Our eyes and brains work in tandem to make sense of the chaos of visual stimuli we are presented with every second of our waking lives. This process is subconscious and automatic. However, as powerful as our senses are, we all encounter instances where our first impression, or interpretation, of what we are seeing is found to be false or incomplete. Who has not experienced recognizing a dear friend in a crowd, only to find that your mind has misled you and that it is only a stranger that resembles your friend?


I am fascinated with the way the human brain processes, interprets, and reevaluates external stimuli, especially the mechanics of our visual perception. I leverage cognitive psychology and physiology principles in the composition and subject matter of my airbrush paintings and collages. My aim is for the viewer to experience my work in waves, while triggering the imagination in the process.


At first glance, the viewer experiences the illusion of realistically rendered subject matter that is immediately recognizable.  This is due to the tendency of our visual perception to immediately categorize and make input familiar to the viewer. Thanks to the dynamic processing capabilities of our perception, continued study reveals that the entire piece is composed of a myriad of abstracted marks and exaggerated textures that are expressionistic in nature. While these marks come together to create the impression of a representational artwork, they exist to remind the observant viewer that they looking at nothing more than a medium applied to a two dimensional surface – not an eye, not a mouth, not even a realistic rendering of an object.


The style of my work combines with compositional choices that are designed to provide the brain with a blank space for the imagination to fill in. We see complete forms when limited details of a familiar item are provided. Our brain completes the form based on our experience. My work capitalizes on this by providing close up images of the human form without the regular cues such as body language or environmental information.


While body language may be absent from the composition, emotion takes center stage. I often work from photographs and video stills that capture a true emotion. When taking these images, I experiment with how much contextual information I can remove while still conveying the emotion. These photographs are then used as the references for my paintings where the captured emotion is further accentuated. Color, contrast, and the type of energy conveyed through the abstracted marks used to create the image are used to heighten the intended effect.


Many of my paintings become the base for my collage work, where I add appropriated images from comics, magazines, and newspapers to create another layer of narrative and movement to the piece. I also apply additional nonrepresentational marks using acrylic paint pens, spray paint, and/or acrylic applied by brush. The resulting dialogues are thematic in nature but contain an air of vagueness, leaving room for the viewer to bring their own life experiences to bear as they ‘read’ the image.

Tyler Haney combines realism and expressionism in his airbrush paintings and collages. His use of closely cropped images explores our ability to recognize emotion when provided with limited details. Mr. Haney earned his Bachelor in Fine Arts from the New York School of Visual Arts (SVA) in 2004. In 2017 he earned his Master in Fine Arts from the Graduate School of Fine Arts at The University of New Orleans (UNO).