When I was young, the dream of being able to make a living solely as an artist was nothing short of crazy to me. While recovering from cancer in my junior year of high school, I incorporated my business and set out to do just that... For over 35 years, I've dedicated my life to inspiring kids of all ages to identify their gifts and use them to the fullest of their potential, regardless of the obstacles they will encounter along their path.
A heartfelt thanks to all of you for being a part of my dream.
- Timm Etters
Founder & Owner, Timm Etters Studios, Inc.
Born in 1968 in Elgin, Illinois, Etters is a leading, internationally recognized artist with a focus on murals & public art. He has endured a great many struggles in his lifetime, yet still aims to encourage people every day through his art and stories of his life.
Like many artists, Timm knew early-on that he wanted to be an artist. By the 3rd grade, he was convinced there was nothing else he'd want to do. That was also the time it was discovered that he was color blind. This was a life-changing and very difficult situation that caused serious doubts as to whether or not he could ever become an artist. By 5th grade, local artists Scott Anderson and Lynda Wallis were gaining his attention and under the teaching of his high school art teacher, Etters shifted gears and became more influenced by such artists as Norman Rockwell, Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte, and the Renaissance Masters. By the early to mid-1980s, his influence had changed once again, this time in the direction of the art of the New York graffiti scene. Artists like Futura 2000, Dondi, Lee, Seen, and Zepher began to be the focus of his creative interests.
Graffiti became an outlet for Etters at the age of 15, starting with drawings on notebooks and school folders. From there, he began to hand-paint Hip Hop themed T-shirts and larger drawings. The images he would draw and paint would progressively grow larger and larger until the day he asked his mom if he could paint the basement walls. The basement was where his Hip Hop group, "The CREW Masters" practiced every day. While his mom agreed to Timm painting the walls, she wasn't quite prepared for exactly WHAT he was going to paint on them. This was the first time Etters painted walls, and graffiti was the style in which he covered every square inch of those walls...
While still a junior in high school and recovering from Stage IV cancer, Etters founded "Artwork by Timm", the foundation of what is now "Timm Etters Studios, Inc." The company was inspired by a combination of those many years desiring to be an artist and the compelling lyrics of the classic theme song of the Hip Hop movie "Beat Street", by Grandmaster Melle Mel of the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame group, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. This song gave Etters the direction he needed to form the pillars of the company he owns and operates today.
As the desire for painting large images like the trains and murals he saw the New York artists painting, Timm advanced his work to the outdoors. Graffiti, in 1983-1987 was very uncommon in the far northwest suburbs of Chicago. Timm began designing murals for painting on bridges, underpasses, and anywhere else he could bring his ideas to life. He and his CREW would disappear in the dark of night and paint new murals on the same bridge near the town where they grew up. Mural after mural, the town began enjoying the colorful, positive messages being painted alongside the busy highway.
The mural that caught the attention of a local officer was one painted in dedication to "Those who fought for America", particularly, the Vietnam Vets. When Timm was identified as the artist behind the murals, he was brought into the police station to discuss consequences for his painting the murals illegally. The officer proceeded to tell Timm that he was a Vietnam vet and couldn't be more honored by the gesture behind the mural. He proposed community service would be the result of painting the mural on the bridge, but not just any community service. This would be tailored specific to Etters' skillset.
The following day, Timm and the officer met with the principal of the school. A mural in the cafeteria to commemorate the school's 25th anniversary was what they had in mind for Etters. The principal asked Timm if he remembered asking him a special favor when Etters was in fifth grade. "Of course I do!", said Timm. That special favor requested more than five years prior, was about to be granted at that very moment. When Etters was in fifth grade, he was at the high school for his brother's basketball game, but he was out in the hallway marveling at a mural painted by former student, Scott Anderson. When the principal asked Etters why he wasn't watching the game, he told him he was "enjoying the mural painted in the stairwell." He then turned to him and asked, "Will you save me a wall when I get to be a student here?"
The principal smiled and said, "Of course I will!"
This was that moment. The man who remembered a favor asked of a random kid years prior and a local police officer who was a Vietnam veteran merged together to creatively help Etters paint the mural that would launch his career. One hundred and thirty-two hours of community service and the mural was completed. Designed by Timm and assisted by the crew members, this mural in the Cary Grove cafeteria still exists to this day and is in the planning stages to be restored and upgraded for the next generation of students.
A student at Chicago's American Academy of Art, Jyro (Timm) met up with yet more graffiti artists, particularly "Rooster" & "East"... Etters himself was already an established name in the local graffiti scene and quickly bonded with these fellow artists. He lasted only a semester at the Academy, but from there, as a close friend once put it, "...he took those inspirations and experiences and launched into orbit!!"
For over 30 years, Etters has focused his energy on public art and working with children and students of all ages. His time is now balanced between painting and teaching in the classroom. Over 314 of Etters' murals can be found in over 250 public and private schools in the Chicago area. His fine art and reproductions can be found in the United States, England, Denmark, & Greece.
His work has been featured in multiple international art publications and over 285 local newspaper articles. Local television channels as well as the school television broadcasts at the high school level have covered his work over the years. College students have interviewed Etters in video and print media seeking the answers to their well-prepared questions about life and art.
He has proudly & professionally endorsed Badger Airbrush, Co., and has traveled the world demonstrating their products. This relationship has been a strong one since 1996 and continues to this day.
On September 4th 2021, Timm passed away from complications brought on by Covid-19 while fighting off his second cancer. A documentary of his life was already a year into production , which you can still be a part of: TimmEttersFilm.com
Here is a small collection of PDFs that tell Timm's story from different times in his life.
Some are journal entries from his days battling Stage IV Cancer, some are memories of good times gone by, and others are just stories worth telling.
I hope you enjoy them, regardless of why they were written...
WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LEMONS... (pdf)Download
'85 CHICAGO BEARS & "SWEETNESS" (pdf)Download
HIP HOP, CANCER, AND MICHELANGELO'S SOUL (pdf)Download
2008 -"TIME FOR KIDS" MAGAZINE (pdf)Download
2010 - "NAPERVILLE MAGAZINE" (pdf)Download
2011 - "PINSTRIPING & CUSTOM GRAPHICS MAGAZINE (UK) (pdf)Download
2018 - "NAPERVILLE MAGAZINE" (pdf)Download