a young age, Tim has always had a passion for art, but it wasn’t until doing an Art & Design foundation course at DMU that he really started to take things seriously – this is where he truly found a love for art. It was also around this time that he saw an inspirational film on the American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.
“Jean-Michel Basquiat was this young, black painter that went from doing graffiti on the streets of New York to museum shows overnight. This made me realise that I could potentially make a living from being an artist.”
Tim has now been pursuing a career as an artist for roughly 14 years. To add to his Art & Design foundation course he has since graduated from Sheffield Hallam University with a degree in Contemporary Fine Art. After graduating, Tim worked as a Teaching Assistant for children with SEBD (Social, Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties) to financially support himself. Following that he then went on to work for a jewellery company called Love Bullets, where he was involved in building a club at Glastonbury Festival made entirely out of bullets. Then, after over 10 years of hard work building up his name, he was finally able to make the leap and become a full time artist in 2018.
Tim’s work has evolved over the years from buildings, portraits, and skulls, to now focus on plants. He has a very recognisable colour palette and way of painting, which helps him create art that really stands out in styles including modern, urban, contemporary and street.
“I wouldn’t put myself into any one category, but I take influence from lots of different styles.”
Now being focused on plants and the botanical world, Tim loves to visit places like Kew Garden and the Eden Project for inspiration, along with places closer to home like parks, books, illustrations and even his own garden.
Tim’s most recent project is inspired by his own heritage. However, following some research, it wasn’t the heritage that he was expecting.
“During the first lockdown I was unable to get into the studio as I was homeschooling my children whilst my wife continued to work. I decided to do an ancestry DNA test, which didn’t come back as I expected. My mum’s side of the family are from Barbados and so I was expecting the results to show various countries from around the Caribbean. However, the Caribbean didn’t actually show up on the results at all. It showed the African countries of where my ancestors originated from before the Atlantic slave trade. I knew about the basics of slavery but I didn’t know a great deal. Seeing that my family was affected really sparked my interest, and as I was stuck in the house all day with some free time, I began doing more research. I wanted to know how the Caribbean formed and grew, and which European colonies owned which areas and how that affected the different cultures. I also wanted to know how the slaves introduced their own plants and crops to the islands, whether it be for food or medicine, as well what the slave owners introduced as cash crops – and that’s where my inspiration came from. These plants included tobacco, cotton, bananas/plantain and sugar cane. I knew what these were in terms of the end product, but I had never seen what they looked like as plants. So I started researching and began painting them.”
Tim has done some pretty crazy things so far in his career as an artist. He’s shown his work in New York, LA, Germany and Ibiza, selling artwork all over the world. He’s had 5 solo exhibitions in London and 6 in Leicester. He’s lived and slept in a gallery for an entire week, and has sold out an entire show in less than 2 hours. But the thing that stands out in his memory as his biggest achievement to date is his residency at Touchlight Genetics in Hampton.
“For my residency, I used a beautiful old Victorian pump house as a studio for 3 weeks. I had complete freedom and made these huge paintings, some as big as 4.8 metres across. It really helped me develop my practice.”
Now being based at Frog Island in Leicester, Tim is surrounded by other creative businesses including Graff HQ, Bitsy Emporium and his brother in law who has a clothing company next door. He currently shares the building with the owner, who also runs Molabolt.
One thing that Tim has been working on recently is a collaborative Arts Council England project with glass blower, Graeme Hawes. They’ve been producing a series of sculptural glass plant pieces that will be shown at the Botanic Garden and Attenborough Arboretum in Leicester – definitely something to look out for.