>Taylor’s Family. Crayon on paper, 1987.
Well, this post was supposed to go up almost two weeks ago but I came down with the flu and then moved to Australia, so it got shuffled to the side. Anyway, I’m back and at least temporarily settled, so it’s time to wipe off the layer of dust that’s gathered on this blog and get on with it.
So, I know what you may be thinking. “Taylor, when you said you’d be posting work I didn’t think a late eighties retrospective was what you had in mind.” But listen. During the time I was home I spent three or four days sifting through box after box of my belongings, some of which have been accumulating for over two decades. (“Get this shit out of my house,” my mom says, as pleasantly as possible, giving me a firm push down the driveway towards Memory Lane.) To be fair, it did need organizing. There were things in these boxes I neither recognized nor cared about. The number of bags to give away totalled seven. We were the darlings of the Salvation Army this week.
Anyway. During the organizational process I only found one box of childhood artwork, which comes as somewhat of a surprise to me because of the sheer volume of work I produced during that time period. I used to fill up ream after ream of dot matrix paper with repetitive drawings of squawking pregnant women (not coincidentally during the times each of my siblings were in utero,) homages to E.T, dinosaurs, ninja turtles, and ostriches. I’m sure many of those drawings didn’t survive the years, and I harbor only moderate hard feelings regarding that. But I guess you can’t keep everything.
The work from my childhood reads like a visual captain’s log; a well kept record of my early life in pencil and crayon. Drawing was the language I spoke before I could speak English. I was illustrating stories before I could write them, memorizing the books I loved before I could read them. I had an obsessive preoccupation with The Land Before Time and would recreate the characters with the repetitiveness of a career animator. I would pore through Stephen Cosgrove’s Serendipity series (“Leo the Lop,” “Wheedle on the Needle,” and the unintentionally comical “The Muffin Muncher,” to name a few,) and make up dialog as I went along; these were well beyond my reading level at that age but I found the illustrations enthralling. Then I would go into the dining room and draw the pictures myself. Drawing, back then, was storytelling the only way I knew how. And I never stopped talking.
>”My Name Is LIT-tle-foot.” Pencil and crayon on paper, ca. 1989
Then, at some point during the various stages of adolescent development, the amber luminescence of childhood gave way to a great billow of anxiety and self-consciousness. The pen stopped moving so much as a fully-tuned extension of the self and instead became a tool of achieving portfolio content, acclaim and money. It happens to every human, but as someone who follows the path from scribbling toddler to adult artist the reality hits particularly hard. We all must make a living. Ideally, one would like to make a living doing what they do best and/or love the most. Therefore, one needs to develop their craft into a marketable skill. For that to work, people need to like it. A byproduct of this is spine-tingling anxiety over whether what you have to offer is “good enough” to keep you, a citizen of the world, financially well-fed.
I’m no stranger to crises of artistic identity (indeed, I come down with one at least bi-annually,) but finding these old pages sent that familiar twinge through my extremities. I should consider myself lucky that I can make a living doing the thing to which I most intimately relate, that I enjoy doing and that I would be doing with or without the paycheck. In fact, I do consider myself lucky. But when I really think about it, when I retrace my steps from flaxen foal to fully formed member of society, I can’t help but feel a mild sting of regret that the unbridled joy I felt as a child has been replaced by a nagging sense of obligation.
>”???” Mixed media on paper, ca. 1989
So how to combat this? I suppose the best suggestion is to keep playing. Process is a strenuous task, but as creative beings we are under no orders to spend our time suffering through it. There are deadlines, there are projects that are punch-yourself-in-the-face dull but we do them because we need the money to supplement our decadent lifestyles, but even in the murky amalgam of demand there is always a way to make it enjoyable. Whether you would rather cleverly disguise this as “brainstorming sessions” or prefer the good old fashioned “fucking around,” we must give ourselves permission to play around with ideas and experiment without so much deference to an end product.
My goal for this year is to keep it sane, take it seriously, but keep in mind that while drawing may be my profession now, it can still be my playground. That I can make a living while swinging on the monkey bars is the greatest blessing.