When Tim Anderson picks up a stone in a creek, he’s like a symphony conductor picking up his baton. Something amazing is about to happen.
As the water rushes around him – one by one, he chooses his instruments. They are rocks of every shape and size. Each one is unique. Yet, they will all work together in perfect harmony.
Tim is a stone balance artist. He creates sculptures of stones that rest upon each other without any aids to hold them up. Then before nature can reclaim it, he captures his improbable creation in stunning photography for others to enjoy.
Inspired by the Climb
A dedicated rock climber, Tim began ice climbing fifteen years ago. That’s when his athletic ability and his artistic skills converged. After Tim scaled his way up a 400 foot high ice cliff, he was inspired by the simple stacks of rocks, called cairns, made by fellow climbers to help others follow the safest path from the top to the bottom.
“I built some small cairns locally to mark trails to climbing areas. But it wasn’t until a few years back while I was recovering from an injury that I started to make true balanced sculptures. My friends saw the photos I took and said, ‘You’ve got share this with the public!’
There is a close mental connection between ice climbing and stone balancing. Ice climbing is very dangerous. Ice climbs can be there in the morning and gone in the afternoon. The anchors I place to protect me in the event of a fall are only as solid as the ice that holds them. I may be climbing long distances without adequate anchors or any anchors at all. I have to remain calm through dangerous situations in order to make it to the top safely.
The love of life is what helps me to have a deepened focus. I want to live to climb again. I have to be fully aware. I channel that same focus when I’m balancing rocks,” he said.
When Everything Aligns
A sculpture can take as little as five minutes or as long as three days to create, so patience and endurance matter too. His success comes from refusing to give up the challenge, having an artistic vision and knowing the steps it takes to get there.
Tim remarked, “The top rock acts as the counterbalance. Its weight is what holds everything in place. What I have to do is find the balance point, the grains, and twist and turn. Even one microns of an inch, it can be off. I feel the grains of sand. I can feel the clicking, the friction. When the rocks are balancing there are usually three miniscule points of contact.
As in life, if one thing is out of line it will affect everything else. When everything aligns in balance it all seems to go right.
Bringing People Together
When I go to the river and do this, it’s very meditative. The piece starts and I don’t realize it has begun. One day at Ohiopyle I was totally in my zone, unaware there were people around. When I finished the sculpture, there was a crowd of 200-300 people who erupted into applause. It made them smile. That’s when I realized I had this gift.
I love the interaction and now seek it. People will sit and watch. I’ve seen culture barriers break down – people of different backgrounds talking to each other about the stone balance when there was no other reason for them to engage in conversation.
This affects people. They see hope and they see that anything is possible. “
Going the Distance
Tim lives out these words every day, not only as an artist, but as an extreme athlete too. In addition to climbing, he is an ultra-long distance runner. A short run for him is 15 miles or more. On his birthday, he runs his years. This year it was 42.
In June, he plans to go for his greatest running accomplishment yet when he sets out to break the 1985 “Double” Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail (LHHT) record – a run from Ohiopyle to Johnstown, PA and back for a total of 140 miles. It was done in just shy of 35 hours. Tim’s goal is to do it in about 30 hours.
He’s sponsored by CAMP THREE, a local clothing company that makes gear for all those who break barriers and live life to the fullest. Tim will also be supported by his fiancé, Laura, who will supply him with hydration and nutrition throughout the run.“We are a cog. Along with being support on my “LHHT double” She and my 16 year old son, Skyler, are my favorite outdoor activity companions too,” he said.
Tim has gone the distance in his professional life too. The balance artist has dual degrees in graphic design and electronic imaging and publishing. It hasn’t always been easy and he said there were times he struggled financially. He started out at an advertising agency, then owned a climbing guide business and outfitter retail store, and also worked his way up to superintendent of a construction company.
Now, he’s doing what he loves. Tim opened KeyStone Balance, a gallery in Jones Mill, PA near Donegal where his photographic prints and greeting cards are displayed and sold. His balanced rock photography can also be found at ArtWorks in Connellsville and other stores and galleries in southwestern PA.
One of the biggest rewards of creating his art, he said, is seeing how it transforms people.
“Adults lose touch with their childhood. They can become a shell of a person. Without hesitation though, I’ll see the kids sitting down, picking up rocks and trying to emulate my balances. Only then are the parents comfortable to sit down and try it.
Let go and discover your inner child. The simple art of balancing stones is a great place to start.”
It’s Tim’s love of life and his playground called the Laurel Highlands, lined with creeks and lush hills, that give him this view from the inside, out. He remarked, “Life is finite. Live now, not later. In the end, it’s not what happens. It’s what happened – the experience. It’s about living in the moment.”
A moment lived in perfect balance.