Taylor O. Thomas

Tampa, USA
AS_20200312_TT_8
© Photo by Amie Santavicca Photography
© Photo by Amie Santavicca Photography
© Photo by Amie Santavicca Photography

"I identify most with the idea of intuition
as a collaborative factor in my making.
"

"I identify most with the idea of intuition
as a collaborative factor in my making.
"

How did your interest in art begin? Was it something that you were brought up surrounded by or did it come to you later on?

I grew up surrounded by an artistic family, namely from a musical standpoint; it was family tradition for our Thanksgiving holidays to be spent collectively singing along to my uncles’ guitars and aunts’ harmonies. My interest in visual art, though, didn’t really solidify until I was in college. I had always drawn and painted, but I approached the mediums with a rigidity and determination to achieve control (something I now try to upend throughout my creative process). My works were rooted in realism and, for me, more dependent on acts of reproduction than on inspiration. Mid-way through my undergraduate education, I turned to abstraction out of both frustration and desire to confront my hang-ups with perfectionism. Deconstructing figures and approaching my work with a sense of discovery was a complete game-changer for me. It took years to find my voice, but the realm of non-objective language transformed my interest in painting from something that I enjoyed to something that felt essential. My practice has since been an ongoing process of fleshing out the concerns and tendencies that arise in my day-to-day life and of pursuing answers (and inevitably more questions) through physical, material means.

How did your interest in art begin? Was it something that you were brought up surrounded by or did it come to you later on?

I grew up surrounded by an artistic family, namely from a musical standpoint; it was family tradition for our Thanksgiving holidays to be spent collectively singing along to my uncles’ guitars and aunts’ harmonies. My interest in visual art, though, didn’t really solidify until I was in college. I had always drawn and painted, but I approached the mediums with a rigidity and determination to achieve control (something I now try to upend throughout my creative process). My works were rooted in realism and, for me, more dependent on acts of reproduction than on inspiration. Mid-way through my undergraduate education, I turned to abstraction out of both frustration and desire to confront my hang-ups with perfectionism. Deconstructing figures and approaching my work with a sense of discovery was a complete game-changer for me. It took years to find my voice, but the realm of non-objective language transformed my interest in painting from something that I enjoyed to something that felt essential. My practice has since been an ongoing process of fleshing out the concerns and tendencies that arise in my day-to-day life and of pursuing answers (and inevitably more questions) through physical, material means.

TOT_Underground Dialogue
TOT_Venous
Underground Dialogue, 2020, 48"x28", Ink, oil, pastel, and tape on paper mounted on canvas.
Underground Dialogue.
Underground Dialogue.
Venous, 2020, 80"x68", Acrylic, pastel, and paper on canvas.
Venous, 2020, 80"x68", Acrylic, pastel, and paper on canvas.

What drives you and your work? What’s your main motivation to go to the studio every morning and paint?

Going to my studio is my chance to inhabit a fuller mental and physical state of awareness and to feel connected to something important. The act of painting, whether I arrive at multiple satisfying images or none, is always productive. It always teaches me something new and leads me to formal, conceptual, and personal considerations that I wouldn’t reach otherwise. I learn about my hesitations and habits, my environment and perspective, and my relationship to myself and those around me. I’m continuously shocked at what can be gained while resolving problems of shape, color, and space within a surface. Even though I’m someone who uses her hands on a day-to-day basis, I know how easy it is to fall into the numbing cycle of tending to a screen, scrolling, and digitally searching. Sometimes getting myself to the studio means reminding myself of the invaluable nature of physical engagement with materials and the mental presence that results from it. Regardless of what I do or don’t achieve in my space on a given day, I never regret being in it. The process is a large part of the payoff.

What drives you and your work? What’s your main motivation to go to the studio every morning and paint?

