With guest appearance from, Sculptor, Richard Taylor
One early afternoon Richard Taylor and I took a stroll over to Reginald Baylor's new studio, across from MIAD, to talk about: art, life, whiskey, and everything in between.
Beata - How would you describe your art? Its meaning?
Richard - This might take an hour.
Reggie - I'll describe it first, it's straight edge. That's the best description for me. Whats it about?
Richard - Be careful, Reggie studied philosophy.
Reggie - What's it about? It's about persons, places, and things.
Beata - What did your work look before you acquired this technique?
Reggie - It was similar because it was always obvious that I liked the line. I was fascinated with the line. So my work was generally always straight edge. Some of them had very commercial aspirations, very graphic. All my drawings, sculpting class...even with sculpting class they were simple, I love minimalism; straight edge.
Beata -When did the turning point happen? You said that a lot of your work looked a lot like what you're doing now, but when did you feel like this was something that you wanted to pursue?
Reggie - When I discovered tape. It was the tool. It wasn't my ideas, it was the tools that I fell in love with. Kind of like a wood carver falls in love with grain; really dictated by the tools. That's when everything started making sense.
Beata You work with very thin tape. Did you work thinly from the beginning?
Reggie- No. Everything was square when I first started, squares and rectangles and triangles before I realized you can bend tape. Dealt with geometric forms before I did anything that even remotely same, like it was moving, organic.
Beata - Where did you go to school?
Reggie - Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Beata - Was that an art school?
Reggie - Not an art school, but it had art degrees.
Beata - So you got an art degree there?
Reggie -Yes. I attended it, for a long period of time.
Beata - What did you do after graduation, you said you were a truck driver?
Reggie - Owned a night club. Which was really fun! I had a night club at the age of 20 to the age of 23.
Beata - Was that a family business?
Reggie - No, it was myself, my brother, and one other guy, who thought we can bring electronica music to Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Richard - Apparently it didn't work.
Reggie No, it worked too well. I was too young, not business smart enough. Could fill the joint, everyone was having fun, but we were just too young to think it was a profitable entity, and not less of a expression. We just went head first at this concept of DJ-ing. You know this was the beginning of hip-hop and electronica music, and two turn tables, and this is a completely new form of expression. We were like whoa, this is going to sweep the world. We should start with Oshkosh Wisconsin!
Richard - You're right it did sweep the world, it just didn't sweep Oshkosh.
Reggie - Then I got married and moved to California.
Richard - So were you at the turn table?
Reggie - That wasn't my strong point, I was more of the doorman, bartender, the greeter, that type. Our only rules were, you had to be of age. We didn't care who came in, that was another problem.
Beata - So when did the transition happen from truck driver to artist?
Reggie - Well I always did artwork, even when I was doing night club and truck driving. I always did it on my own. I realized that no gallery was going to pick me up, so I wasn't doing it for the money, but I always did it. Right after college, kept drawing and painting all the time. I wouldn't say I ever stopped being an artist, I just didn't start a so-called professional career until 3 years ago.
What kind of art do you like?
I am an abstract expressionist fan, and then I love minimalism, and then I like all the rest. I'm a big fan of repetitious art. Like if someone uses nothing but rope. Like artists who use nothing but tires, nothing but drums, nothing but metal. I like to be proven, and it's hard to be proven if you're not really too experimental with the materials. And every time you see it, it's something new but it's still the same materials. It's sort of the same process.
Beata - Talk more about your process.
Reggie - Straight edge, I use tape to create lines, so that none of the colors blend.
Beata - I noticed that first you put a certain color down and then you tape over that, and then you paint in....
Reggie - ...the negative space, and then pull the tape off and it gives you that line. It really isn't that difficult, it's just time consuming. It's that craft part of it. I'm like Richard, i'm sure he can tell you that cutting, grinding and welding all have different points of interest but you grind because you probably actually really like grinding, or is that the worst part?
Richard - That's the worst part. I like the welding.
Reggie - See, I like the taping but I don't like the filling of the colors. I don't like the painting part.
Richard - It's all for a higher goal.
Beata - Every color you put down, it changes the work so much that it drives you to continue and finish.
Reggie - If you say so. Maybe. Yeah! It's cool when it comes together. Sometimes there's two canvases going on at once.
Beata - What kind of advice would you give to someone like me? Someone who just graduated from art school, has an average salary job, and is trying to become a successful artist.
Reggie - Do a lot of artwork, constantly do your artwork and save your money. You can't be an artist without the artwork. That's the first thing.
I have a lot of people who say they're artists, and you say, well, can I see 10 pieces?...they bring a sketch pad. They say, well, here are 10 ideas I want to do.
