accomplishment

Presenting the Second Annual Rent-Party Art Sale Extravaganza

“Things are almost bad enough to have a party.”

~ Judd Nelson, The Billionaire Boys’ Club

I dunno about you, but I am having the strangest damn year. As you may know, I work as both an artist and a graphic designer, and having the two revenue streams is really helpful in these dark and troubled times.

This year, though, everything seems to be… off.

Art is selling much better than usual, and January is particular was much busier than in any previous year. Which is weird, but definitely good – because graphic design work has been non-existent (and that’s coming on the heels of a year as financially and emotionally ruinous as 2016).

My solution to such issues is probably obvious by now: when in doubt, throw an art sale. Then I can clear some much-needed space out, AND help pay the rent.

Speaking of which, I’ve been doing 2-day flash sales over the past week. Responses have been good, so I decided on Friday to cap it all off with a BIG sale. Have a look below at the latest offerings. There might just be something there you want, and of course there’s the added bonus of supporting local art (or if you’re not in Vancouver, think “independent art” instead).

And by all means, tell your friends. Spread the word. Help a brother out.

Also, I’ve finished a number of commissions lately, so if you’re thinking about having a custom piece of your own painted, now is exactly the right time.

Sale ends Sunday night, April 30th.

(Disclaimer: prices do not include shipping.)


State of the Art Address, August 2014

Hey. You remember me, right? I’m that guy – used to blog on a regular basis. But somewhere over the past couple years, as social media continually reinvented itself, I got out of the habit.

I didn’t really miss the outlet, because I started writing in a journal, but ultimately that’s a one-sided conversation. And there’s a lot going on in my life, so I figured I should talk more openly about it, and at length. Therapeutic AND educational. So consider this a sort of state-of-the-union address – except there is no union, just me. Solo.

Hence the title of this post.

If you’re following my art, you might have noticed a new direction in recent months – watercolour. Totally unplanned, but it’s been an interesting journey.

In particular I love the chaotic side of it. Embracing the random. Letting the paint flow where it wants to go, and then capitalizing on the patterns that emerge. Which, if you ask Albert Einstein, is the second rule of work: from discord, find harmony. Kind of makes me feel a certain nobility of purpose.

My thought is that I’d like to structure next year’s art schedule to alternate between metalflake exhibitions and watercolour ones. This’ll give me a nice degree of variety, and as I work on overlapping series, it’ll give me more time to put the metalflake shows together. I’m hoping to eliminate those mad pre-show thrashes where I’ve got paintings drying on top of the stove and the toaster oven, and propped against the baseboard heaters in the livingroom.

Tentative plan for 2015, then: a watercolour show in February, most likely based on tropical birds. In April, the Skulls N’ Roses metalflake show I’ve been talking about, to coincide with the annual Tattoo and Culture show. Another watercolour jam in the summer, and then to close out the year, an as-yet-undetermined metalflake exhibition.

Potentially, something in the pin-up vein, but using 70s glam rock iconography. Platform boots, big sunglasses, hot pants, and so on.

As for this year… I’ve already reported on the Koi Show, which was colossal. I haven’t really discussed the Han-and-Leia paintings I did for Industrial Light & Magic yet, but I swear I’ll get to it. There’ve been a lot of commissions, mainly, but not limited to, superheroes. At the moment I’m also working on several tattoo designs, a Rush-themed goalie mask, and of course I just put the Bugs show to bed (haven’t done a write-up on that one yet; it’s still too fresh for me to have any real perspective on it). And there are currently 8 metalflake commissions in the final stages of completion.

It’s been an interesting year, though. Those close to me know my life’s been pretty turbulent this decade, so in 2014 I’ve been making a conscious effort to destress and unclutter. All this time spent drawing and painting has been enormously helpful in that regard, giving me time for some much-needed introspection and reflection.

One other tangible benefit to all of this: my linework is cleaner than ever, and my hands are the steadiest they’ve ever been. They used to shake so much that I blogged about it. Not any more.

Oh, a few more things:

1. The final show of the year will be about videogames.
2. All year I’ve been doing the research for my next calendar, so I’ll soon start designing and sketching the motorcycles. The premise is that all the bikes in the calendar came from the same fictitious custom shop.
3. I’ve added a bunch of new merch to my RedBubble store: pillows, tote bags, and duvet covers.
4. There are still a few Bugs pieces left, too. You can see them here.

So that’s me. What’s happening with you?


