He’s got a barn and a piece of land in Nova Scotia that cost as much as the printer in his garage — the place he calls home when he’s not on the road.
“This thing, you put the paper in and it does it all for you.”
Having a giant-size printer of his own, capable of creating weatherproof mosaics up to 1.5 meters wide, gives Canadian Mosaic artist Tim Van Horn, 45, the ability to create massive pieces for display, like the scene on the side of his garage on a narrow street near the centre of Red Deer.
The new mosaic, which Van Horn calls his Christmas gift to Red Deer, is just one more step toward his goal of shooting 54,000 portraits, and then merging them into a massive portrait of Canada, from east to west and north to south.
That’s 37,000 down and 17,000 to go.
“What I’m trying to do is create a portfolio of pictures that captures everything. I look at humanity. I look at life. In order to do that accurately, you need an insurmountable amount of pictures,” says Van Horn.
His idea originates with the development under former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau of Canada’s identity as a multi-cultural nation — a mosaic as opposed to the melting pot in the United States.
“We’ve never had a visual that goes with that. If we had, it’s outdated,” says Van Horn.
“This is like a fresh look at Canada. We’ve never had a massive portrait done of the country. We’ve never had anything done on the people that documents who we are.”
He plans to continue crisscrossing the country and shooting portraits for eight months of the year in 2015 and again in 2016.
The collection will then be amalgamated into an interactive road show to be built around a decommissioned school bus.
Van Horn plans to launch the completed project, including a photo book that chronicles his journeys, from Ottawa on July 1, 2017, when Canada celebrates its 150th birthday.
Yes, it gets tedious. Money is sometimes tight. Personal relationships suffer. But quitting is not an option.
“That would break me,” says Van Horn, who is now settled back into his garage after months on the road.
His style has evolved, as has the mode of transport he uses. Where Van Horn’s earlier portraits were focused on heads and shoulders, he now places more of his subjects in the frame, including their hands, to give a more complete picture. If he encounters a family or a couple, he shoots them together.
Van Horn is now on his third vehicle, a used motorhome that he finds more comfortable and more professional in appearance than its “hippy” predecessors.
He places trust in the universe to keep him going, weathering lonely nights, mechanical repairs, stiff joints and the odd encounter with cranky citizens, funding his venture through sponsorships. Each $20 buys one kilometre on a journey of many thousands of kilometres spent crisscrossing the country.
Van Horn says he could sell his Red Deer house if necessary. It’s rented out right now, because that makes good sense when he’s on the road most of the year.
While sponsors have provided some income, the universe has come forth in other ways as well, he says.
He was commissioned earlier this year to create a big piece of art for a new recreation centre in Fort McMurray. The income from that project was enough to cover his costs for nine months.
“The universe says, don’t worry about the money. We’ve got that covered for you. Just go do this,” says Van Horn.
“Somewhere deep in there is your purpose, and you have to find that, or else you’re wandering aimlessly.”