For art’s sake


Canadian abstract/figurative artist, Tyler Tilley has an uncanny ability to capture raw emotions and unconscious thoughts and even paint the impossibly difficult moment of self-destruction. He believes artwork is a personal currency. hailing from Toronto where he got a degree in PR but currently residing in Bangkok, he entered the Art world as a professional in his twenties out of sheer love. When creating expressionistic abstract, much of his energy stems from combining the present moment with his eclectic past: addiction and recovery, amateur boxing, teaching in China…and the list goes on. Tyler takes Sana Zehra through his  journey of raw emotions and expressive art

Icon series

Tell our readers about yourself Tyler? Where do you draw your energy from and what inspires you?

It’s been a long, long road. I’ve invested everything I have into this insane passion, obsession of mine. It’s both my curse and gift. I am usually lost most hours of the day. Lost in the sense that I push everything aside so I can focus on mastering my craft and losing myself in the process. Ideas pour in constantly. I’ve learned to incubate the good ideas and let the others slide. Then, I sort through my choice concepts and determine which ones I want to actually pursue. Ideas come from everywhere. I am super stimulated being in Bangkok, Thailand, for sure. I eat up the insanity and find a way to put it on the canvas.

What genre(s) do you work in?

Currently, I’m focusing on my figurative work. Whether it’s online tutorials or criticism from other artists, I’m constantly studying techniques. I feel like I’ve created and enlisted in my own little private university—considering I am self-taught. But I made a name for myself in Canada with large scale abstract.

The dragon’s nightmare
Red balloon

What moves you most in life?

I feel really blessed that I discovered such an unshakable lust for art. It’s what I will be doing ‘till the day I die. Finding this treasure is a big deal considering most people have no idea what they want to do with this life. So that pushes me big time.

Out of all your work which work do you like the most?

Still searching. But I like my subconscious collage work. I’ve even referred to it as Acid Art. It’s like being on a hard-core trip or at the very least, another dimension. But I do attempt at balancing out each piece. Making sure it has both the beautiful and the ugly. I named the ongoing series both Your Memories Are Lies, and The Waiting Room. Also, I feel fulfilled when I complete a portrait, since they typically take the longest.

Painted skulls

Client: “Can we see if this (painting) will match my carpet and couch?”
Artist cringes

How do you set the background of your figures? There is often a juxtaposition seen in your portraits is that intentional?

I take a lot of photos actually. Usually when I shoot, the idea is it will end up as a painting or some of the subjects will end up in a painting. Or, at the other end of the spectrum, I just pick up a brush and start creating. A clean canvas doesn’t last long in my studio. I suppose to answer you more directly, unintentionally I guess, ha.

1 live round series

If you were to make a sculpture or a painting of yourself, what would it look like?

Lately I’ve found myself painting human skull molds or skull casts. As I think to myself, this could be the closest attempt to a self-portrait that I have done as of late. The skulls obviously represent “death” but I typically painted them in polka-a-dots or fill them with rainbow like colours. Again, I’m trying the balance the ideas of life and death or ugly and beautiful.


Do any of your paintings have a deeper meaning? If yes, what are they?

Yes, deeper meanings and personal stories are always involved. Only because this is all I do. So, it’s easier to put pieces together when I look back on the work I’ve done. My work is very close to a diary. The work makes more sense when it’s reviewed or in retrospect. I can see so much of myself in the completed work. Specifically, with subject matter and concepts. But the meanings and stories vary significantly.

sons of monarchy

What is your most favourite piece of work and why?

Seems to always be the piece I have just finished. Only because it took everything from me—I am serious. Back to the gift and curse.

What do you feel when you let your emotions let loose on canvas?

Abstract art is the best for this. Music brings out some awesome momentum and keeps me engaged. After a good ol’ fight with your partner or someone close to you, there is nothing like spraying a canvas with nothing but pure raw emotion. It’s beyond gratifying plus there is something to show directly linked to an emotion.

Artist Tyler Tilley Raising Colour photo credit: Tara Noelle

Who are your role models as an artist and why?

Love artists that travel and see the world. I feel like they have more stories to tell through their work. I have a long, long list of people that inspire me to be honest. I tend to gravitate to people that hustle. They’re dedication really moves me. Though, my family are my role models and heroes.

Raising Colour is Tilley’s signature series and has taken over four years to create. This body of work is best described as a cross section of emotions and experiences leading up to this point in his life. Like a catalogue of personal history, the myriad of colours reflects the mindscape of the artist as he paints. The application of epoxy resin between layers elevates different sections off the two-dimensional plane—allowing the audience to dissect the work by looking within and through the painting, the same can be done to the individual. Within every piece, each colour represents an emotion; each layer a significant moment and each work a window into the artist.

Does living and working in Bangkok and travelling back and forth to Lao influence your work at all?

Yes, for sure. Bangkok is just plain nuts. It’s so foreign and so upside down that all I can do is pull from it. Love also found me here in Bangkok. Laos is just a retreat from Bangkok, ha.

your memories are lies vi
painted skull

What’s a typical day like for you?

Painting. Boring answer, I know. Usually I paint usually 8-10 hours a day. I lock myself in my studio and generally have to force myself to eat; though, I am getting kind of fat, not sure how that works. Sometimes I sit so long I get haemorrhoids— I’m not joking. At times, it is complete solace and other days it’s just too much.

What is the worst question that you’ve ever been asked about your work?

Can we see if this (painting) will match my carpet and couch?

Do you plan on branching out and opening a gallery in Pakistan?

Would be honoured. I typically go where the wind takes me anyway. Really, if I am well received, I’d go anywhere. But not so much interested in opening a gallery as much as I would be in finding a gallery that loves my work.

If someone in Pakistan is interested in purchasing your work how should they contact, you?

Definitely follow my Instagram. I always post my latest there: @tylertilleylovesyou or shoot me an email: [email protected].

My website is

Any messages for upcoming artists?

Do something with your life!!! Put all your eggs in one basket. Life’s a story, truly. At the end, if you had to watch a movie of your life, would it be boring or award winning? Your choice.

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