My Friend Lived Like Shit And Suffered For His Art


I first met Tim in the fall of 1992 when my parents hired him to paint our house. My earliest memory of Tim was helping him to remove a bees nest from the side of my parents house so that he could finish painting. We stayed in touch ever since, and over the years, Tim became a close friend of mine. Tim had always welcomed me to come to see him at his gallery and studio.

Tim was a free spirit who maintained the attitude of a person much younger than his years, and as the years went by, I grew to know Tim as someone who often spoke of larger than life adventures, travels to wondrous and far away places, and stories which although true, often defied belief.

I paid a visit some ordinary Sunday morning in late September 2013 to interview Tim at his gallery and art studio. He had been anecdotally been interviewed and photographed by the press, though my visit would surely be more in-depth; an ordinary reporter makes a brief appearance, gets the gist of the story, a few photographs, and proceeds to generate an article. My visit was different; I was prepared to spend a few hours talking to Tim, to get his real story, and to photograph his incredible and original work. Specifically, I wanted to talk to him about his life, and how those life experiences influenced his art and perception of the world.

Espresso Cups

Walking in, Tim immediately invited me to sit in his favorite chair, handed me a piece of gourmet dark chocolate, shaped like a leaf and dusted with green powdered sugar. A cup of hot espresso would soon follow. I asked why I was offered his favorite chair, as Tim was an eccentric bohemian artist type who had his liberal share of eccentricities. His only response was that I was a, “special guest who deserved the V.I.P. treatment.”

I asked how Tim was doing with his art, which began at a very early age, when he excelled in art at Bergen Technical High School, then later attending The School Of Visual Arts in New York City where he studied fine arts.

Tim spoke of his many experiences and adventures. He was a modern renaissance man of sorts; he was a musician, a poet, and above all else, a gifted and talented artist. He opened his own gallery, which would also serve as his studio in 2001, lived like shit and suffered for his art, putting the entire essence of his being into the creation of his artistic vision, yet profiting very little from the eventual sales, perhaps just enough to merely get by. He would often say that it wouldn’t be art if he made a lot of money.

Tim told me very detailed accounts of his adventures, and of being young and, perhaps irresponsible. One of my favorite stories from the interview was his account of being stuck in rush hour traffic in New Jersey, when he parked his van on the side of the highway, climbed to the top of a billboard, and painted a handlebar mustache on a woman’s face that was advertising Crown Royal whiskey. This act of vandalism was the delight to many who were stuck in traffic. Tim stated proudly that, “people were honking their horns and cheering.”

He motioned for me to join him near the large plate glass windows at his gallery, and attempted to explain the sheer scale of the billboard, explaining that when you get so close to something that big, such as a billboard, it requires a lot of paint to draw a mustache. He then demonstrated with a large dry paintbrush, starting at the front end of his studio and slowly making his way to the back, pantomiming an invisible painting, with a look of sheer reminiscence and nostalgia.

When Tim climbed down from the billboard, he was said that he was met by a police officer who was investigating his act of trespassing, and when Tim instructed the police officer to take a look at what he had done, the police officer began laughing and let Tim go; no charges were ever filed.

Tim also told me of a solo trip he once took to India, where he stated being absolutely inspired and overwhelmed with the colorful architecture. He reportedly met a man in India who claimed to be able to have had many out of body experiences, at will, and of meeting an absolutely beautiful woman in public who stole Tim’s heart, and he was crushed to find out that she was married.

When the conversation began to slow, Tim invited me to look around his gallery, filled with paintings on canvasses of various sizes, as well as a few sculptures. He played his piano as I wandered around with my camera, playing an original song he wrote, taking frequent breaks to explain specific pieces of his artwork whenever I took a moment to look at one in detail. Tim’s artwork was unique; he used bold colors and generally painted tables and chairs, sometimes in specific scenes, other times the tables and chairs were presented in an abstract fashion.

Art & Espresso

The gallery was Tim’s life, and he would often hold open mic nights in exchange for a small donation to help cover operating expenses. Although Tim invited me to come read pieces of my writing during open mic nights, I regrettably never attended. Tim passed away suddenly at his home on November 7, 2019. He was 62 years old, though his legacy, his stories, and his accomplishments are all things for which I will never forget, and I will be forever thankful for him sharing those experiences and memories with me.

Timothy Touhey

In memory of Timothy Touhey
(August 12, 1957-November 7, 2019)


    • Thomas Slatin

      Thank you! I truly believe that people come into our lives for a reason, even if we don’t know or understand what that reason is. He will be missed, though never forgotten.

    • Thomas Slatin

      Debra Axelsen Hubbard Tim was someone whom I won’t ever forget. He was a multi talented creator who lived his life to the fullest and in doing so, had numerous stories to share. He will be missed dearly.

