The story behind Tim Ward’s “Dreams”, charcoal on multi-media paper

By Neal Kearney
June 11, 2024
Mr. Ward and the tools of his trade

Other than Jim Phillips, who designed the ubiquitous Classic Dot logo for Santa Cruz Skateboards, you’d be hard pressed to find another artist with as much of their designs out and about in public than Tim Ward. It seems like every other car on the road has one of Ward’s “Life at Sea” bumper stickers on display, with notable designs that portray mermaids, sea otters, butterflies, and sea turtles. 

These cleverly crafted decals seamlessly integrate words such as “Santa Cruz” and “Capitola” into their designs, highlighting the artist’s visionary prowess. These decals, among a bevy of other work he’s done for brands such as O’Neill and Coffeetopia, highlight his ability to creatively convey a message through imagery.  He’s also a philanthropist, donating a percentage of his proceeds from Life at Sea to ocean cleanup. So far he’s raised over $80,000 to implement effective water cleanup solutions for chemical and industrial spills!

While impressive, these logos only scratch the surface of what this man can create. From side slapping comic strips to beautiful oil paintings, he’s had quite a prolific career. One of his many talents is utilizing graphite and charcoal, with the latter being the media chosen to bring his latest fine art piece, “Dreams” to life, which he details below.

“Dreams”, by Tim Ward

This piece is my most recent charcoal, created for newlyweds Kai and Melinna. I love Kai like a son, and I’m so happy he and Mili have found one another. They are both incredible beings.

The place I’ve drawn in this piece, Pleasure Point, will forever hold magic, for both myself and the couple. Kai and I have it as a home break, and it’s where he took Mili for her first surf.  Style-wise, I wanted it to look dreamy.

The feelings I wanted to evoke are dreams, home, and love. I tried to accomplish this with the light touch, utilizing monochrome (single-color / “black and white” style)

Rough Drafting

The media in use is a charcoal set up.  Soft vine charcoal (burned vine becomes the charcoal) is used for the lighter, soft areas, and darker charcoal pencil (compressed charcoal so one can achieve details) for the darker areas. The paper is a multi-media paper which is great for charcoal and drawing.  Papers can have something called “tooth”, a texture which sort of grabs the charcoal/ink/pencil/paint/etc.  Depending on this texture, there’s a vibe to drawing on it, and a vibe to the final look and feel.

The process was to first conceive the location, the angle and the composition. Then I let it brew in my mind. Next, I did some rough sketches.  When I could see the basic elements, I got the final paper and tore the edges to get a tall/vertical format.  I drew in the basic forms and progressively added darker tones. Then I refined the detail.

So dreamy

The music that inspired this piece I had heard in Kai and Melinna’s wedding music— the song, “Dreams”, by The Cranberries.  They had used it in a montage well before their marriage and it was also the tune which followed their vows. So, this charcoal, retrospectively, has received the title, “Dreams”.

The most challenging part in a piece for loved ones, is that I really want that love to be visible. So, I suppose this is more a wish than a challenge.  Many will see the desired emotion in art pieces, though I must also personally see this when I create it, and know that it hasn’t been lost in any part of the process.

Mr. Ward and the tools of his trade

I had a good time pouring the emotion into this one.  Also, conceiving the scroll look. I enjoyed figuring out the wooden framing and torn edges. I’ll do more of these, and the fact that this is the first one – this is really enjoyable in itself.

I love this piece- it’s very heartfelt.  Also, there’s a really nice moment in time that one reaches in the later stages when you say to yourself, “Here it is – here’s the finished piece”.  When creating a piece, there’s a distinct point when I see that it’s completed with the desired effect. And this one, again, is stamped with love.

For more on Tim, check out his website, Ward Art Studios, as well as Life At Sea. Currently, Ward also has his paintings at the Capitola Mall. See below for more information.