Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Artist's Touch: Stress relief becomes way of life

Don Taylor and work-in-progress.
PANAMA CITY — Touring Don Taylor’s home off State 390 is a lesson in local history and art, as he and his wife, Louisa, recount the house’s former occupants and location while showing their collection of works from across the world.

Art has been in Don’s life since his childhood, growing up in St. Augustine.

“My father went to art school and did metal crafting,” Don said. “He turned down an animation job offer from Disney in 1930. He painted as a hobby and gave the paintings away to friends.”

Reaching his upstairs studio and classroom space, Don held up a work-in-progress showing three cooks busy in a kitchen. He photographed the men through a large plate glass window using a telephoto lens, then combined his favorite poses into a single composition.

“You’ll never get a photograph that’s got everything you want in the right places,” he said. “Don’t try to copy the photograph. Pick what you want out of it and recompose.”

(One of the day-classes he’s teaching at the Panama City Beach Senior Center this month covers sketching designs based on a favorite photo.)

“The thing I really enjoy, probably more than anything else,” Don said, is sketching and painting from real life. He’s filled books with sketches and watercolors of sites he’s visited in his travels, and he said every detail of that day is imprinted in his memory when he does so.

“I can take thousands of photos (on a trip) and six months later I’m hard pressed to tell your where in the world I was,” he said. “But with these (sketches) I become totally absorbed in it. I can tell you everything — where I was, what was going on around me.”

Sample from Taylor's sketchbooks.
Don had never heard of Panama City before he attended veterinarian school at Auburn University. His next-door neighbor had lived here though, and, “I came down and spent Christmas with them here, and when I finished school I moved here in 1972,” he said.

He established a veterinary practice, Gulf Coast Animal Hospital, which he sold 15 years ago to spend more time painting. Now, he only works relief days at the practice. Don is also a veteran of the Vietnam conflict, where he served in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Don started painting as a form of stress relief, and found he loved doing it.

“You forget all your problems and worries,” he said. “It’s not like work, it’s something I totally enjoy.”

Don began teaching painting “a number of years ago,” and has a waiting list for new students. He teaches in his upstairs classroom space, as well as local galleries and recreation centers, and far-flung workshops, such as one scheduled at Blue Ridge, Ga., in June.

He began entering shows almost as soon as he started painting fulltime, about 15 years ago, and has won numerous awards and recognitions across the country. Most recently, Don was recognized by the American Artists Professional League for his watercolor painting “Heaven’s Glow.”

“We are extremely proud to recognize some of America’s finest artists, and our award winners’ work epitomizes the quality of art that our organization strives to support,” said Peter Rossi, AAPL president, in remarks at the 86th annual Grand National Exhibition held in November 2014 in New York City.

Don also has served on many art association boards; he is a past president of the Southern Watercolor Society and past member of the Board of Directors at the Visual Arts Center of Northwest Florida.

“We have a wonderful local group of artists,” he said. “A lot of them have been painting 20 or 30 years, and still have a good time.”


In the artist’s statement on his website, DonTaylorArt.com, Don said he hopes his art will evoke the same feelings in the viewer that he experienced when first seeing the subject — “the sense that there is more to the subject than mere rendering. ... I attempt to apply the illusion of detail in many works so that viewers can use their imagination to complete the image. Sometimes less is more.”
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