Tilen Ti: Palette Knives and Portraits

Published Apr. 27th 2011


What do you get when you combine incredibly vibrant colors, thick texture, and abstract portraits? You get Tilen Ti, a self-taught artist from Malaysia.

Tilen works in Singapore as a graphic designer to support his wife and son, but started painting more frequently in 2009. He is currently working on a series of portraits called “Emotional Expression Portraits.” Tilen uses new approaches, compositions and colors on every oil painting to maintain his momentum and excitement for the hobby.

“Humans are full of emotions every single second,” Tilen said. “I wanted to capture those expressions through my painting.”

And capture expressions he does, in an amazing way.

Soulful Charles (seen below) is a tribute to Charles Parker, an American jazz saxophonist and composer born in 1920. Its composition and bright mood represent the same characteristics that Parker conveyed through music.

Soulful Charles

A fast-paced, sporadic brilliance can be seen in each stroke of Tilen’s palette knife. He chose extremely vivid colors to add energy to this painting, and even blasted paint into the background to give the impression of movement and up-tempo music.

The close up picture below, however, is where you recognize Tilen’s true expertise for his craft. These particular splotches of paint seem as disorganized as a messy painting palette. . . but zooming out to the full picture, I can see the careful structure of the painting, decipherable only because of Tilen’s precision in color placement.

Soulful Charles Close Up

Moving on to Tilen’s next painting, I found his tribute to Elizabeth Taylor especially relevant considering last month’s events. He captures Elizabeth’s graceful beauty by using feminine purple hues coupled with light, pastel shades.

Elizabeth’s fierce and adventurous spirit are depicted through her smoldering gaze and the use of bright green, red and blue hues found within her hair. The subtle background only adds to her vivaciousness.

Enchantment Liz

What truly makes this painting beautiful, however, is the combination of greens, pinks and blues used in her skin—a unique color scheme which lends a pleasant sense of elegance to the painting.

Tilen has a well-rehearsed method for creating successful palette knife paintings. He first starts with a sketch, then adds in the dark and light mid-tones, shadows and highlights. A step by step example of this is available on his website, showing his painting process with Amplified Jimi below.

Amplified Jimi

And while Amplified Jimi is reserved (in that it sticks with four main hues) its overall effect is just as stunning as the last paintings I examined.

Thick white highlights, as well as a new scraping technique, add a rawness to this painting that I didn’t see in the last two. Tilen’s use of warm colors also seems to depict a reckless passion, perfectly showcasing why this series is aptly entitled “Emotional Expression Portraits.”

If you loved seeing these abstract portraits, check out Tilen’s website, which features more beautifully-created examples of people throughout history, including movie stars, musicians and even a few self-portraits.

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