  • saviourv

    That guy sounds like quite an interesting man. And, like you said, one who suffers for his art, “It wouldn’t be art if he made a lot of money.”

    I think I’ve met a few people similar to him, although what they’ve done are completely different things. So far, throughout my 40 years of life, some of them include a mathematician (Professor Dr. Letchmanan Naidu) who believes that maths and science can explain a lot about how our world operates, and an eco-architect (Dr. Kenneth Yeang) who designed the first eco-friendly building in Malaysia, which was the headquarters of IBM/Mesiniaga, back around 1990.

    (Privately, I hope I get to meet them a few more times, before they leave this plane of mortal existence for good. They’re nice chaps.)

    These people are really dedicated to their craft, and, as most of them have told me, most of us ordinary people don’t quite understand and appreciate what they do.

    I mean, it took a long time for the masterpieces of Vincent Van Gogh and Leonardo da Vinci to be truly appreciated by the masses, and by then, they had long since passed away.

    It’s a shame that one’s contributions to the world often get recognized when that person has left the world. If your friend was still alive, I would’ve jumped at the chance to meet up with him and have a long chat with him.

    May God bless him, and you, Tom.

    • Thomas Slatin

      Thank you for your amazing comment! I am absolutely overjoyed with your insight and you having an experience similar to mine.

      My father was one of a handful of interesting people in my life, though it wasn’t until the last few years of his life that he started to tell me stories about his life and experiences. I wish that he hadn’t waited so long to share these things with me. You can read about my father here on Wikipedia.


      • saviourv

        Just read about your Dad’s history a few seconds ago.

        A member of a special engineering division associated with the Manhattan Project, AND a holder of various patents associated with electrolytic production of metals, too?


        The world would’ve sought him out extensively if they knew what knowledge and wisdom your Dad had, when he was still around. Right now, all we can do is mourn his passing, in more ways than one.

        People like him are unsung heroes, lost to the shifting sands of history. It’s not the war heroes that we need the most, these days, but the people who are willing to help us build a better future.

        May God bless your Dad, too, Tom.

    • Glad

      People come into our lives for a reason, your path crossing with that of Tim was for purpose and I hope you recognised that. It is usually rare for an older person to carry you along as a friend despite the age difference , i believe his memory still lingers in your mind. Wishing you all the best

  • Meg W

    The fact that he was merely making anything from his work yet kept pushing on is a testament to the passion he had for his work. May his soul rest in peace.

  • Patricia

    In Tim the world truly lost a prolific artist. His work will live on and continue to inspire generations to come.

  • Daphne

    Tim might have suffered for his Art but his dedication to it was phenomenal. His was the true definition of passion.

  • Alex

    The title took me off guard. I did not imagine you saying ‘shit’ out loud ha ha. Anyway, I may not know this guy personally but from your stories I feel like he was a very good guy to be with. If he left that impression on you then it says a lot. He will never be forgotten.

  • brainedet

    Aww, rest in peace to Tim, from your write up here I’m sure he was a jolly good fellow. I know his legacy will live on.

  • Mark Janeo

    Tim may have languished over his Art however his commitment to it was amazing. His was the genuine meaning of energy. His work will live on and keep on moving ages to come.

  • iamdahmmy

    I read your piece with a fine toothed comb and I enjoyed every bit of it..your friend Tim was such an interesting person..in this world,at some point in our lives,we meet people that leave an unforgettable prints in our hearts..

  • jolly555

    So sorry Tom about your loss. That’s life for you. We can never be sure about tomorrow that is why we should make the most of today.

  • Oyeyipo Oladele

    You are right and you really made my day with this post. I have learnt a lot from this article. Thanks for sharing.

  • Wilson Jake

    Wow, Tims story is really touchy. And I believe its a reason that you met him. We shouldn’t just look at the negative aspect but the positive. lovely piece thomas

  • Prince

    Wow, this write up shows he is kind, humble and funny. I just wish he had made good mulla from his work. You’ve got wonderful friends Thomas

    • Thomas W.P. Slatin

      Thank you so much, Amelia!!! Tim was a real character, and I miss him. We had a lot of fun times together. He would play bongo drums outside his studio every afternoon, and I would often stop by and have coffee with Tim and his wife. A truly amazing man who did it all!

  • James Ernest

    I think people who live like to a certain deviation from what people perceive a “usual and typical” life have a certain degree of greatness in them. Not following the norm, facing demons head on — I think great art stems from there. I think Tim lived life the way he was meant to. An instrument for others with the art he produced. Wonderful piece Thomas, if Tim could read this he would be happy to have you as a friend.

  • Hubert

    As I don’t personally know Tim, he seems to have lived life the way he was meant to – greatly and out of the norm. His passion and skill certainly benefitted from the way he chose to live his life. Was it advisable to do for others, may be not. But I guess you need to live a little more to fuel that fire!

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