inspiration

Inspiration

If you’re on the internet as much as I am, you see a lot of pseudo-profound but ultimately pointless “inspirational” quotes. When I do stumble upon something real, though, I have to share it.

Case in point:

“Authenticity comes from when you leave style behind in pursuit of your own intuition…”

This is courtesy of designer/photographer/motorcycle builder Todd Blubargh , interviewed on Fuel Tank TV .


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.

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.

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.

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:

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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).

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:

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.

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.

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.

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.


Hot Pink – the Latest.

Pretty caught up in art-show excitement these days. So much so that I almost forgot about the blog.

But many amazing things are happening. Paintings are already selling, buttons have arrived, a new shirt is almost ready, sketches are being posed for, greeting cards are available, and the Hot Pink Peeler Mix playlist is nearly finished. All sorts of craziness, and definitely of the good variety.

This art-show business does actually get easier. For a long time I didn’t think that would ever happen.

Mind you, I’ve got a team behind me now, and their support and enthusiasm are pretty infectious (and it’s not just my show this time around). In fact, we’re meeting on the weekend to talk over some hush-hush, ultra-top-secret business. Just wait till you see the results. Oh, man…

Anyway, people are stepping up to bat and generally being excellent human beings. I could rave about that for hours, or about how beautiful women are keeping me informed as to what shoes and underwear (pink and/or black, obviously) they’ve bought for the show. But instead I’ll just treat you to another slideshow:

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Nine days to the big show. Anybody else as pumped for this as I am?


Unless you’re a newcomer to this site, you probably know that I recently completed a thousand consecutive days of art. Every one of those days, from January 1/2010 – October 1/2012, I drew and/or painted, without fail.

One thousand days.

As time went on, the numbers actually began to mean less and less to me. Because it was really about the journey, of course. About what I learned, where I went, how I changed.

The past few years have been challenging, to say the least. Apart from the financial hardships of the recession and its aftermath, one thing I’ve been struggling with is the lack of structure in my life (I’m a freelancer, by the way). So the added benefits to this extended art experiment are just that – structure, purpose, direction.

For a long time people were asking me what I planned to do on the final day. I considered several options, because I wanted to do something momentous. But in the end these options fell through, so I decided that the best course of action would be…

… Business as Usual.

After all, I had a show to prepare for. Paintings to finish, logistics to be sorted out, all sorts of promotional work to do. Putting on an art show is no small task.

So when I got up that morning, I did a quick little sketch, just in case:

That way if the sun exploded or we got invaded by zombies, at least I could still say I reached the 1000th day.

(Fortunately they didn’t. But hey, you never know.)

After that it was back to the metalflake dinosaur paintings. Since my T-Rex sketch from back in February was the central image in my upcoming show, I decided that finishing one of those pieces would be my best bet. And that just seemed fitting – it tied in with the show, with my calendar, and any number of other peripheral art ventures. Plus it was inspired in the first place by the person who’s made the biggest mark in my life during the Project – my Agent and former Muse.

So there you have it. One thousand days. I painted and drew a lot, I learned a lot, I sweated and bled, and I’m still standing.

Oh, and one more thing: I’m already working an art book based on the experience. Watch this space for further details.


Had a very nice walk home through the West End via the quieter side streets last night. Felt like I hit a level of inner peace that I haven’t felt in a long, long time.

Now as you may or may not know, the past year has been an incredibly tumultuous one for yours truly. Every couple months has been marked by another sea change – one dramatic shift in tone, content, mood, cast, dialogue, conflict, theme, plot, etc. after another. Bret Taylor circa August of 2011, for example, would be floored by the day-to-day (and especially night-to-night) life of the Bret Taylor from a mere month in the future.

And so it goes.

For a long time I got lost in all this, just struggling to keep my head above water. Maintaining any sense of perspective was an nice idea in the abstract sense, but an impossibility in practical terms. So I did what anyone would do: I tried to keep it on the path, and I adjusted my worldview as I went, based on the current day’s data.

And ultimately? I failed.

You heard me. Failed. And miserably, at that – I lost my path altogether. Let some very (very) important people down, couldn’t live up to heartfelt promises and blood oaths. I dropped the fucking ball altogether, if you must know. Paid an absurdly high price for that failure, too. And in the process lost more than I even knew I had to lose – more than I could ever handle losing again. But then, nobody said any of this was fair , right? I mean, fairness is great as a utopian ideal. But how many times have you actually seen it play out in front of you? Once? Twice?