Dark Valentine Recap

01 Calendar

So my first show of 2014 is finished. Dark Valentine was another stellar experience for me, of course – these events mean more to me than I could ever really explain. People from different parts of my life (some who I had never even met before), all brought together by my art? After eight shows, that still floors me at times.

There was a great turnout again at Score on Davie – including several first-timers, which is always nice. It’s great to see the Gospel of Metalflake spreading far and wide.

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Keith from Score came up with another delicious, powerful cocktail for the show, and this one even topped the Howyadoin Whiskey Sour from last time. Here’s my first Broken Heart of the night:

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Irish whiskey (thanks to the amazing Simone Kelly, Jameson Ambassador par excellence), ginger liqueur, lemon juice, and a hint of maple syrup. Seriously, you gotta try one of these sometime.

Or maybe two, even.

Should I actually talk about the art? Yeah, I guess I should. Here’s the centerpiece of the show, a painting called “Once Upon a Wine”. It features three of the four main characters: Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Cinderella:

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(In researching the fairytale characters for the show, I came across all sorts of interesting trivia, and some pretty dark versions of their stories. The sheer amount of murder in the original stories is kind of astounding. So I came up with an overall narrative for the show, tying several of these tales together and bringing the evil Queen of Hearts (she’s kind of a serial evil stepmother) into the mix as a sort of catalyst. Along the way the characters began to establish their own identities in my head, shaping the final paintings in ways I hadn’t anticipated.)

Here are a few of the paintings on the wall:

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And here’s the evil Queen in all her reflected glory, in a piece titled “Who’s the Fairest?”:

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The other key painting in the show is this one, “Awakening”:

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The significance of this one changed several times during my creative process, as the story seemed to rewrite itself. So, hearing people’s reactions and interpretations has been fascinating. And those interpretations add their own layers of meaning, as well. Art should, after all, be an ongoing dialogue.

And finally, the night drew to a close:

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I was feeling a bit rough the next day, but Simone treated me to lunch after I took the paintings down, and after that pulled pork mac & cheese hotdog, I recovered completely. As Valentine’s Days go, that was a pretty good one. Especially once this magic elixir entered the picture:

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The End.

P.S. In the credit-where-credit-is-due department, I would like to thank these fine people for all they do:

Jewel Staite, for suggesting the concept to me in the first place, back in December (and for buying the Queen of Hearts). It makes me very happy knowing this painting is now hers.

Simone Kelly, for lunch, whiskey, and being an all-around epic human being.

Keith Corbett from Score, for pulling all of this together, providing the venue, and for excellent, excellent cocktails.

Bon Bahar, Amanda West, Cathy Browne, Meghan Kilner, Krista Falconer, Donna Jaggard, Dan Udey, Corrina Carlson, Adam Carlson, Steve Graham, Steve Kinsey, Chrissy Watson, John Watson, George Smeltzer, Nikkie Milne, Melissa Jones, Kyle Reid, Mike Watson, Aaron MacDonald, Scott McLeod, Lyndsey MacEwen, Stephanie Hogan, Jordana Manchester, Holly D’herty, Ian MacKinnon, Lindsay Bayne, Patrick Masse, Theresa Barteluk, Johnny Warkentin, Geoff Gautier, Cynthia Griffiths, Matt Bosch, Jay Holtslander, Katherine Houston.

Annie Friesen, for the buttons and the creative support.

Derek Bolen, for instigating.

Shannon Nilson, for naming “Once Upon a Wine”.

And Jamie Lee Purgavie, for always believing.

(Photos courtesy of imagemaker photographic studio, Bon Bahar, Jordana Manchester, and Simone Kelly.)


7 Art Shows and What I’ve Learned.

Metal Flake

My first solo show. I went into it practically blind, and it wasn’t till a week before it opened that I had someone to help me out with the planning. Fortunately it all came together nicely anyway, though.

What I learned:

• that it feels amazing to bring strangers together.
• that brown is a tricky colour to glaze with.
• that not everything will sell.
• that good lighting is crucial.
• that the private afterparty is the best part of a show.

Metalflake Remix

Eight months later, I tried it again. I put on a live-art show, but also had a variety of new and old metalflake pieces on hand, plus a pretty random assortment of non-metalflake pieces.

What I learned:

• that it’s impossible to go slow when you’re painting in front of a crowd.
• that if there are metalflake and non-metalflake pieces in a show, nobody will look at the non-metalflake ones.
• that consistency of style and theme are crucial.