Going to my studio is my chance to inhabit a fuller mental and physical state of awareness and to feel connected to something important. The act of painting, whether I arrive at multiple satisfying images or none, is always productive. It always teaches me something new and leads me to formal, conceptual, and personal considerations that I wouldn’t reach otherwise. I learn about my hesitations and habits, my environment and perspective, and my relationship to myself and those around me. I’m continuously shocked at what can be gained while resolving problems of shape, color, and space within a surface. Even though I’m someone who uses her hands on a day-to-day basis, I know how easy it is to fall into the numbing cycle of tending to a screen, scrolling, and digitally searching. Sometimes getting myself to the studio means reminding myself of the invaluable nature of physical engagement with materials and the mental presence that results from it. Regardless of what I do or don’t achieve in my space on a given day, I never regret being in it. The process is a large part of the payoff.

"Starting my studio sessions by cleaning is key to getting me painting."

"Starting my studio sessions by cleaning is key to getting me painting."

TOT_Underpass

 

Underpass, 2020, 80"x68", Acrylic, oil stick, pastel, and paper on canvas.
Underpass, 2020, 80"x68", Acrylic, oil stick, pastel, and paper on canvas.

Do you have any rituals to get in the right mood to paint?

I’ve mentioned this ritual of mine once before, and I still stand by it: starting my studio sessions by cleaning is key to getting me painting. I may rarely *finish* cleaning, but the point is that by getting my hands moving and dirty, I inevitably begin to manipulate surfaces and dive into my process naturally. Music is also an important instigator for my work. The first thing I do when I enter my space is turn on my Spotify playlist and start belting the songs accordingly. Singing helps me let loose, so it’s sort of my body’s way of warming up and feeling less constricted in front of a canvas. I also find that listening to something besides my own thoughts provides accessibility into a flow state that I rarely get when I’m in a silent room.

Do you have any rituals to get in the right mood to paint?

I’ve mentioned this ritual of mine once before, and I still stand by it: starting my studio sessions by cleaning is key to getting me painting. I may rarely *finish* cleaning, but the point is that by getting my hands moving and dirty, I inevitably begin to manipulate surfaces and dive into my process naturally. Music is also an important instigator for my work. The first thing I do when I enter my space is turn on my Spotify playlist and start belting the songs accordingly. Singing helps me let loose, so it’s sort of my body’s way of warming up and feeling less constricted in front of a canvas. I also find that listening something besides my own thoughts provides accessibility into a flow state that I rarely get when I’m in a silent room.

How do you cope with the alone time in your studio?

I’m good at being alone; I love passing people on my bike ride to my studio, knowing that the second I walk into my space, I’ll be able to be as loud, quiet, weird, expressive, or reserved as I want to be. There’s also something to be said about coming home to a supportive family (my dog and husband) whom I can talk to about my studio time– that balance of isolation and communion is rejuvenating for me.

How do you cope with the alone time in your studio?

I’m good at being alone; I love passing people on my bike ride to my studio, knowing that the second I walk into my space, I’ll be able to be as loud, quiet, weird, expressive, or reserved as I want to be. There’s also something to be said about coming home to a supportive family (my dog and husband) whom I can talk to about my studio time– that balance of isolation and communion is rejuvenating for me.

TOT_Hold with Both Hands (in progress)
AS_20200312_TT_3
© Photo by Amie Santavicca Photography
© Photo by Amie Santavicca Photography
TOT_Static Stepping
Static Stepping, 2019, 68"x60", Acrylic, pastel, oil stick, and collage on canvas.
Static Stepping, 2019, 68"x60", Acrylic, pastel, oil stick, and collage on canvas.

Is the environment in which you paint important to you, or are you thinking up projects no matter where you are?

It’s really important for me to be within my studio space in order to generate the majority of my work and ideas. My space offers an array of residual materials, formal arrangements, and color interactions the more I work in it, and I glean from its cues as I develop new paintings. I may, for example, get an unplanned rubbing from a fresh piece of canvas that has collected impressions of pastel bits from my floor. Or I may notice an opportunity for a new palette by seeing the relationship between a fresh tub of paint and the hue popping out of a discarded surface. Nothing is off limits. Though there are many things that I pass throughout my day-to-day life that offer inspiration and references for my paintings, I can only fully move forward with them via physical activity and manipulation. Because my gestures, textures, and spatial decisions are partly intuitive, I find that despite the hours I can mentally spend on considering how to resolve something, the resolution often happens differently than planned when I face it in person.