Be honest.

So. This brings us to yesterday. The morning started out with disappointing news, albeit not the kind of news that could change a man’s life (a cancelled date, if you must know). Yet that news hit me hard, out of all sense of proportion and in a way that left me off-kilter for most of the day. Even my old standby, paint therapy, absolutely could not snap me out of it (of course I publicly blamed paint therapy).

This has never, to my recollection, happened before. A real measure of how far adrift I am right now, you might correctly surmise. I had honestly thought the method to be infallible.

In the end I dragged my much-bruised and abused ego into the kitchen and focused my flagging energies on sustenance instead. Whipped up a mindblowing batch of meaty, chipotle-dominated chili. And when the bulk of that work was done and I was waiting for the mixture to reduce, I turned my attention back to the painting in question.

And goddamn, but everything flowed . Hit exactly the right marks when mixing my glazes – tone, saturation, volume. The highly-reflective silver bits (my trusty Tri-Art Liquid Mirror) drybrushed over the glass bead gel took the phthalo blue and alizarin crimson glazes perfectly . Ditto the more subtle highlights I’d carefully worked in over the past few days.

Then I went out to visit friends. Had a couple drinks, talked some things over, watched some TV. Y’know, everyday stuff.

And made that fateful walk home. And the rest you know. I guess the lesson here is, the therapy won’t take when you’re not receptive to it. But it’ll work when you’re ready.

Deep, I know.

Bret Taylor
May 6, 2012.
(Not to be confused with the Bret Taylors of September 2011 or January 2012.)

Soundtrack – “Hold On”, by the Alabama Shakes.


So here’s a post that’s long overdue. Back on March 25 (day 810 of the 1,000 Days Project), I woke up to find myself inspired. Hell, maybe even driven. I looked around at all the stuff I’ve been working on, in an attempt to prioritize. And as a means of self-promotion I decided to post in-progress photos online to document the whole day.

Since I’m planning a series of six ballerina paintings, I figured I should start working out the poses I want to use – the final lineart will be drawn from a live model, but I wanted to do my homework this time. So here are the sketches:

With that out of the way, I decided to turn my attention to an Avengers painting commissioned by a friend of mine. Once the masking was done, it struck me just how fortunate I was to have such a perfect venue for painting on a sunny day:

Then I started applying the linework. Instead of the white I always used to use on my metalflake pieces, I went with silver (Tri-Art Liquid Mirror), bronze and copper. It’s only recently that I branched out from the white – the silver was also used on the “For a Dancer” painting, and the copper on the seahorse (AKA “Top Seekrit”) piece.

Pretty soon all that remained to do was signing the Avengers piece:

And finally, the glorious results:

I have to admit, I’m really happy with how this one turned out, especially the metallics in the lineart.

Once that was finished I was still pretty psyched, so I decided to press on:

I really enjoy these large-format paintings. As I’ve mentioned more than once, the plan is to do a series of these pinup-girl paintings, if I can ever get the planets back in the same alignment again. Here’s where I left off that night, after close to nine hours of painting:

And that was day 810. A whole slew of amazing people offered comments and helped me promote this mini-event, so I’d like to take this opportunity to thank them all:

Nicole Cruickshank, Andrea Waters, Cosca Restaurant, Ned Tobin, Geoff Gauthier, Trevor Ricketts, Ceci Graber, Wes Thompson, Natalie Jean, Bahaneh Grewal, Ron Cooper, Isabell Kinga Markus, Amanda West, Matty Sadorf, John Lee, Bob Cluness, Heather Prost, George Smeltzer, Candice Roach, Keith Perkins, Kelle Belle, Meghan Low, Lola Frost, Vincent Ng, Irving Lau, Todd Hancock and 99.3 CFOX, Opal, Annie Friesen, Melissa Hartfiel, Lorraine Murphy, Jessi Sensabaugh, Yvonne Milroy, Julie Frisina, Jim Dickson, Tina Power, Cathryn Smith, Margaux Wosk, Erika Wallace, Matt Algren, Kimberley Mulla, Jaime Purgavie, Melissa Jones, Wendy Pemberton, and Tess McCann.

(Plus Tequila Mockingbird, Nikki B, the ruggler, Baw-nee and sparklehorss.)

Thank you, one and all. You’re the reason I do this.


