During the Pandemic: A Conversation with Timothy Neill, CA

Written by: Francesa Sinnott

Pictured above: (detail of) Under The Magnolia, oil on canvas, 16” x 20”

 

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Pictured: Tim Neill

Tim Neill has a passion for creating beautiful art and also for preserving it. He is both a talented and committed Copley Artist who owns his own art conservation company, and he has found there is a great advantage to working in both these art forms. Tim’s painstaking but rewarding art conservation work has informed his painting by bringing to him art he admires and has the privilege of examining closely. “The artists’ materials and techniques have inspired my own work,” he tells me. Tim’s figurative and still life paintings show a tremendous knowledge of technique and composition, a solid grasp of the materials needed, and a meticulous attention to detail. Above all, painting feeds his soul. “There was never a time in my life where I was not making art. If I were to choose to do something other than art, eventually I would just fall apart. I do art because I have to. I get a little bit of joy when I finish a painting until I immediately start a new one. The act of painting is an impulse, a release. It’s something I just have to do. Just like eating. I can’t, not do it.”

Tim joined Co|So in 2005. “Co|So was the first gallery to show my work while I was in graduate school at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. Because I started at Co|So so early in my career, it gave me a Boston presence. Co|So taught me how to be an artist. My artistic life has been a process of growing with Co|So. “

The father of 2 young boys, with a new baby girl due any day, Tim manages to find time to manage his art conservation business, his painting and his family, and still look like he gets enough sleep. Tim paints in his home studio and runs his conservation business from another studio. Tim describes how while working on a painting at home, “there have been instances where I have it perfect and then my son puts his hand up and smears it.” He laughs, “This is why I don’t bring the conservation work home.”

Tim was at Disney with his family in March when the pandemic began. The reality of Covid’s impact set in once the family returned to Hamilton, Massachusetts. Tim and his wife traded off homeschooling their 7 year old and caring for the 4 year old.

While the pandemic has been devastating for so many, Tim admits that he “feels blessed” because his painting and his conservation business have kept him busier than ever. “The anxiety I felt from the pandemic motivated me to produce many more drawings and paintings this year with more direct commissions than ever.” Most of Tim’s figurative and still life paintings are in the style of traditional realism. However this year he experimented a lot more.  “I wanted to depart from the rules and have some fun.” This included painting more landscapes and creating his “ethereal series” that came from playing with solvents on ink and oils, resulting in some stunning mystical creations.

 “For years, my wife and best critic, has encouraged me to paint landscapes and I finally did.” Tim will work in his studio from lots of sketches to create his paintings. “I like paintings with atmosphere.” The resulting works are these beautiful moody scenes that sometimes have a dark edginess to them.

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Pictured: Winter Marsh, oil on canvas, 16” x 20”

“For the ethereal series, I used mainly ink and oil paint. I played around with abstractions, dripping different solvents on to the oil paint and mixing varied mediums with it, achieving these wild affects. When I would see a certain shape in the abstraction, I would incorporate that as a figure in to the piece.”

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Pictured: Rapture, oil on panel, 20” x 16”

Figures are Tim’s favorite subject matter and he draws inspiration from American painter John Singer Sargent and Italian baroque figure painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. Many of Tim’s paintings have an allegorical quality. “I have painting ideas that are in my head and through sketches and studies, the ideas evolve in to a painting. I also want to connect emotionally with the viewer rather than just creating a narrative.”

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Pictured: Green, oil on canvas, 30” x 24”

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Pictured: Rain, oil on canvas, 30” x 24”

Tim’s still life paintings showcase his mastery of composition and light.

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Pictured: Pink Peonies, oil on canvas, 16” x 20”

Tim has just become sole proprietor of his art conservation business, Allied Conservation that he has co-owned for 10 years. He is a peer reviewed, Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation. The pandemic has brought him a steady business from “people confined to their homes looking at their artwork and noticing paintings that need restoration.” Tim started in art conservation in 2005, apprenticing under Peter Tysver. He works with antique and contemporary paintings, frames and sculpture, and he enjoys the balance of art and science involved. He will work with solvents to remove old varnish, stabilize cracks in the paint, mends tears in the canvas and re-integrate areas of lost paint. “I enjoy the rewards that come from problem solving". Artists may use different painting mediums and materials that can affect the longevity of a work, and depending on the issue, the work can take a few hours to many months. During some of Co|So’s Artist Member meet ups (2017-2018), he taught workshops on “How to Avoid the Conservator”. Currently Tim is restoring a large painting (72” x 96”) circa 1622-1700 by German artist Stefan Kessler.

More of Tim’s work  can be found on his art website and on his Instagram, @timneill.