Drop Out Art is Tim Blackburn’s way to spread the virus of his childhood to the rest of us. Hours spent watching television and movies burned images into his consciousness. Like many of us raised by a television set, he rarely has a moment that is not somehow linked to pop culture. His stencil art channels the constant stream of images and messages in his head to arrest you, the viewer.
“Everything I saw on TV in the 70s—horror movies, crime dramas, 50s and 60s sci-fi, campy sitcoms—all of that is in my head and I’m trying to process having to watch countless hours of nonsense,” he said.
Drop Out Art refers to the process of cutting out the shadow and outlines in paper to make a stencil that allows spray paint to show through. In other words, drop out the picture and that makes the image. It is the name of both his process and his business.
Blackburn’s practice started with a one-hour stencil class. It inspired him to cut stencils on his own, layer on his own, and figure everything else out after that. That was six years ago in Astoria. Now he’s a highly active artist in the Corvallis/Albany area, and a council member of the Temporary Artists’ Guild.
He does not use Photoshop because he feels that working on the computer is not as satisfying, physical, or as immediate. Instead, with scissors, pencils, and blades he creates a stencil about once a week.
“For me, stenciling takes a lot of focus, patience. It is very meditative. It’s like a waking dream,” Blackburn said.
He works from images that he finds online. And though he is searching based on what runs on a constant loop in his head, finding a simple image is not quite enough.
“The more contrast between light and dark, contrast between colors,” the more he is attracted to it. The images he looks for are obscure versions of pop culture reflections and then he plays with them and messes with the composition when he needs to. Spock playing the guitar; Jack Palance with rays coming out of his head, Mickey Mouse in a gas mask.
He wants to “remind you of something you have seen but probably not in the way it is presented, and then replace that thought with what you just saw or experienced.”
His work then begins to erase the pop culture reference, replacing familiar images with something new and provocative.
Stencils and spray paint can be subversive and democratic. Quick, bold, and effective, the tools and method make a powerful statement when applied to buildings and property. Blackburn admires some graffiti artists but he never does it. Instead, his medium is paper, stickers, a suitcase or a gun case. Whatever he has or a client wants.
His art does not always have a message, but he claims it can be very political. His critique of much of the commercially successful art in America is that it is “non-aggressive and religiously inspired.”
Drop Out Art is neither of those, having a “strong influence of the dark side of the Force.” Because he sees so much darkness in the world, much of it sold to us in the guise of happiness. The culture of fear that can be assuaged only when we consume bothers him. Buy to stop being afraid. Consume or the terrorists win.
Blackburn is an incredibly approachable, affable guy. He is the kind of guy you want to spend the day next to on a bar stool. This personality shows in his work. The dark themes of his art are evident in the skeletons and gas masks, tempered by the bright colors and sometimes ridiculous imagery.
“My art can be scary,” Blackburn said.
It can be, but it is also fun and bold. He wants viewers to be drawn to it and have a visceral reaction. If he succeeds, he knows he has spread the virus from his brain to yours.Want to see more of Blackburn’s work?
Check out www.dropoutart.com, or better yet, see it in person at the Temporary Artists’ Guild Music and Art Festival this coming weekend. Log on to Facebook and peek at www.facebook.com/TemporaryArtistsGuild for details!
By Bridget Egan