Organic Abstractions Bring This Austin Artist’s Work To Life


Artist Tyler Guinn working with a palette knife

Austin abstract artist Tyler Guinn uses a palette knife and impasto to create a geometric arrangement.

When abstract artist Tyler Guinn picks up a paintbrush (or, more likely, a palette knife), he’s never faced with the proverbial blank canvas. Before he begins painting, Guinn imbues his canvas with character by staining it with coffee, wine or Hill Country soil. In some cases, he even treats it with river water. “You can’t quite tell what it’s been through,” says Guinn of the washed, distressed quality. “It makes you wonder, ‘Is it old?’ or ‘Did it get rained on?’ You can see my fingerprints, too, so there are very human elements also at play.” It’s this organic underpainting that lends the artist’s abstracts their beguiling authenticity.

Artist in his studio

Brimming with furniture, ceramics and houseplants, Guinn's studio feels like a home.

abstract art on linen

This piece comprises leather paint and soil on linen soaked in river water.

artist working in acrylic paint

Guinn works in acrylic paint and soil on canvas treated with house paint.

white gallery room with multiple abstract paintings

“Art can completely affect your mood and response to your surroundings,” Guinn says.

While Guinn didn’t formally study art, his mother was an artist, which helped make his leap five years ago into painting professionally feel more natural. The medium came to him easily, and one of his signature styles emerged early: Canvases featuring a broad, clean border with chaotic slash marks and heavy impasto at the center. Soon, the artist was fielding commission requests. “A friend would see one of my pieces and say, ‘I love that. Are you going to do anything that’s squarer or in these colors?’ ” recalls Guinn, who was always happy to accommodate. Accustomed to working with creative directors in his former professional life, Guinn enjoys the collaboration. “I want clients to feel as though they’re part of the work—not that they simply bought it,” he explains. 

A visit to the artist’s Austin studio reveals his unique process. Brimming with furniture, ceramics and houseplants, the space feels like a home, with Guinn constantly rearranging its contents. “I like to shift things around and create in different spaces, different lights,” the artist notes. You’ll find materials he’s gathered from the natural world, including dried plants and gritty dirt that end up incorporated into his fine art pieces. In turn, his paintings—with their rich texture, subtle color and organic elements—are very much at home in interior environments. 

Guinn is represented by several galleries—Tappan, Commerce Gallery and Mont Art House—but also, tellingly, by Rath, a home decor showroom. The artist believes the objects in our spaces influence how we feel, act and even think. “Art can completely affect your mood and response to your surroundings,” he says. “I want to create paintings that people want to live with for years to come.”