creatively speaking

For one Franklin-based artist, art isn’t just about the end result, but the process and the sense of community between artists and others.

Patrick Tisdale, also known as JJ Tower, spent a couple of his high school years in the area before attending Herron School of Art and Design. He graduated from the art school about 20 years ago, lived around central and southern Indiana for about a decade, and moved to Franklin in 2012. While he has worked in various mediums and genres, in June 2015, he says, he started to focus on abstract art.

Now, he is one of the artists with a studio in the Alva Neal Community Office Building — also known as the former Franklin High School — and a co-founder of the Creative Council of Franklin. He has been posting his work on his Instagram account, @tisdaleorama.

“It was a bummer of a week. I got into the studio and instead of trying to paint a portrait I was working on, I sat down at a table, got a piece of cardstock paper, and I just mixed color,” he says. “I started to dab it on a surface. Then decided to mix some more colors. And I did that for six days in a row. What happens is that through that process, I’m sitting down and mixing a pretty color, basically. Having the simple joy of color mixing and creating an artifact of that joy to the surface of the painting.”

For someone who is as focused on the process as the product, it makes sense that Tisdale and other Franklin-area artists have continued to press on with their mission of the Creative Council: “To encourage creatives to make their work, educate the public about the value of creative work and connect those people.”

Last November, the Creative Council hosted an event at the Alva Neal building that included not only artists based in Franklin, but also from Greenwood and Indianapolis. Tisdale estimated about 430 people came through to see art, meet artists and listen to performances by local musicians.

While the Creative Council was in the process of planning more shows that would continue to promote the work of local artists, “COVID hit, and things were put on pause,” he says. But in the meantime, “We’re being patient. You can’t put a price on what it is to see art in person, getting a chance to talk to the artist and why they’re doing that work and the parallels between what they’re doing and what they’re trying to express.”

He says the ultimate goal is to have something similar to the First Friday events at gallery and studio spaces in Indianapolis so the community can “see what’s new and experience the energy of creation.”

“The myth out there is that artists are just wizards and go into a lab, and we go in and we’re like, ‘Surprise! Look at this beautiful thing!’” Tisdale says. “But it really is about the choice that I’m going to go into the studio. And I’m going to make some garbage and eventually the garbage gets better and better and better. And occasionally you have a night or a day where you go in and make the regular garbage and you feel like you’re flying. You lose time, you get into that flow of things, you make choices that surprise you. And those moments are like the reward of all those hours of discipline and whatnot.”

— By Rebecca Berfanger