Dinosaurs

Armed with a new agent and a new series of paintings, this was my first show with some actual strategy behind it. We had an all-ages afternoon portion, and then an adults-only afterparty. We also had a dinosaur cake, buttons, and even costumes (some people really get into a good theme).

What I learned:

• that everybody loves dinosaurs.
• that eight hours is a long damn time to be standing and schmoozing.
• that a lot can change in a year.
• that cheap masking tape from the dollar store is the only way to go.

Hot Pink

This show was a joint effort between Alex Stewart and I, based on a pin-up girl theme. Everybody involved (and it was a sizable crew) really brought their A-game. The show was a smash, and a real event.

What I learned:

• that everybody loves pin-up girls.
• that sanding the edges of a painting before glazing adds so much.
• that audience participation is the best form of publicity, and people love to dress up.
• that collaborating with another artist is an amazing experience.
• that spraypaint is your friend.
• that baseboard heaters are pretty useful for drying paintings.
• that under the right circumstances you can get away with almost anything.
• that I don’t have pre-show jitters anymore.

Ocean Rain

A much longer show (it ran for 3 months), a brand new venue, and overall a serious change of pace. The opening had a relatively small turnout, but that was okay. Nearly all of the paintings were sold before they were even hung at the venue – some before they were even finished.

What I learned:

• that everybody loves undersea creatures.
• that putting together contracts is exhausting but educational.
• that people can and will let you down, but other people will raise you back up.
• that blues and greens are inherently more intense colours.
• that octopi are incredibly hard to draw.
• that I shouldn’t schedule an art show opening for Mother’s Day.
• that X-Acto blades are sharp.
• that leaving the biggest, most crucial painting in a show till last isn’t such a bright idea.
• that borders aren’t necessary.

Ka-Pow!

Another new venue, and many new people were in attendance. Superheroes seemed like a natural fit for my art style and process, and sure enough, this was easily my most successful show to date (particularly if you factor in all the spin-off commissions I got from it). Also, the food was astounding, and once again I was treated like a star. This show opened all sorts of doors for me, too.

What I learned:

• that everybody loves superheroes.
• that putting on a show by myself isn’t actually that hard.
• that going hog wild with colour is a liberating experience.
• that light refraction is what makes the colours really pop.
• that mica flake gel is a gamechanger.
• that lipstick on your forehead is a great conversational gambit.
• that people really do care about Green Arrow.

Cocktails

My fourth and final venue for 2013, and one well-suited to the topic at hand. Everything about the experience was positive, from the formal-dress aspect, to the involvement of one of my favourite whiskeys as a sponsor. And while there were no pre-sales, I did sell half the paintings in a matter of five hours that night.

What I learned:

• that everybody loves cocktails.
• that every girl crazy for a sharp-dressed man.
• that art shows should always have signature cocktails.
• that black lava gel is a must, not just an option.
• that when the baseboard heaters just aren’t enough, the top of the toaster oven can also be pressed into service to make paintings dry faster.
• that a splash of iridescent colour under the top layer of clear is like a revolution for the eyes.
• that a venue so close to home is a godsend at the end of the show (particularly when you’re in a hurry to celebrate for another five hours).
• that pulled pork mac and cheese defies description.
• that not even Pearl Jam can keep the people who really want to be at the show from attending.


The Glamorous Life

Another art show is officially done. Cocktails was the first formal-dress event I’ve put on so far, and I have to say it was a rousing success. A great turnout, impressive sales, and everybody looked like a million bucks.

But wait. I’m getting ahead of myself here.

Wednesday morning I was up early, packing up the paintings and heading to Score on Davie to set up. Score is a great venue, with a much bigger room than you’d anticipate from seeing the outside of the building, and fantastic lighting, too.

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It only took a few minutes to set things up; after eight shows I’m kind of an old hand at this.

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All the while this was going on, I could smell food aromas coming out of the kitchen. So once the show was hung, I sat down and ordered some breakfast.

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The management and staff of Score were very enthusiastic about the show, and very accommodating. They’ve had art shows there in the past, and it showed in how professionally they handled everything.

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Of course I live-tweeted the whole process, and I had three paintings sold before I even finished that Jack & Coke.

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After that I ran a few errands, and went home to do a bit of painting before suiting up for the evening’s festivities.

Then it was party time.

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The night went something like this for me: sell a painting, have my picture taken with a beautiful woman, drink a signature Howyadoin Whiskey Sour (Jameson whiskey, hand-squeezed lemonade, free-range pasteurized egg whites, and Angostura bitters), schmooze, sell a painting, have my picture taken…

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The drinks were potent, delicious, and incredibly cheap, thanks to the involvement of Simone Kelly, who came all the way from Ireland just to promote her favourite whiskey (she was also kind enough to treat me to a shot).