An it's like how long have you had that sketch pad where you had these ideas that you wanted to do?...well, for eight months. Which ones have you started with?
But then I ask them what was on TV last week? they'd know that, because they sat and watched the whole show. So yeah, do a lot of artwork. It's fun.
Beata - What is the best advice you have ever gotten?
Reggie - Advice from my mom and dad.
Mom: "I don't care what you choose in life, as long as it's respectful and legal".
And my dad was: "You can give UP but don't give OUT". No, "You can give OUT, but don't give UP".
Which both work equally, the inverse is good too.
Beata - How do you support yourself?
Reggie - Mom and Dad. No...that's not true at all.
Well fortunately we're a two income family and for the last 2 years my wife took the grunt of it. But then this past year, my artwork's been able to sustain my income.
Beata That is the ultimate plan, the artwork being able to support the artist.
Beata Do you suggest getting a studio right out of school? Financially, it's a problem for me. I liked having a studio at school and I need that area where I can focus. What are your thoughts on that?
Reggie - One of the things that I think i've been lucky with in where i've gotten, is that my studio has always been in the public view. Even when I first started in the Marshall Building it was open to traffic. Then I moved to the Pfister, then back to the Marshall Building where there was always traffic. Here it's even more traffic. That works for some and it doesn't for others. But it allows for a lot of PR and networking, and advertising, just because you have windows.
If you are in your studio you have to somehow take on that responsibility. People will never ever see your work unless you came out of your studio and then hang it somewhere.
Beata - Killing two birds with one stone. That's very lucky.
Beata - How do you inspire yourself?
Reggie - The fantasy behind being an artist is not as influential, to me it's work ethic. Craftsmanship and quality control mean the same thing to me. So it's really this business thing that has changed over the last 3 years. In art, buying new materials...you need to be able to afford to do it. So its what you need to do with your brand of artwork so that you can make sure that you can make artwork every day.
Beata - What role has family played in your art career?
Reggie - Significant, because I was always encouraged and not discouraged.
Beata - Do they get it?
Reggie - Some like it, some might not, but I think from their point of view they just appreciate that I like what i'm doing.
Beata - My parents are from Poland. Very conservative and traditional. There has always been a doubt. Though, they have been very encouraging.
They live in Chicago, and I feel like every time I go home there, it's just hard to get inspired. It feels like a traffic, you're so distracted by a lot of things. I like that i'm living in Milwaukee right now, and they do support me but I feel like they don't quite get it yet. I almost need to prove it to them that this is what I want to do.
Reggie - And that's probably true.
Richard - I think there are a lot of similar situations here. Parents, of course, want all of us to succeed in life, and yet its difficult for a lot of them to embrace the fact that their child is an artist.
Beata My parents were like, financially, how are you going to support yourself?
Reggie - Well that's the main issue, most average American families know bankers and accountants and lawyers; people who are in these professional industries that do pay. How many families know of an artist who is living with a self-sustaining income because they are artists? I don't think my parents have met one.
Beata - Do you make "your own" work, or mostly commission work?
Reggie - 90% maybe more is for myself. Commissions are nice but they're not that frequent.
Commissions are a little more frightening because someone has expectations outside of yourself, and you're just worried that theirs and yours match. But it's much easier when you absolutely don't care how you want things, you're just doing it for your own self expression. But theres problems with that too, because you also think, well after I spend all this time doing something that I believe in, what if no one likes it? All artists conceptualize their work also through the viewers point of view, because otherwise why would we show?
Richard - That is a very important point. The commission question is a very good question. Like you said, some commissions are a blast and others could be from hell. It's all about how your aesthetic aligns with the aesthetics of the patron, if they align it's great, if they don't it can be painful.
Reggie - It's a trust issue. Some commission guys love your work, then have an idea, then will not just simply trust that your interpretations of that idea will be successful.
Richard - Or they're fixated on a piece of yours that you did in the past, they don't necessarily want it replicated, they want an echo of that. The echo is pretty strong in their mind but it may not be so strong in your mind.
Richard - You might be so past that.
Beata - How do you get into larger galleries? Do you seek them out?
Reggie - No, I have not up to this point. They're now just starting to look at doing that. I never have been able to figure out how all that works because I have never been represented by any gallery my entire career. Which is fine. I became my own gallery.
It's great to have gallery owners who are extremely knowledgeable and who know the clientele and the market well. The only thing that I saw was the lack of exhibition.