Is the environment in which you paint important to you, or are you thinking up projects no matter where you are?

It’s really important for me to be within my studio space in order to generate the majority of my work and ideas. My space offers an array of residual materials, formal arrangements, and color interactions the more I work in it, and I glean from its cues as I develop new paintings. I may, for example, get an unplanned rubbing from a fresh piece of canvas that has collected impressions of pastel bits from my floor. Or I may notice an opportunity for a new palette by seeing the relationship between a fresh tub of paint and the hue popping out of a discarded surface. Nothing is off limits. Though there are many things that I pass throughout my day-to-day life that offer inspiration and references for my paintings, I can only fully move forward with them via physical activity and manipulation. Because my gestures, textures, and spatial decisions are partly intuitive, I find that despite the hours I can mentally spend on considering how to resolve something, the resolution often happens differently than planned when I face it in person.

TOT_The Corner of Franklin and Her (in progress)
TOT_The Corner of Franklin and Her (in progress2)
TOT_Underpass (in progress)
TOT_Venous2
TOT_Ziplocked Content

What role does chance play in your work? Or do you know early on how you want the result to look like?

I like to think less about chance and more about the intuitive when it comes to my work and process. To me, chance carries with it a sensibility that something occurs by happenstance, completely unwilled by the artist, while intuitive action entails a more active degree of embrace and response on the artist’s part. Both indicate a level of spontaneity and a release of control over one’s plans, but I identify most with the idea of intuition as a collaborative factor in my making.

I usually begin a painting with a general idea of the colors I have in mind for the image, which leads to sketches of potential gestures and compositions that I create on my phone or mini canvases in the studio. These ideas provide some sort of structure and mood with which I can approach a new work, but I make sure to hold them loosely; I want to leave space for the intuitive and its ability to sway me in different directions based on how the surface’s texture, color, or forms are developing. I never know what a painting is going to look like before it is finished. I may have a rough idea, but if there isn’t some wiggle room for experimentation and unplanned activity, I don’t think I would be as prone to wanting to realize the work. There are enough examples in my life where A+B=C, so when it comes to painting, I try to push myself beyond formulaic approaches (which can be easy for me to fall into) and risk mayhem and failure in hopes of arriving at a more surprising image.

What role does chance play in your work? Or do you know early on how you want the result to look like?

I like to think less about chance and more about the intuitive when it comes to my work and process. To me, chance carries with it a sensibility that something occurs by happenstance, completely unwilled by the artist, while intuitive action entails a more active degree of embrace and response on the artist’s part. Both indicate a level of spontaneity and a release of control over one’s plans, but I identify most with the idea of intuition as a collaborative factor in my making.

I usually begin a painting with a general idea of the colors I have in mind for the image, which leads to sketches of potential gestures and compositions that I create on my phone or mini canvases in the studio. These ideas provide some sort of structure and mood with which I can approach a new work, but I make sure to hold them loosely; I want to leave space for the intuitive and its ability to sway me in different directions based on how the surface’s texture, color, or forms are developing. I never know what a painting is going to look like before it is finished. I may have a rough idea, but if there isn’t some wiggle room for experimentation and unplanned activity, I don’t think I would be as prone to wanting to realize the work. There are enough examples in my life where A+B=C, so when it comes to painting, I try to push myself beyond formulaic approaches (which can be easy for me to fall into) and risk mayhem and failure in hopes of arriving at a more surprising image.

TOT_We Wait for the Sun to Sear
TOT_The Corner of Franlkin and Her
We Wait for the Sun to Sear, 2020, 10"x8", Oil, acrylic, pastel, and paper on canvas.
We Wait for the Sun to Sear.
The Corner of Franklin and Her, 2019, 60"x42", Acrylic, pastel, watercolor crayon, and collage on canvas.
The Corner of Franklin and Her, 2019, 60"x42", Acrylic, pastel, watercolor crayon, and collage on canvas.

If you could script your career, what sort of projects would you want to be doing next? Do you have any unfinished / unrealized projects you’d like to work on?

