Tim Yanke: Driven by the Motor City
Park West Detroit artist Tim Yanke says the Motor City’s two underlying foundations – the automobile industry and music – have directly influenced his career as an artist.
“You’re a product of your environment … I’m very proud to be a product of Detroit,” he says. “This isn’t New York, this isn’t L.A., this isn’t the Chicago art market, this is the Detroit art market, and I’m proud to be a part of it.”
Yanke, who was featured in Park West Gallery’s “Detroit’s Finest” series of 2015 exhibitions, may be inspired by the southwestern culture of the U.S., but freely admits that his hometown has played an integral role.
Yanke says the moment he realized art would be his pursuit in life was when he was 5 years old. One Sunday afternoon at his family’s home, he completed a drawing and showed it to his father, and never forgot what he said.
“He said ‘you know what Tim, you’re very creative, you’ve got a great imagination,’” Yanke says. “I thought, ‘wow, if your dad says you’re creative and you’ve got a great imagination then I must be creative and have a great imagination,’ so you stick to those things.”
This gave him the confidence to continue studying and practicing art throughout school. Detroit’s deep connection with the automotive industry led Yanke to drawing hot rods, deuce coupes and muscle cars. He lived near Woodward Avenue – a road used for an annual Dream Cruise that celebrates classic cars – so he was constantly exposed to the cruising mindset.
“I heard about cruising way before I was even able to drive, so I was always drawing cars and redesigning cars, designing cars for the future along with choppers and motorcycles,” he says. “Anything that had wheels I was drawing it, and I think that is really where I honed in a lot of my skills for drawing, because the more I drew the more I taught myself how to see objects and understand perspectives.”
Of course, Detroit is known for its impact on the music industry, lending to the city’s nickname of Motown. Music is a major component of Yanke’s process and became just as important as his brushes, paints or canvas.
“Music is definitely a major influence in the rhythm and the spontaneity of my paintings,” he says. “Even if there is content or imagery involved, music is an underlying theme to the colors I choose to the motion of the paint.”
Even with his love of the West, Detroit’s influences still factor into his art. His “Motor City Pinstriping” series features streams of colors and black lines flowing around the light-hued canvas. One can almost feel the music Yanke was listening to when studying them. The pinstriping series even includes painted buffalo skulls, with designs and colors that call to mind custom paint jobs one might see on a car.
Yanke recognizes the role Detroit has played in his art, and gives back to his community through his artwork. Yanke has worked with Habitat for Humanity of Oakland County to donate “Yanke Doodle” art to more than a dozen homeowners in the non-profit program.
“It’s the least I can do — provide a splash of color in somebody’s life,” he has said.
Yanke has worked with Park West Gallery since 2007, working out of his studio in Birmingham. Since then, his artwork has been seen all over the world in art auctions on cruise ships and in major metropolitan areas. He believes having his artwork at the Detroit-area gallery is a wonderful way to bring his career full circle.
View Yanke’s artwork here.