While the romantic ideal of using this time- where the majority of the population is on lockdown- as a window for pure, dedicated, artistic endeavours, the truth of the matter is that it is hard to find the energy for those things right now. In no way should any artistic individual be harsh on themselves for not pumping out projects in the wake of COVID-19, when so many aspects of life have been flipped on their heads and we are just coming to terms with them. But there are those who seem to be undaunted by the changing of times, and their creative engine seems to chug along at an infinite pace. Tim Mikula’s Endless Portrait Project is one such engine.
Tim Mikula is an artist based in Edmonton, Alberta, his primary artistic practice seeming to be improv with the Edmonton theatre company Rapid Fire Theatre. He has also written for the Edmonton Journal with a series of fun and irreverent articles entitled Old Man Mikula’s Controversial Opinions: (though was fired from the publication for his open-letter critique of Albertan premiere Jason Kenney). And on top of these ventures, he has produced over 6000 portraits in paint over the past four years of anyone who chooses to send him a picture- for free- with the plan being to wrap up the project by reaching 100 000 portraits by 2050. For context, prolific painter and televised instructor Bob Ross created approximately 30 000 in his lifetime.
Tim Mikula’s Endless Portrait Project started in November 2015 when he made a Facebook status offering a portrait to whoever on his friendslist liked the post. Things have clearly grown from there, with Mikula having a dedicated Instagram page to receive picture submissions from people and to show the constant churning out of his striking, impressionist renditions of those faces. “It’s not a conscious process,” Mikula stated in an interview with Global News. “So I think there’s sort of just a lot of randomness with how it ends up.” Mikula aims for ten to fifteen minutes for each piece, which isn’t surprising considering just how many paintings he intends to produce.
The portraits have all been done in acrylic, and while they all bare a unifying feeling through their framing and brushwork, Mikula has experimented with a large number of palettes and stylistic choices throughout the process. At times cheerfully odd and full of primaries, other times filled up with deep and heavy purple tones, and for a stretch of time starkly black and white, the colour choices and how he chooses to use them in relation to the often thick line-work are perhaps the most nebulous aspect of his style. Yet it always evokes a thoughtful and expressive quality that says much more than a face alone. Some portraits come out much more realistic in shape and detail, while others feel like the memory of a face in a dream. The approach may have multiple, clearly noticeable variables stemming from Mikula’s feelings and interests at any given time, but this is true of all artists; we just don’t tend to see so much art from an individual artist at any given time. And despite the variables, Mikula’s swashes of vibrant colours, emotive facial shapes, and truly jovial energy connects these endless portraits wonderfully.
To be immortalized in paint is a special feeling. To have it done for free is astounding. And for there to be someone so dedicated to the creation of free portraits for people with the intent of doing it for a massive chunk of their life is hard to comprehend. But all there truly is to understand is that Tim Mikula’s Endless Portrait Project is giving joyously dreamy works of art to anyone in the world who asks for one. All he asks in return is- your face.