The next time you are walking through Hillcrest, pause and take a look at the constructed world around you. There are so many things along the way that we walk by without paying attention to them. One Hillcrest artist is revealing the neighborhood through a colorful body of work that will stop you in your tracks and allow you to see your surroundings a little bit differently.
Born in Germany in 1980 and raised outside Chicago, artist Tim Novara was the boy who played with Legos and construction kits. He grew up in a large Catholic family with what he describes as a typical Midwest upbringing.
Architecture seemed to be his calling, but he also found inspiration being surrounded by the art of his grandmother. He grew up admiring her paintings and drawings hanging throughout her home while listening to stories of how she wasn’t allowed to pursue a career as an artist.
After high school, Novara moved to upstate New York to get his Bachelors in Architecture at Syracuse University. The instructors allowed students to use whatever methods they chose to submit their designs. Unlike many of his technologically minded contemporaries, he submitted all his work done by hand. He enjoyed working on his projects in ink, mylar, pencil and watercolors. This became known as his visual signature throughout his coursework.
Though his love of Architecture never waned, he was disillusioned by the reality of the industry. The limits of building costs and what labor can actually construct dampened his creative spirit.
Novara moved to San Diego where he came out, met his husband Gil and married in 2015. In order to pursue a Masters in Higher Education Administration, he moved to Nashville for two years. Returning to San Diego, he currently works at the University of San Diego as the Associate Dean of Research and Assessment.
“My day job is the flip side to my engagement in the art world. I like having the balance,” said Novara. “I’m fortunate to have a full-time job so I don’t need to rely on my art for a living. It allows me the freedom to focus on the creative process, instead of the look that the final artwork will become. I primarily create for myself.”
Novara enjoys revealing the spaces that we typically ignore or take for granted in our day to day lives. His mixed media work is specifically placed-based. Initially, he explores local buildings and physical spaces through photography. In the studio, he strips the photos of color. Composition becomes the most important element as he plays with the geometric spaces and physical lines. Color is later re-applied in a diagrammatic way used to identify different spaces, which he understands comes directly from his Architecture background.
“I spend a lot of time stepping back and looking at my work to make adjustments until it intuitively feels right. The process is a journey within itself.”
Novara enjoys talking to potential patrons. He finds it exciting to see them approach the paintings as a puzzle finding a familiarity in the fragments and mirroring that appears on the canvas.
“I want people to stop and try to figure out what’s going on and look at the details. I hope it makes them more aware of their surrounding environment. Our constructed world makes a big impact on us, and we don’t always know it.”
In 2019, Novara decided to incorporate his art into his life in a serious way. For a time, he had a studio downtown. He was just beginning to hit his stride as the pandemic hit.
When The Center had to cancel their annual gala due to COVID, he decided to make an effort to sell his work online to generate funds that could be donated to the non-profit. He began to have virtual conversations on social media with people about his art and the importance of the work being done in our communities. Giving to local charities has become a central tenet of his sales. He enjoys in helping in a small way to support and talking with people about the organizations.
L’atelier in Mission Hills recognized the unique quality of Novara’s work and held two solo shows presenting his work in 2021. Locally, his work has also been shown at Visual in North Park and The Studio Door in Hillcrest. These opportunities encouraged him to apply to exhibitions outside of San Diego and he soon found his work being seen and sold in Orange County, Santa Ana and more recently, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Looking to the future, Novara dreams of owning a gallery to explore the business side of the art world and support other artists by amplifying their voices. For the immediate future, Novara continues to explore his immediate neighborhood.
Tom Novara can be found online at www.timnovara.com and on Instagram at @timnovara.
Patric Stillman is a fine artist and gallery owner of The Studio Door. If you are an artist in San Diego’s LGBTQ+ community and would like to be featured in an artist profile, please contact Patric for consideration at [email protected].