Artist Tim Jaeger spent a few summers living in a 900-year-old chateau/vineyard/ and animal sanctuary in southern France beginning in 2008. In a conversation about his career, Jaeger mentions this almost as an afterthought, yet the experience was considerably influential. It’s why he started painting roosters, the series for which he’s most well known.
Ah, the mark of a prolific artist.
Jaeger posts up on a red chair where he is drinking coffee from a blue plastic cup in his garage-turned-studio-space off University Parkway. Jaeger is a Sarasota-based artist thriving in this city — and he’s proud to paint it red, blue, yellow or any other color he chooses. Behind him are four canvases painted with loose sketches of Sarasota Ballet dancers; he is just beginning to work on them — one of his many projects.
Jaeger dons bright yellow flip-flops in 50-degree weather and his gray T-shirt and jeans are as paint-splattered as a Pollock.
He explains that the owners of the chateau split their time between France and Sarasota, where they met Jaeger at the now-defunct Canvas Café in Towles Court — Jaeger was the gallery director at the restaurant/gallery. The couple covered his expenses in France as a commission for two of his works and a wine-bottle label.
“I was the artist guy walking around the south of France drinking wine and painting animals,” he says with a laugh.
His studio was on an overgrown portion of the property in Montret, France. Occasionally, he’d buy a rooster at the market, take it back to his studio and let it roam around while he painted it. The animal sanctuary’s collection of roosters grew to more than 30 while Jaeger lived at what he lovingly refers to as “the most heavenly art jail.” There wasn’t a phone, computer or TV, and Jaeger doesn’t speak French — the perfect parameters for cranking out 40 to 50 paintings a month.
This relationship is exemplary of the kind of networks Jaeger has built since moving to Sarasota from Kentucky in 1998, when he started his education at Ringling College of Art and Design. It’s why the charismatic artist’s name is all over Sarasota.
“There’s always something I’m doing,” he says.
Jaeger just painted one of the six pianos featured in the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County’s public art project. Go figure, there’s a rooster on it. He works at Selby Gallery helping with the day-to-day operations of the teaching gallery. He curated the “All in the Family” exhibit at The Ice House and will curate the David Budd retrospective there this spring. He founded Sarasota Visual Arts, an online visual art news source relating to Sarasota and surrounding communities. He’s represented by State of the Arts Gallery.
His work is featured at trendy restaurant Indigenous and at former Sarasota chef Derek Barnes’ new establishment in Bradenton. And he just joined the Public Art Committee.
Out of all his activites, Jaeger is particularly excited about his new collaborative series featuring Sarasota Ballet dancers. Jaeger gets up from the chair and flips through a series of black-and-white photographs he took at their rehearsals for John Ringling’s Circus Nutcracker.
He points to a photo of two boys snacking on Cheez-Its in the corner during rehearsal. He shows another of two dancers having a conversation — one is nonchalantly en pointe. He turns these photos into sketches and then into paintings. Right now, he’s working on a painting of one dancer fixing the broken strap of another dancer’s costume. He’s hoping to break down the persona of the perfect ballerina by focusing on their daily lives. He has wanted to do this project combining visual arts with the performance arts for awhile.
“I think it’s really all tied together in the end,” he says. “When we work as a community, we can share experiences and ideas and we just get stronger.”
Jaeger says it’s difficult to succeed as a fine artist. It’s a myth that someone is going to stumble across your studio and find you — young artists need to do the legwork. Jaeger worked four or five jobs to supplement his income when he first graduated in 2002; he did everything from hanging paintings, to dog-sitting and creating logos for guns. He hates it when people ask him why he doesn’t live in a big city.
“We have the resources here,” he says.
He advises younger artists to plug in to the arts scene and meet people. He doesn’t understand why they’d want to go to a big city — the blank canvas for success is here. Plus, he says, there is a beach, a nice downtown, impeccable food, the sunshine, a community of enthusiasts and great organizations that support the arts.
“Why would I want to move?” he says.