You do want to go to a gallery because you have a show up for two months and your show probably doesn't come for two years. In a medium in which the viewing is the most important part about it you think you want the viewership to be up as high as it possibly can all the time. Because art is to be viewed. And I like having my stuff out, not stored.
Starbucks claim to fame was not only that they have good coffee, but for the first time of all time, people saw the coffee being made, right there in front of them while they waited. That was a new experience. So, what you're (Beata) doing with the video**, and photographing the process is really the new thing. People want to see not the product but they want to see how the product came to. HG TV, all these chef shows, all these model shows, these reality shows. They're really about not the story but the process.
Richard - For your studio I can see you literally painting the process. You can literally come in and see the artist, see the process not just hear of it.
Reggie - And a lot of times, in a time frame from one visit to the next, the person sees the process again at another stage and their idea of where the work is going completely has changed.
We're competing for America's eyes. You are literally demanding that the viewer stops and pays attention.
Beata - With youtube, anybody can just hop on there and see videos. The artist Blu has a bunch of videos on youtube, so that's another reason, it's so easy for someone to hop on the net and find that instead of looking for a specific painting.
Beata - How do you network?
Reggie - All the social media, facebook, twitter, whatever we get our hands on.
Beata - How busy are you? Hours per week? What other hobbies do you have?
Reggie - Eight in the morning to six everyday working. 40% of that time lately working on art.
I do all the drawing, it's gotten to the point where like I said I like taping, she (Heidi, assistant) rather paint than tape.
Beata - Any computer programs to help you come up with your ideas?
Reggie - I have to do it the old fashioned way. As far as making the color choices, that's really the only thing I can foresee doing on the computer. I thought about starting to draw on the computer
Beata - Hobbies?
Reggie - Whiskey.
Richard - Whiskey is his favorite hobby.
Reggie - Whiskey at my local Tavern, drinking hole, one after work, maybe three times a week, but I do that because I have a lot of friends there.
Beata - Do you ever collaborate?
Reggie - I don't think i've done a full collaboration.
(looks over at Richard)
He's very shape oriented too.
Richard - You have these two linear guys.
Reggie - I can imagine something can happen.
Beata - Have you ever done an artist in residence program?
Reggie - Ragdale in Lake Forest for a month and at the Pfister for a year.
Beata - Any suggestions on that?
Reggie - Any of them, they're all slightly different, they're kind of cool, the environments are always unique.
Beata - Did you get a scholarship for that?
Reggie For the Illinois residency. For the Pfister I got selected.
They're out there. You can create your own residency. You can go to a hair salon, and they have an extra booth that's not being occupied because business is down. People don't mind integrating artists into their environments, it's a win-win for everyone. Looking for space there is an opportunity to do that free in exchange for your art skills.
Richard - You can look for store fronts, work in it until someone rents it.
Reggie - Katie Musloff, who's at the Pfister right now, is thinking about her next residency possibly being at a hospital. She does portraits where she does live sittings. There are patients who have time to sit. Which is somewhat beautiful because she loves having conversations with these people that are waiting in the hospital. That's brilliant. I can't imagine one hospital not willing to accommodate that. For the publicity of the hospital, the goods for the patients that are there, and the arts. There is a company called the Cubicle Chronicles where they convince people to give up a cubicle. Because every firm has a cubicle with nothing to be done with.
Beata Ever done any international residencies?
Reggie No, not at this point of my life because (a) I have a family and (b) I couldn't afford it unless it was given as a gift. I'm really not as interested in developing as an artist because I can do that here.
Beata - I believe that no matter what kind of art you make and as long as you are persistent and believe in what you produce, you will always have some kind of audience and success. You just got to keep doing it and showing it and bringing it up. That is how I do my own work. I do it for myself first. I'm not worried about finding an audience, because I think my work will attract someone.
Reggie - I was listening to NPR and some guy came up with a formula with exactly what you said. What is the equation for success? After doing a lot of research and interviewing as many people as you could, his equation came to: do what ever you wish to do 10,000 hours more then the other person, and theres your answer. So if you took a woodcarver and gave him a block of wood and a tool and you took a block of wood and tool. The one who spent 10, 000 hours more at carving wood would be better and more successful. Talent was not it, it wasn't concepts, it wasn't ideas, belief, it wasn't any of that. It was self-persistence and work ethic. You can't learn unless you actually apply your thoughts. A lot of people spend time applying their thoughts without actually doing it. Those who actually do it then learn how success and failures work and make adjustments. The outcome is 10,000 times better.
>For more on Reginald Baylor:
207 East Buffalo / Suite 100
Milwaukee, WI 53202
120 North Broadway
>For more on Richard Taylor:
>For more on myself, Beata Chrzanowska: