Most Lacombians are familiar with the historic murals that can be found on the walls of many of the City’s buildings, but how many of them have stopped to wonder who created them or how they came about in the first place?
Tim Giles, a Lacombe resident of about eight years, is the artistic mind behind Lacombe’s iconic murals and said he enjoys re-creating Lacombe’s history through his work.
As Giles is fairly new to Lacombe himself and his art depicts the City’s history, he relies a lot on photographs and stories from the community to create his works. He said that creating a painting from an old photograph is a process he enjoys.
“Black and white photographs are kind of romantic, there is a little bit of mystery to them,” said Giles. “So it’s easy to get lost and have them grab your imagination and for that reason they are very stimulating to re-create.”
Giles also said that by “re-creating” he does not necessarily paint a copy of photographs onto buildings in his murals. Instead, he adds colour to them, chooses a different perspective within the photo or adds other details.
He said that very few of the murals he has done in Lacombe are exact copies of photographs.
Lacombe’s murals first began as a beautification project in connection with Communities in Bloom.
Giles said that beautification is one of the judging components in Communities in Bloom competitions and after living in Lacombe for a few months, he was approached by members of the Communities in Bloom Committee about doing some murals around town.
As a result, in 2004, Giles painted his first murals in Lacombe.
“I wasn’t even sure if they were going to stay after the competition,” he said.
“It was up to the community basically and their response would decide if they would stay.”
As Lacombians may have noticed, the murals were not removed after the 2004 Communities in Bloom judging. After the immense positive response received by the general public, the murals became a part of Lacombe’s deep cultural and historical heritage and today are icons for the City.
Because of the success of his first murals in 2004, Giles was then commissioned to paint a series of murals in an alley of downtown Lacombe that he said was quite deteriorated and in need of beautification.
This alley, located behind the Lacombe Express office, was the first Giles painted in Lacombe and was completed in 2008.
Shortly after completing this first theme of murals, Giles was commissioned to do a second set in the alley behind Leto’s Steak and Seafood. He said that it is actually one of the first areas he wanted to paint when he first started scouting for locations in Lacombe, but before he could approach anyone with the idea, things were set in motion for a different alley, Phase 1, to be painted first.
Phase 2 is well underway and the backgrounds and settings for its murals can already be seen. This summer, Giles plans to add people and other details to the paintings and hopefully finish them by the end of the year.
Originally from southern California, Giles immigrated to Canada at the age of five and grew up in Chetwynd, B.C.
While Giles did not grow up in Lacombe, he was somewhat familiar with it. Raised in the Seventh Day-Adventist faith, Giles became familiar with Lacombe as a hub for the religion.
While he never really became passionate about painting as a child, it was still part of his childhood. He said that his grandmother painted and his uncle was a sculptor, though both only pursued art as hobbies, Giles said their art was something that interested him.
“It was always there in the family I suppose and it was something that intrigued me.”
Unlike many artists, Giles’ talent for painting did not flourish until he was an adult. He said that, despite having artists in the family, he had difficulty focusing or concentrating on art as a child. He added that, growing up in small communities, his schools did not offer any arts programs for him to take advantage of.
While studying business in college, Giles started teaching himself to paint and also took a few art classes. However, it was still only a pastime to him. Even when professors commented on Giles’ talent, he said he had never considered a career as an artist.
His first practical experience with art was when he was working for a wrought iron company in southern California. He did some drafting and plans for the company and said he learned to draw dimensionally as most of the company’s work force were Mexican and did not speak or read any English, so the plans needed to be very detailed.
Sometime later, Giles, wanting to get out of the corporate world and also out of southern California, moved back to B.C.
It was there that Giles painted his first mural, on an interior wall of his condo in Tumbler Ridge.
Today, Giles is looking forward to the completing of the second phase of his murals in Lacombe and hopes their continuing popularity will lead to a Phase 3 sometime in the future.