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Several times that night, things started to slow down and I thought maybe the party was over. But then there’d be another influx of people, and the cycle would start again. Even as the Pearl Jam show ended, more people were still arriving.

We finally wrapped things up around 1:00AM, and then a friend from the bad old days who I hadn’t seen in a year came back to my bar, and we cracked open another bottle of (you guessed it) Jameson and drank and talked till 6:00AM.

So I’d like to thank these most excellent people for their contributions to the evening:

Jessi, Keith, Rob, Shiz and Jessica at Score, for… everything, basically (not just the free meals).

Derek Bolen, for lining up the dominoes.

Simone Kelly, for all things whiskey-related.

Annie Friesen, for the buttons, the artistic encouragement, and generally being an excellent human being.

And Krista Falconer, Jewel Staite, Mark Fox, Cher Staite, George Smeltzer, Lori Kittelberg, Cathy Browne, Katherine MacDonald, Doug Farmer, Scott Graham, Lyndsey Locke, Cristina Weir, Sam Anderson, Dale De Ruiter, Donna Jaggard, Dan Udey, Amanda West, Meghan Kilner and Shaun, Candie Tanaka, Adam & Corinna Carlson, Nikkie Milne, Melissa Jones, Johnny B., Ian Martin & “Holly”, Rochele Potter, Tiffany Shim, Don Falconer, Lindsay Bayne, Ian MacKinnon, Theresa Barteluk, Kyle Reid, Chris, and Sean (I’m sure I must be forgetting somebody here).

I thank you, one and all. You made my day.

Photos courtesy of Amanda West, Lyndsey Locke, Simone Kelly, Dan Udey.

Ka-Pow!

Just a quick note: we’re in the process of sorting details for the next show, entitled “Ka-Pow!: The Age of Heroes”. It’s a tribute to superheroes, which, when I was a little kid, were my main reason for learning to draw.

Here’s a little sneak preview:

 

batgirl Fantastic

 

Stay tuned.


Area Code Shirts

You have seen my 604 skull shirts. They started life as a tattoo design until my buddy Scott suggested putting the art on shirts. Since then quite a few Vancouverites have bought one of these:

 

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Then my brother and I were chatting one night and he suggested doing shirts for people in the Maritimes (AKA, where I was born and raised). Here they are:

 

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You can find ’em here in my Redbubble store.


T-Shirt Tuesday – Narwhal Edition

Sensing a lot of pro-narwhal sentiment lately, I decided to include one in the Ocean Rain show (more on this very soon, trust me). And of course, I figured it should be a shirt, too:

 

Narwhal_TShirt

 

 

You can find it here in my RedBubble store.


And then it was April.

Here we are, a quarter of the year already done. The first big show of 2013 is over (and a damn successful one it was), and two more are in the works. Longterm strategies are being developed, and new venues and opportunities being explored.

Creatively I feel incredibly positive. The ideas just won’t stop coming, I’m happier with my drawing skills than ever before, and I keep thinking of new variations on my metalflake technique. This in particular is pleasing, given that I’ve finished 102 of these paintings and currently have another 17 in the works (obviously I don’t ever want this to turn into some sort of assembly-line process; frankly I think that having assistants do the bulk of your work for you borders on the fraudulent).

With the Hot Pink show and the Christmas Metalflake series, I played around with the technique, sometimes out of necessity, and other times just out of curiosity. I did several paintings with pulverized Christmas balls worked into the strata for texture and reflectivity. And the other day it occurred to me that I could also use gold leaf in my backgrounds.

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This experiment turned out even better than I’d anticipated. And it got me thinking about some other new possibilities.

A few specifics, then, before the conversation takes a turn for the personal. The Ocean Rain show, which you’ve already seen hints of, is progressing nicely. Expect an announcement regarding this very soon – we’re hoping for an early May launch date.

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The show after that will most likely use superheroes and science fiction as its launching point.

After that I’d like to do something with an automotive theme, and of course we’ll be doing something Christmassy as well, in the fall (truth be told, we’ve probably got ideas for a dozen shows). Also in the fall, we’ll be releasing a book and/or calendar of T-Rex illustrations. Three of them are done already, and the Agent and I have been brainstorming on lots more.

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And by this time next year I want to have my work in galleries.

