More MS news articles for May 2001

Artist, father paints the big picture despite his illness

Tuesday, May 01, 2001
Mary D. Ferguson
Artist and father Tim Blake has the distinction of being this column's first "everyday hero."
For nearly two decades, Blake, a resident of Chippewa Drive, has faced each day with challenges that for many would destroy creativity and the spirit to live life to the fullest.

In 1983, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, just two years after graduation from Hopkinsville High School. At the time, still without a college degree, Blake soon had to face life after divorce with two small girls.

Daughter Audrey has just had a 13th birthday, and Meredith now is 11. They live with their father, who manages with the help of his parents, Bill and Mary Blake, and with some assisted living help. It is with the sale of his art and Social Security income that Blake supports his family.

Confined to a wheelchair and battling vision problems, Blake said it's most difficult that he can't jump in the car and take the girls to a movie or go outside and play ball with them.

But Blake does the best that he can, under the circumstances. "I just play the cards as dealt, and I laugh when I can and cry when I have to," he said, with a smile.

Blake has known since he was in grade school that he had to be an artist. Now, he sees it as a double blessing, bringing not only joy but a means of supporting himself and his girls since his severe handicap makes it impossible to follow most professions.

When Blake was in the eighth grade, his art teacher, Yvonne Gregory, took the class to Chicago to visit the art galleries there.

Blake pointed out, as he stood gazing at a work by the artist Seurat, "I said, this is what I have to do." Motivated by Gregory's encouragement and nurturing, he made his dream a reality and remains appreciative of Gregory's support to this day.

Blake graduated from Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tenn., in 1987 and later did graduate work at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.

He now has more abstracts than he can ever display, but that hasn't stopped him from trying to get the maximum exposure of his works of arts. He has had exhibits at Austin Peay, in Nashville and Clarksville, Hopkinsville, Madisonville and Evansville, Ind.

He now works in his garage studio. The multiple sclerosis has left him with weakness in the hands, so his style has changed. "I improvise," he said, explaining that he finds it easier to work with brushes obtained by his former teacher at Austin Peay, Dr. Philancy Holder. "She found brushes with special grips on the handles which are interchangeable," Blake said.

In discussing Blake's work, Holder said he "prefers abstraction suggesting form rather than showing it photographically."

Blake admits to periods of depression and frustration

Frustration comes with not being able to do many things, having to change his art style and worrying about his girls. "I just take care of them as best I can and keep telling them I love them" Blake said.

When questioned about inspiration for his abstracts, Blake said, "I don't know where it comes from, sometimes just from doodling."

However, as he spoke, he referred to a large landscape of trees, rocks and sky. Inspiration for that piece came from the story of Kentuckian Floyd Collins, who died after being trapped in a Kentucky cave earlier in this century. The painting depicts those things Collins would never live to see, according to Blake.

When asked to show his favorite work, Blake quipped, "Well, I haven't done it yet."

Then, surrounded by art supplies and hundreds of his paintings, Blake smiles warmly and returns to the subject of his daughters.

"They are my best creation yet," he declared, without any hesitation.

So Tim, with your beautiful work, your beautiful daughters and the way you live with your great challenges, you are indeed our hometown hero every day.

Blake can be reached at (270) 8899676.

Some of his work is currently on display at the Wet Dog Studio and Gallery downtown.

Mary D. Ferguson is a writer for the Kentucky New Era. Her weekly column is published on Tuesdays. She can be reached at 887-3230 or at

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