There is much news on the dinosaur front, my friends. Many more of them to draw – I went to the exhibit at Science World yesterday with friends, and I got tons of reference photos and ideas.

They had full-size, moving, interactive mockups of the dinosaurs, plus several fossil skeletons:

So my new plan is, I want to do an all-dinosaur show – books, calendars, t-shirts, prints, you name it. I’ve already got a available in my print store, and a handful of t-shirts already. Still a lot of details and strategies to be sorted, but I think this one’s really got some potential – already sold one of the T-Rex shirts.
I’ll keep you posted.

Sometimes a painting almost seems to come out of nowhere and touch all kinds of people. Other times, the process can be a lengthy, involved one. In this particular case, it’s a bit of both.

One night last summer I was chatting with a new friend and she happened to mention that she wanted a painting in hot pink . Further to that, she told me that she used to dance, and that she wanted art along that theme – feet and legs in pointe shoes. Time went by and we became much closer. But this idea stayed in my head. In November I drew a rough sketch of her legs and feet in the pointe shoes she’d had since she was a teenager. That original sketch has since been framed and now hangs on her living room wall:

By this point I could see the finished painting in my head pretty clearly. I started creating another of my metalflake paintings with the intention of giving it to her as a Christmas present. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the metalflake pieces take a lot longer to dry in mid-winter, because the shorter days and crappy weather mean a vastly-reduced amount of UV radiation (which speeds the drying process along).

In the end I bought her a Leonard Cohen book for Christmas, and the hot pink painting proceeded oh-so-slowly. A couple days ago I was inspecting the painting and noted that the thick, thick clearcoat was finally dry.

The end of this journey was finally in sight.

On Friday night I found myself at loose ends. I wanted to go do something social with friends, but any and all attempts to make that happen simply failed. So I mixed myself a strong Sailor Jerry’s & Coke, and started masking the painting. The whole process came together pretty quickly, and with the encouragement of my Muse, the painting was soon finished:

Feels very weird to have the painting finished now, considering it’s been in my subconscious since August, and it’s March as I write this. And of course, my world is a vastly different place than it was during that late-night conversation waaay back in August – I couldn’t even begin to chart the changes. I’m a whole new human being, really.

So there you have it – the painting was a labour of love, and it’s actually done.

Interestingly enough, I posted updates live on Twitter and then Facebook as the night progressed, and the response was stunning . So much support, so much praise, so many questions, so many people sharing the final image with friends and followers. So, I’d like to thank the people who made this so much easier: Meghan Low, Donna Jaggard, Kelly St-Laurent, Natalie Smith, Mandy Fisher, Nick Voikos, Mark Kretzschmar, Chris Hobrecker, Bruce Ng, Adé Win, Brandy Trudeau, Heather Prost, Liam Rines, Elaine Shiel, Leanne Corrigan, Tony Dunphy, Fiona Flowers, Nicole Crosby, Sean Parrack, Elizabeth Whalen, Jaime Purgavie, Melissa Hartfiel, Ceci Graber, Dale Deruiter, Vince Ng, Melissa Berg, John Lee, Dilara Litonjua, Cathy Browne, Risto Paalanen, Emily Brandt, Jackie McCaughan, Nick Routley, Amanda West, Christine Warner, Kathleen Ralph, Gary Hayden, Donna Jay-Crowe, Tina Power, Tom Van Hoose, Jackie Teel, Geoff Seymour, Winnie Huang, James Dickson, Marion Vincent, Sarah Merris, Katherine Bowes Pieters, Jewel Staite, Paulette Brown, John Bell …

… and Tess McCann, without whom this would never have even been conceivable.


Probably the final post of the year, so I thought I’d talk a little about 2012. As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve been doing sketches for a show called “Closing Time” – a series of pinup girls against the backdrop of bars and other drinking establishments (two subjects near and dear to my own heart).

Well, just one beautiful pinup girl, to be honest.

Anyhow, I procured a 36×36-inch canvas from the good people at Opus Art Supplies today, brought it home, scratched my chin, and thought about what I could do with such a canvas:

Of course the answer was obvious: I could plunge into the Closing Times series. Now, I’ve been giving these a lot of thought lately – figuring out how I might render them, whether or not I should incorporate some texture, etc. etc. (I must admit, the subject of these hypothetical paintings has been strolling through my subconscious on a regular basis, too.)

Anyhow, after some deliberation I figured out the approach I want to take with this series, and shockingly, it’s a much simpler, more minimalist route than the one I take with the Metalflake paintings.

