An American Artist
by Nancy Jensen
in the saga of life
some just stand still
whatever you do
don't stand still
is the equivalent of failure
the true winners
are the losers
that keep on trying
Dr. Benjamin Jackson Taylor
Dr. of Economics / Oklahoma University
Born November 15th in Evansville, Indiana, Neal Craig Taylor couldn't walk until he was 4-years old, but he never stood still a day in his life. His Uncle's philosophy is Taylor's mantra. Needing leg braces and corrective shoes until the age of nine caused Taylor grief not only physically, but psychologically too. Other children would tease and bully Taylor. He knew he was different not only on the outside, but also on the inside. The will and desire to create art came early in his life, as well as other talents such as music and sports. Having to fight to walk, Taylor has grown into the man who will fight to create, in spite of ridicule or naysayers.Taylor is a 21st century artist, capturing in collage form the faces from American Pop Culture.
Recognizable are the celebrities of today: Norah Jones, Bono, Johnny Depp, Jennifer Aniston, Robert Deniro, Ashton Kutcher, Bruce Willis, Angelina Jolie to name a few. In the nearly 500 collage pieces Taylor has created to date, the faces tell the stars' stories. Not in a painted portrait. Not in a photograph. Not in a drawing. Taylor's art is in the words, in the color of the words. The words describe the artists and tell the artist's stories. Art told through art by an artist. This is Taylor's calling, his passion, his addiction.
A pair of sharp scissors, a glue stick, and a stack of magazines comprise Taylor's art supplies. He meticulously cuts apart articles and advertising print from magazines into minute pieces. These pieces come together on white illustration board to create the beautiful, the powerful, and the talented of the 20th and 21st Centuries.
But why does this artist do what he does sometimes for a solid 24-hours? And what is the day-to-day life of the artist who lives to create his collage art? "My art is inspired through other artist's lives. I'm inspired by people who have a story to tell," said Taylor.
Inspiration. Devotion. Admiration. A kindred spirit. Taylor sees in musicians, in actors, in sports figures, even in superheros their stories, their truth, behind the glitz, fame and fortune. Taylor sees under their skin. And he recreates their skin, their eyes, their every feature with the ideas, thoughts, conversations, and colors that best describe each celebrity. The truth, seen through Taylor's eyes, is what he exposes on illustration board. Truth-telling is no easy task in Taylor's art, however. Despite the reasonably inexpensive supplies he uses, Taylor spends hours, days upon nights upon days, cutting the print materials he's organized into various folders) folders with flesh tones, hair colors, orange, blue etc). No exacto-knives. Just scissors and paper.
Decision-making plays a crucial part in Taylor's art. Whether to use magazine photos to create skin tones or to manipulate articles to show shadows and depth are only momentary decisions in a day's worth of choices Taylor must make when creating a satisfying piece of art. At times Taylor includes paint over the areas of his collages to pop-out images, frame the piece, or textures part of the working. Before the picture unfolds from Taylor's steady hands, however, he must first draw the images on the board by hand, using prisma color pencils. However, after the initial drawing is constructed, the madness takes over, and like Edward Scissorhands, Taylor cuts, snips and clips away creating his palette. Gluing each piece of paper with a glue stick is a decision that builds the foundation for the next piece of paper until finally the work is completed. And that says, Taylor, is the most important part - knowing when to stop.Taylor won't stop for long though. "Too much time passes, and I get depressed. I have to be working on the next thing," says Taylor. He won't stand still.
He would call himself "addicted" to collage. The addiction began in high school, under the guidance of Evansville North High School Art teacher Jon Siau, when Taylor created a portrait of New York Yankees' first baseman, Don Mattingly, a home town hero. Taylor says he couldn't wait until art class each day, to cut and paste together the words and images that would eventually create the face of Don Mattingly.
