It’s all in the technique

Tim Healy uses a squeegee to create abstract paintings.

Abstract art by Tim Healy hangs in Mocha Mott's in Oak Bluffs. — Stacey Rupolo

Before Tim Healy’s first child was born, Healy and his then wife went shopping for items for the baby’s nursery. Along with blankets and bumpers for the crib, they picked out a few paintings for the walls, costing $30 to $40 apiece, which Healy described as “cute little flowers.” “Let’s not buy these. Let’s go to Michael’s instead,” he suggested. “I’d like to see if I can paint something like this.”

Fifteen years after he successfully reproduced the paintings for his daughter’s bedroom, Healy is exhibiting his own paintings in public for the first time. “I call myself a self-learning artist. I’m not self-taught yet,” Healy said during a recent phone interview. Far from pictures of cute little flowers, the work on display at the Oak Bluffs Mocha Mott’s is abstract, and was created using acrylic paint and a squeegee.

Healy works as a financial advisor in Franklin, Tenn., not far from Nashville. His brother is Edgartown resident and musician Gordon Healy, and when asked about his own Vineyard creds, he said, “I’ve never jumped off the bridge, but I come every few years to visit Gordon,” adding, “It’s never enough.”

After the birth of his children, Julia, now 15, and Meredith, 12, Healy began painting characters that would appeal to his daughters: Winnie the Pooh, Santa Claus, and Rudolph. He also began sketching likenesses of his daughter’s face. “When it comes to painting, it’s about trying to figure out how to make something happen, make an effect, make it look like something you envision,” said Healy. Through his efforts to create or recreate works, he learned about how line and shadow blend together to make a flower look like a flower, or Winnie the Pooh look like Winnie the Pooh. “I work through the process of elimination,” he explained. “For me it is about process more than product. I think a lot of artists create things for a form of expression. I haven’t gone there yet. It’s really about the process.”

While visiting St. Louis last spring, Healy saw a show of German painter Gerhard Richter’s abstract paintings. By this point, Healy had already been dabbling in abstraction, but was frustrated: “I always ended up adding details, and the paintings became less abstract.” He read that Richter worked using a squeegee, and decided to try the technique himself. “When painting with a squeegee, you are not going to come out with any details. It becomes about what effects you get from blending different colors, paints, textures,” said Healy. “It comes from a different place in your brain. You have to leap away from the rules. That’s the challenge of abstract. When you see an image and try to replicate it, it’s about about line, form, shadows.”

The work at Mott’s is acrylic on wood panel. They are studies in color, form, and movement. Several of the pieces have a vibrant array of kaleidoscopic colors, others achieve maximum impact through just two or three colors. A few pieces are monochromatic. “I was trying to create something with black and white paint that was more than just black and white,” said Healy.

After prepping the wood with a coating of white paint, sometimes running a squeegee over it before it’s dried to create texture, he applies lumps of paint and starts dragging the squeegee. “As you go over what’s been painted, the colors start to blend,” he said. “Sometimes I try to have some sort of composition to evoke some sort of scene or landscape, but I’ve found that it’s really more about the paint. Different people see different things in the paintings, and that’s very exciting.”

Tim Healy’s work will be at Oak Bluffs Mocha Mott’s through the end of November.