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Tim Jones - Newham

Tim Jones was taught the art of wood engraving by one of Britain’s best known pop artists, (Sir) Peter Blake, best known for co-creating the sleeve design for the Beatles' album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. His other best known works include the cover of the Band Aid single "Do They Know It's Christmas?", and the Live Aid concert poster.

Tim was around 15 at the time – the son of a creative Welsh couple who restored and sold gypsy caravans in the picturesque area of Downing in Flintshire, North Wales. Peter Blake became a family friend after he purchased two of the couple’s caravans.

Tim, now living in Newham, near Hanging Rock in Victoria, reflects on his creative Welsh childhood with an air of wistfulness.

“I realise now how lucky I was to live in that magical place – in a house that had been part of the 17th Century estate of early Welsh naturalist, Thomas Pennant, who had cultivated hundreds of exotic trees on the property. I benefitted from his ‘doings’ but I never realised that at the time of course,” he says.

Tim says he knew from the age of five that he wanted to be an artist – “although I had a child’s warped idea of what an artist was” – and, at 16, he began study at the Wrexham School of Art in North Wales from 1979-83. With a Bachelor of Arts (First Class Honours) in Painting and Printmaking, he headed to Australia in 1983, where he completed a Post-graduate Diploma (with Distinction), in Sculpture at the Victoria College of Arts in Melbourne.

“I was always fascinated by Australia as a kid. When I was12, I was assessed as being severely dyslexic and I remember being told that “everything was upside down” to me, “just like Australia.”

Throughout his ensuing arts career, printmaking and especially wood engraving, has been core to his practice. As his comprehensive Australian Galleries CV attests, he has worked across mediums and his huge rural studio is filled with bronze and wood sculptures in addition to the paintings, prints and engravings – but it is always in drawing and engraving that his ideas begin life.

“I can remember when I was 13, Father Christmas bought me some engraving tools and fine woodblocks and I hacked into them, making badgers and owls. I remember my father being slightly horrified.

“But it was through these early attempts that I found making prints gave me attention at school. I loved doing it, it was so tranquil and relaxing, and I felt respected and loved for it. I liked that feeling.

“I see the process of wood engraving as like being in the darkest of nights. Then dawn happens and an image becomes apparent and a whole new world emerges in the final print.

"It’s strange…. I can come here to my studio to do a couple of hours of work in the early evening and once I put on my CDs and get started, it’s suddenly 2am.

“I just get lost in the process. It’s a lovely medium. It fascinates me and it’s quite rare now; there are not a lot of people doing wood engraving.”

Tim is the first to concede that his lifetime with dyslexia has been a major influence on his career choice as a visual artist.

“When I was growing up I couldn’t understand letters, or why other people were interested in them. I loved pictures. I related to pictures. This is communication without words,” he says, sweeping his arm to indicate the proliferation of his art practices.

At this point in his highly successful career, Tim is philosophical as he considers his future direction. He has taught at Australian institutions since 1986, including the Victoria College of Arts in Melbourne; and his work is held by the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, in most state galleries and in several regional Victorian galleries. He is represented by Australian Galleries in Melbourne.

“I look back on my career now and although I’ve sold many large public bronze commissions, I’ve always been much more successful as a wood engraver. But the two are intrinsically entwined for me. Ninety-nine per cent of my sculptures are preceded by a drawing and then an engraving.

“I love drawing. It’s fundamental to any visual artist and I just wish I could practise my own philosophy more and draw every day. I don’t, but I wish I did because ideas evolve through drawing. It energises me.”

He says he is now at a point in his life where developing his ideas is more important than “bending what you do to make money.”

“I want to be making images that intrigue people. I derive great delight from people engaging with my work. It amazes me still, that a tiny piece of wood can create an image that draws people in,” he says, running his hand across a small woodblock of a dog that he created when he was 15.

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Adrienne Rewi  - Writer Photographer  Artist
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