Inspired painting delivers artist from troubles
NILES — Some artists get lost in their paintings. Others are found.
Count Brian Tilbury among the latter.
The Edwardsburg artist afflicted with bipolar disorder recalled he was "really distressed” about eight years ago and was having difficulty staying focused as he traveled to Mishawaka to pick up an art book.
At that time, Tilbury, then 25, had had some success with his artwork, but it was limited at best.
"My life hadn’t been as successful as I’d have liked … I was wondering how I’d get to the next level of my art,” he said.
He said the next thing he heard was a comforting voice that told him studying the work of master artists would help put him on a path to inner peace and happiness.
The epiphany, he said, didn’t stop there.
"It said some day I would do a painting about healing, and through that, He would heal me,” Tilbury said.
"In short, He promised me a successful career.”
The problem was, Tilbury had no idea then what form the painting would take. But the next year, after long periods of study and prayer, he managed to come up with a sketch that would serve as the basis for his artwork.
"I used the Shroud of Turin as the head of Christ … but first I went through this whole trial. I didn’t want to break the … commandment about making a (graven) image,” he said.
It was 2001 before Tilbury finally put brush to canvas to create the piece he calls, appropriately enough, "Healing.”
"By the fourth version, everything clicked. I did it in acrylics, and it all decided to work somehow,” he said.
Completed in four weeks, the painting has a captivating, prismatic quality that’s fitting for its subject matter. Featured are a rainbow representing God’s promise, the hand of God that’s delivering Tilbury to his personal promised land and two images of a figure the artist patterned after himself.
One depicts his healing and the other his so-called dark side as it’s cast out.
"That’s (the latter figure) the fighter in me, the old me,” he said.
Tilbury said he had never created art with a strong spiritual theme until "Healing.” But, a month later, the inspired artist followed up with "Two Churches.”
The painting features opposing figures of the same woman on a path to new Jerusalem, Tilbury said. Meanwhile, a figure in the foreground — Tilbury — ponders his fate.
He said he had fallen in love with the woman depicted in the painting but, unfortunately, she didn’t feel the same way about him. The painting is based on biblical prophecy, Tilbury said, and deals with man’s uncertain fate.
Although the finished painting didn’t alter the woman’s feelings toward him, it made him feel better in much the same way as "Healing.”
Since "Healing” and "Two Churches,” Tilbury has based his intensively colorful artwork on such topics as sexuality, privacy concerns that have surfaced since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and his personal struggles.
Currently, he’s working on a painting with a love theme that was inspired by a song.
The 1992 graduate of Edwardsburg High School said he’s continuing his art studies at Southwestern Michigan College. It would seem "Healing” would be difficult to top but Tilbury agreed not everyone agrees with that assessment.
"My art teacher from high school thought it was immature and I could do better. And I’ve had museums and other venues that have (art) shows that won’t accept it. I don’t know if it’s because of the religious thing or not,” he said.
"(But) most people think it’s beautiful … I’ve had a couple ordinary people who thought I was onto some genius there.”
Immature? Genius? Familiar with ups and downs, Tilbury just rolls with the punches.