In 1989, the addiction gripped Taylor and he began an "Indiana Legends" series of collage art. Inspired by the celebrities from his home state, Taylor cut and pasted Larry Bird, John Cougar Mellencamp, Michael Jackson, David Letterman, Jane Pauley, Dan Quayle, Bob Griese, Ryan White, Red Skelton, Bobby Knight and James Dean. Most of the celebrities signed their collages for Taylor, which triggered a realization in Taylor that the world might appreciate his style of art. Since that time, however, Taylor has showcased his extensive collection of collages in three original screenplays, Two Weeks After Mother's Day, Childhood Matters, and the independent film, Confusion.
Taylor then created a series of art called, "The Dead Superheros" where all the superheros die off, representing Taylor's feelings of letting his childhood die out, all the fictitious, all the false hopes, gone, to let the reality of life, evolve. Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Hulk, to name some, saw their demise into childhood fantasy to make way for the reality of Taylor's art to come.
By 1992, after finishing the superhero series, Taylor watched The Buddy Holly Story on television. Immediately following the credits, Taylor, inspired to create a portrait of Holly, started drawing the outline of what would become his first 20th Century artist collage. Taylor later donated the art to The Buddy Holly museum where it now hangs in Lubbock, Texas. Still, Taylor had to pay the bills.
Coffee in hand, Taylor plops onto his ottoman, grabs his laptop and logs onto the internet. Taylor cruises the Internet looking for art publishers. And this ambitious artist desperately desires to share his art with the world.
Every morning Taylor rises to the eastern sunrise, opens his bedroom window and takes a few minutes to gaze at the infamous "Hollywood" sign on the Hollywood hillside. He then pours a cup of coffee, lights a cigarette and begins his day. Circling his newest collage, Mick Jagger, like a cougar stalking its prey, Taylor makes mental notes about his subject. he sips his coffee, drags on the cigarette, then at the right moment, he pounces into his work.
Four hours later, millions of pieces of paper litter the floor of his west L.A. Spanish style studio apartment. Taylor takes his first break of the day. Walking towards the kitchen to refill his coffee, Taylor's footfalls cause scraps of paper to scatter like fallen autumn leaves. Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, and George Harrison hanging in silver frames along Taylor's front wall seem to watch their creator as he strides past. Stacks of mutilated magazines, manila folders titled: :skin color," "hair color," "blue," "red" ..., and illustration boards with collage portraits of today's hottest American idols also line Taylor's path to his kitchen. Surrounding himself with his art, Taylor's infrequent breaks from his work are inspirational, the artists he's captured in collage chiding him to continue in his creation.
And this is how the days goes every day for Taylor. Focus. Purpose. Creation. Determination. Until the day is done and finally he sleeps. But only a few hours of rest until his day begins again and he goes on creating. Inspiration builds upon inspiration. Etched into his mind and soul, his deceased uncle's motivational words to never stand still inspire Taylor to work steadily, even in the face of loss, to become the man, the artist, he was born to be.
His life started in casts and braces, unable to move or walk. But Taylor didn't stand still. He has pursued his ambitions with a fighter's spirit, shedding the casts on his feet that tried to keep him from moving and walking. Then, sloughing off society's casts and judgements, Taylor ran. One day, Taylor will surely soar on eagle's wings, his art the force behind his flight. He will keep on trying, counting the losses for gain. The remainder is history in the making.
Currently, Taylor is represented globally by Jane Solar who is the President of an art licensing company called Solar Publishing LLC. (www.solarpublishing.com) She license the work of artists to manufacturers around the globe.
Taylor's art career has included published children’s books, teaching design and serving as Art Director for Ad Agencies and Design Groups. His artwork has been used for such clients as Rolling Rock, Pepsi-Cola, Motorola, Urban Outfitters, GUESS Clothing, Vintage Melody The Classic Brand and Rolling Stone.
In 2017 his work has been licensed most recently to Ravensburger, a German jigsaw puzzle manufacturer for world-wide distribution. The puzzles are currently being sold at Barnes and Noble. Also acquired is a Zippo account with his artwork on lighters across the USA.