Tim OBrien
Bob Dylan 2015
Bob Dylan,'Shadows In The Night' 2015

When we come upon an important musician for the first time, it doesn’t matter if the music is old or new.  This new relationship begins pure and we can take the music in with our fresh ears and experience it as if it was just released.  When I was in college I started to listen to Bob Dylan.  Of course, from the radio I knew the hits, but delving into albums (you know those things, kids?) you can hear a deeper theme of the music and also if an artist has a large catalog, you can binge listen too.
The first album that I delved into was Blood On the Tracks.  It still is a perfect piece of art.

I mention Bob Dylan sometime to my students.  I say that they are all in their early 20’s and I ask them, “when is it time for you to make meaningful art?  How old do you have to be to make the meaningful art of your lifetime?”  It’s a great question to ask a student because I think many feel that this time is off into the future.  But success comes when it does, when the time is right and the skill meets the blind ambition and no time is more like that than one’s early 20s.

Bob Dylan, America’s self-made myth, started manufacturing a personality and performing style in his early 20’s and before he was 25 had made a huge impact in the world of music, of writing and performing.
At 26 he left the music scene, or so we thought, following a motorcycle crash.  Not idle for long, Dylan re-booted himself and began working with the Hawks, or “The Band” to record a ton of music that would eventually become The Basement Tapes.  He re-emerges and has tried every kind of music and is always interesting.
This brings me to how I think of Bob Dylan now.  I use his story to motivate my students to do meaningful work NOW, but I’m an artist who did many pieces that defined my career beginning years ago.  Today I look to Dylan for how he keeps at it, keeps trying new things and loves the work.  The work has given us such rich music, so many powerful songs and poignant phrases and melodies.  He’s an American treasure.

I was asked to do a portrait of Bob Dylan for AARP Magazine, the only place that Dylan agreed to do an interview about his new album ‘Shadows in the Night.’  The album of standards made popular by Frank Sinatra is being met with great reviews.  as for choosing AARP for his only interview, in his own words, he felt that this album “would be more appreciated by people who have more wisdom and experience in life.”
As Dylan once sang:
“Ah, but I was much older then, I’m younger than that now.”
A spot illustration of the Editor in Chief, Bob Love interviewing Dylan. I was more worried about this spot than the main portrait.

The editor in chief, Bob Love did an interview about HIS interview on is the link.


Michael Brown for Esquire

This summer I was troubled, as were many other Americans, when an unarmed black man, Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri.  This followed the case of Treyvon Martin and was followed by Eric Garner's choking death (recorded) in Staten Island. 
No matter what you feel about Michael Brown or other recent deaths of unarmed black men, 2014 was the year it came to a boiling point.
Just prior to the verdict in Ferguson, I was asked to illustrate Michael Brown on the ground.  For me, the awful video of his body prone on the pavement, in the hot sun was hard to watch.  Imagine the pain of his family seeing him there for almost 4 hours. Writer, John H. Richardson wrote a piece for ESQUIRE about the incident and how it endures through the eyes of his father, Michael Brown Sr.
Rough sketch based on the low quality long distance photograph.

This is the powerful layout in the magazine. Thank you to Christa Guerra and David Curcurito for the faith in illustration.
In order to do this piece I had to shoot reference and it's such a removed process to ask someone you know to pose for a piece like this.  In the end I hope it made more real something only seen in grainy quality images.
Years ago I did a similar clarifying piece in responce to Neda being murdered in Iran.  It's a foresnic form a portraiture.
Je Suis Charlie
animation by Tonka

The Boat
'The Boat' Oil on Board 15 1/2" X 21"
Life couldn't have worked out better by the end of 2014.  Still, the Irish in me begins to feel wary when things are too satisfying and I often find myself mentally 'testing the floor' to see if it's sturdy.  I am learning to trust and enjoy the good parts of life.  However, this image is about the way that life can sometimes flip you out of your boat.
My sketchbook is a place where I work out ideas and jot down simple images that suddenly, a while later, become relevant and need to be turned into final art.  Sometimes I need a bit of clearance from the actual real-life events that inspired the sketch.  This personal work from the fall of 2014 comes from that clearance and a more distant perspective. 
I like staring out at the crystal-clear lake in Eagles Mere, Pennsylvania in the late summer, when the light gets softer and the clouds become wisps and glow like neon against the falling sun.  One particular day this August it all lined up perfectly; wispy clouds, soft ripples and evening light.  That was the night I decided to do the piece. 
This is an image of a man being tossed from his comfort.  I don't imagine him losing his life, but it ended what was a blissful moment. 
I look forward to doing more work from the sketchbooks in 2015. 
Lean into life, take it all in and trust the good things all around, and no matter what, get back into the boat!
Rough sketch for 'The Boat'..... I forgot about the wine bottle and the birds but every element is a character in the story and I felt they didn't need time on the stage.

A close-up of the formerly content subject

Here's a toast to all those who made this year such a great one for me.  Cheers to all of my friends and family, my e-mail group, my running friends, to anyone who lost someone they love, who fought against some illness, who picked themselves up, to my far away friends, to my friends at the Society of Illustrators,  to all my students (most of them) and to my heart, Elizabeth Parisi and Cassius.  It was quite a year.
Click below to see a brief slideshow of 2014.  Have a great holiday and New Year.
12/18/14 by Slidely Slideshow
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