Now, more than ever, I am looking for ways to use my work and practice to connect with others, support others, and contribute to effective change in the communities around me. During the past few months, as COVID and recurring examples of systematic racism have come to the forefront of my country’s headlines, I have asked myself vital questions about my own privilege, my practice, and my personal ability to face these realities with my peers. I realized that though I may not create directly political or activist work, I am still an artist who can utilize her role to contribute to the efforts that matter. I’m excited for projects that are already being conceived and will allow me to collaborate with other artists who are eager to stand up and do something positive in the world (and to hold each other accountable to our likeminded causes).

If you could script your career, what sort of projects would you want to be doing next? Do you have any unfinished / unrealized projects you’d like to work on?

Now, more than ever, I am looking for ways to use my work and practice to connect with others, support others, and contribute to effective change in the communities around me. During the past few months, as COVID and recurring examples of systematic racism have come to the forefront of my country’s headlines, I have asked myself vital questions about my own privilege, my practice, and my personal ability to face these realities with my peers. I realized that though I may not create directly political or activist work, I am still an artist who can utilize her role to contribute to the efforts that matter. I’m excited for projects that are already being conceived and will allow me to collaborate with other artists who are eager to stand up and do something positive in the world (and to hold each other accountable to our likeminded causes).

"Show up to your studio, and just make."

"Show up to your studio, and just make."

TOT_3D Glasses
3D Glasses, 2019, 72"x60", Acrylic, pastel, and collage on canvas.
3D Glasses, 2019, 72"x60", Acrylic, pastel, and collage on canvas.

What is the best advice you have given or been given in terms of creating art?

The piece of advice that has impacted me the most is probably the simplest one I’ve ever received– that is, to “keep showing up.” The quick phrase came from a mentor and friend of mine and has since become a mantra that refocuses me on my practice and helps me prioritize my work above things that may be calling my attention elsewhere. I’ve expanded on the advice to specify what exactly it means to me and what I would say to others in passing along this sentiment:

Show up to your studio (or living room or apartment wall or driveway), and just make. Show up even when you feel like you don’t know what you are doing. Show up when it’s hard and you are insecure. Show up when you only have an hour, because an hour is better than nothing. Show up when you have very few materials and learn to make do with what you have. Show up when you just experienced a major success or sale. Show up when no one is responding to you or buying your work. Show up when there are 20 other tasks you could prioritize above your art making. Show up even if the only thing you do is clean your brushes. Show up because consistency is such a vital tool and learning process. Show up because you’ll regret it if you don’t. As long as you continue showing up to your practice, you will find the means to establish your voice, make necessary mistakes, and see yourself as the artist that you are.

What is the best advice you have given or been given in terms of creating art?

The piece of advice that has impacted me the most is probably the simplest one I’ve ever received– that is, to “keep showing up.” The quick phrase came from a mentor and friend of mine and has since become a mantra that refocuses me on my practice and helps me prioritize my work above things that may be calling my attention elsewhere. I’ve expanded on the advice to specify what exactly it means to me and what I would say to others in passing along this sentiment:

Show up to your studio (or living room or apartment wall or driveway), and just make. Show up even when you feel like you don’t know what you are doing. Show up when it’s hard and you are insecure. Show up when you only have an hour, because an hour is better than nothing. Show up when you have very few materials and learn to make do with what you have. Show up when you just experienced a major success or sale. Show up when no one is responding to you or buying your work. Show up when there are 20 other tasks you could prioritize above your art making. Show up even if the only thing you do is clean your brushes. Show up because consistency is such a vital tool and learning process. Show up because you’ll regret it if you don’t. As long as you continue showing up to your practice, you will find the means to establish your voice, make necessary mistakes, and see yourself as the artist that you are.

Thank you very much for your time, Taylor.

 

Links: Taylor's Instagram & Website

 

Thank you very much for your time, Taylor.

 

Links: Taylor's Instagram & Website

 

Related Interviews & Stories:

Related Interviews & Stories:

 
Be the first to know about new interviews
and
upcoming exhibitions.

 
Be the first to know about
new interviews and
upcoming exhibitions.

 

 

 

 
© Minute16 2020

error: Copyright (C) 2020 Minute16. All rights reserved.