So, you’ve seen various iterations of this already, but a number of tweaks have been made to this design since:

(And keep in mind, of course, that this is just a mockup, not the actual painting.)

All that being said, I will be applying the first blue washes to this piece tomorrow, and we’ll see where things go from there. And if you want to see where I go with this one, Loyal Reader…

… well, you’ll just have to wait and see.


I’ve said this elsewhere, but I think I oughta elaborate on it here a bit: The first rule of creativity is, feed your head .

You need to stuff your brain full of inspiration – read more books, go to more movies, listen to more music, talk to more people, travel to more places, drink more booze. Then let all the input rattle around in your subconscious. You might just be surprised at the result.

Case in point: I haven’t been creatively blocked in years . I’ve got notebooks and sketchpads full of untapped ideas that could keep me going for a long time to come. Surely I can’t be unique in this regard.


Let’s talk about Bob Peak today, shall we?

Bob was a legendary illustrator – another one of those whose names you might not know, but whose work you have definitely seen. He got his start in magazines and advertising, back in the days when you could still make a living as an illustrator in those fields. His work from that era is amazing – incredibly dynamic, bold, adventurous, full of movement and all sorts of visual excitement. His work appeared in (and on) Time, Newsweek, Cosmo, TV Guide, Vogue, Sports Illustrated, Boys’ Life, Esquire, Look, the Saturday Evening Post, McCall’s , etc. etc.

It’s his move posters that you’ll recognize, though. Apocalypse Now, the Star Trek movies, In Like Flint, The Spy Who Loved Me, Superman, My Fair Lady, Funny Girl… he revolutionized the whole artform. He jumped into acrylic paints when they were a relatively new medium, and inspired generations of illustrators and painters.

Commercial artist/blogger/all-around cool guy Leif Peng has a great collection of Bob’s work in this Flickr set . Go take a look; I’ll wait right here.

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Okay, you’re back? How was that? I could trawl through those images all day, personally. That art, regardless of topic or client, is just something to see, and it’s really inspiring me to get my Bob Peak on.

For more info on the man, check out his official site . You can also see a few samples of his work right here .

Enjoy.


I thought, just for the hell of it, that I’d do an overview of my creative process for the blog. Hopefully this won’t come across as too egotistical; I’ve always been intrigued by other people’s methodology. I won’t get too nuts-and-bolts about the whole thing, though, ’cause I think that might make your eyes glaze over. Without further ado, then, this is for all you process junkies:

First off, I’ve got a bar in my livingroom (built it myself, yes I did), that quickly got pressed into service as a drawing table/studio. It’s a big, flat, extremely solid surface, and it’s got lots and lots of booze in it.

(Also, the light is really good during daylight hours.)

The digital part of my work gets done on the computer from which I’m currently typing – 24″ iMac, 4 gigs of RAM, 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo – plus an Epson Stylus Photo R320 printer and an ancient Epson Perfection 1250 scanner. I keep thinking the scanner’s on its last legs, but I’ve been thinking that for at least three years now, and it still takes a licking and keeps on ticking. I’ve gotten several thousand scans out of it to date – not bad for a $175 scanner with a $25 mail-in rebate.

The ideas, though – those just pop into my head unsolicited, for the most part. It’s almost rude.

But seriously, I learned a long time ago to let my subconscious do the heavy lifting. As long as I feed my subconscious well – stuffing it full of sensory output, basically – the creative part of the process is probably the easiest. Years ago I was given a blank hardcover book, and I stuck all my loose thumbnails and PostIts into it. (There are hundreds of still-unused ideas in the book by now.) Looking through the book is usually enough to jumpstart the process. Not an entirely efficient method in terms of time and money, but from the perspective of pure creativity, it works like a charm. And it only recently occurred to me to do the same for my graphic design work, but it’s already starting to pay off.

The gist of all this is, you’re trying to train your brain to do a lot of the work while you’re not even conscious of it. If you keep pointing your subconscious in the right direction, eventually it’ll go there without being told. Example? In 2008 I made a point to paint every day, even if only for a few minutes. The payoff was that painting was always on my mind, so a lot more creative ideas were generated. (I’m doing it again this year, hopefully.)

So in a nutshell, then – set yourself up a dedicated workspace if you can, keep a sketchpad or notebook with you at all times, and above all else, feed your head.

Also, whiskey.


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