So, enough business. Let’s talk about what else has been going on. Last year, as documented again and again (and AGAIN), felt like some sort of trial to me. One trauma after another, month in, month out. By November I was a bit of a mess.

I can’t pinpoint any one specific moment when the game changed (unlike, say, in 2011), but a lot of minor victories added up to help pull me out of my funk.

And this process continued through January and February, to the point where I finally feel like I’ve gotten my groove back (I won’t lie; I was extremely worried about that, and for a long, long time). Friends and family have done their part to help, chance encounters have led to new opportunities… and inspiration? Inspiration is EVERYWHERE. I’m on fire creatively.

I’m back, baby.

Bret Taylor
Vancouver, BC
April, 2013.


Hot Pink Recap

Let me tell you the story of one amazing day. A lifetime ago (or a very short while, depending on your perspective), I had my very first solo art show.

I was half-assing my way through organizing the show till Tess McCann stepped in to offer her assistance. I would mark that as the most significant turning point in my art career to date (and of course, Tess is now my agent).

From there it’s been… I dunno, would it sound pretentious if I said it “a journey of self-discovery”?

Anyway.

We’ve spent the last year and a half experimenting and learning about art shows and art marketing, and we’ve met some incredible people along the way. And all the things we’ve learned got applied to the latest extravaganza, Hot Pink.

Now, Hot Pink has its roots in two sources: a suggestion from Alex Stewart last summer that we do a pin-up girl show together, and a request from Tess the summer before for a hot pink painting of a dancer.

Everything just gelled from there. Putting this show together was almost effortless, apart from the labour in actually creating the art itself. Many people stepped in to help promote the show, offer suggestions and their encouragement, and lend a hand in many ways.

But wait. I’m getting ahead of myself here.

Let’s backtrack. Friday night, Feb. 22. Team Hot Pink gathered at imagemaker photographic studio to hang the show. I wore my toolbelt, because I’m told it makes me more popular with the ladies:

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Alex brought along some stunning pieces. I’d been following their progress for months via social media, but it was my first time seeing most of them in the flesh.

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(I brought along a few pieces of my own, of course.)

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And in no time at all the entire show was hung, the pizza eaten, and beers drank. Waking up to sunshine the next morning was a nice omen.

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And just like that, the Big Day was upon us:

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You may have noticed the beautiful Hot Pink button in that last pic. It comes courtesy of Annie Friesen, the proprietor of Dottie’s Buttons. In addition to that button, Annie is now selling others that feature my artwork and Alex’s. We’re pretty pleased to have her on the team.

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In addition we had a major contribution from Candice Roach’s Love Your Cake business. Another great local company run by a good friend. And her cakes are mindblowing to see (or to eat, for that matter).

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My latest paintings were a hit. Several of them were sold before the show even happened. Here are the ones I’m particularly proud of:

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Aside: Agent McCann and I also donated a painting to a fundraiser by our friends at the HiVE called An Evening of Debauchery. Full of inappropriate dirty jokes, politically-incorrect comedians, burlesque performers and an artist with a… unique approach to painting, the event was held to raise money for a non-profit business incubator. In the end the painting went to Nelu Oncel, who was patient enough to let us keep the painting for a few more days so it could still be in Hot Pink.

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Alex and I also collaborated on two pieces, which is probably the creative highlight of my year so far. I started one piece that he finished, and vice versa. An incredible experience, and one I learned a lot from. Hopefully there’ll be more joint efforts from us in the future.

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And from there, things just… rolled. Many excellent friends showed up, both old and new. These pics should give you an idea of how it went:

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At midnight we wrapped things up, exhausted. Took the party to several other locales, and in the AM we were back to tear everything down. By that afternoon you’d never know there’d even been a show.

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So thanks to John Carter, Sarah Merris, Kimli Welsh, Steve Kinsey, Jeremy Ball, Amanda West, Jamie Presley and Meghan Low, Vicky Hames, Meghan Kilner, George Smeltzer and Lori Kittelberg, John Bell, John Watson, Alex Stewart, Jon Crewe, Jaime Lee Purgavie, Aimee Vuilleumier, Lyndsey McEwen, August Wiled, Chantal Michaud, everyone who wore pink to support the cause, and the incomparable Tess McCann, who once again deserves a huge round of applause for everything she’s done for me.

Photos courtesy of John Watson, Tess McCann, Alex Stewart, Heather Prost, Cathy Browne, Christy McNeil, Scott Graham, and Bret Taylor.