Artist draws inspiration from hometown of Edwardsburg

Published 3:19 pm Thursday, February 11, 2010

Edwardsburg Argus

NILES – Brian Tilbury knew he needed to find simplicity.

A little more than a year ago, the Edwardsburg native was a struggling art student in his mid-30s, looking to make a name for himself in the city of Grand Rapids.

His previous work was surrealist and delved into spiritual and psychological ideas.

The work was laborious, his classes overwhelming and the city suffocating.

“I didn’t really like the large school scene,” Tilbury said of Kendall College where he was studying, “and all the loans I would have to pay back, so I kind of hit the streets there and tried to get in some galleries and really didn’t have any luck.”

So Tilbury, 37, decided to return to the simplicity of where he considers home – Niles. He then was able to find relaxation in producing more simple pieces of art.

“My professors had suggested stuff more like that,” Tilbury said, pointing to a painting of a landscape of a field. “But I never did get to it until I got home, because it was just too much in the city.”

The result of his return home was a series of landscape and nature paintings of areas around his hometown of Edwardsburg. Several of them are on display in Frame of Mind and the Riverfront Cafe in downtown Niles.

But to really understand why Tilbury shifted the focus of his art, one needs to understand the work of his past.

His painting titled “Healing,” which is also hanging at Frame of Mind, was a three-year journey that was laborious in terms of the work and the concept.

“It’s sort of an epiphany, a wish for healing,” Tilbury said of the painting finished in 2001.

The painting features the Shroud of Turin as the head of Christ, a rainbow symbolizing God’s promise, God’s hand delivering Tilbury from “his problem” and a figure of himself being healed. There is also another representation of himself with his fists up.

“That’s me fighting the problem. The burial grave is being dead in Christ,” Tilbury said, explaining the death of his old self.

The problem represented in the piece is Tilbury’s struggle with bipolar disorder.
The “Healing” spurred a series of other deep, spiritual works that, combined with the stress of his art classes and city life, drained him.

“So I began doing viable, small pieces, back to a simple thing that people enjoy without a lot of philosophical ideas. They can just look at it and enjoy it,” he said. “It’s more relaxing after all that.”

Tilbury, who is taking a break from painting and is currently producing jewelry, plans to put his brush to the canvas again soon. He said he plans to produce more landscape pieces, but he won’t shy away from spiritual or psychological works either.

No matter what he decides to paint in the future, Tilbury is just happy to be home.