“Versatile” is one way to describe musician and visual artist Tim Kerr. “Brilliant” would be another. But “generous” might hit just as close to the mark when it comes to his willingness to share his thoughts on creativity, self-expression, and what it means to be an artist—as well as a Texan. From his recording sessions with seminal DIY punk and hardcore bands, to his distinctive skateboard paintings and portraits, Tim Kerr is a man who has spurned conventional notions of artistic genres, and focused instead on a total openness to new sights and sounds. Tim was kind enough to chat with us about his own experiences, and share just a bit of the wisdom he’s accumulated over a long and dynamic career.
STAG: As an artist, you've voiced an aversion to labels and categories—rather, you place your focus on self-expression in general, be it in music, painting, photography, or any medium. Do you feel that all media can be equally accommodating to an idea or a feeling you're trying to express, or are there some that are better for certain types of expression than others?
TIM: I don't think anything is better, just different. It’s like clothes, look at all the different ways that you can wear something to express the same thought. Labels and categories come with a set of rules to follow no matter how loose, and I just think when it comes to self-expression, any sort of rule you put on yourself is a limitation. To each his or her own, but why not use whatever you can think up? Use as broad of a vocabulary as you possibly can.
STAG: On that topic, are there ways in which your skills or experiences in one area translate to another? For example, how have your experiences with music affected your interactions with painting, and vice-versa?
TIM: They are hand-in-hand for me, but as far as one influencing the other, I think it is more the act of doing and completing something that influences or reinforces the idea that you CAN express yourself. It’s the one-foot-in-front-of-the-other feeling that I just did that . . . now, let’s see if I can do this . . . Not much different than you guys with your store, and now stores (smile).
STAG: In terms of influences, who has helped shape how you look at the world creatively? What did you learn from them?
TIM: My five senses are a constant influence and I try to keep them as open as possible. Growing up in the 60s and all the visuals that you got from then to now was a big influence. My parents taught me right and wrong through the way they carried themselves. They were both in the school district. My dad was an elementary school principal and my mom was an elementary school librarian, so I am sure hanging out in the library after school had an influence visually on how I am painting now (smile). Both my older brothers ended up being coaches, so my parents were really supportive of me going a different route. Late 70s and early 80s DIY and the friends involved, that had a really big influence on me, too. It showed me how I could, and can, walk my own walk. Reading two books back-to-back in the mid-90s—Roland Kirk's Bright Moments and Sun Ra's Space Is The Place put long-time thoughts and feelings into words. John Coltrane, always John Coltrane (smile), the act of striving to put something positive out into the world. And my best friend and wife Beth, for constant reality checks and possibilities.
STAG: Has being from Texas helped form your approach to art? Or your identity?
TIM: Hell yeah! (big smartass smile)
STAG: If you could have a coffee or a beer or dinner with any artist—or person for that matter—who would it be, and what would you ask them?
TIM: Dead? Or alive? I am one of those people that if I am going to meet someone, then I want to "meet" them , not just exchange names. I want to walk away having a new extended member of my family. Curtis Mayfield would have been pretty amazing to have sat down with. Not sure what I would ask, but I would definitely want to thank him.
STAG: What's ahead for you? Any specific projects of note? Any new directions?
TIM: Mural painting at Wertz Elementary in Watts, art shows in Seattle, LA, Dallas, and Portland. Doing a guest talk at the Black Mountain School reopening. Monkey Wrench may be going to Australia in November. Really hoping I get to paint a mural of Sun Ra in Birmingham, Alabama this year. I travel so much that I would really like to design a bag with someone sooner rather than later. Also, getting back in the water again surfing.
STAG: Thanks, Tim. And if that bag idea works out, let us know. We’re definitely interested.
Find out more about Tim Kerr and shop for his artwork at his website here.