Renowned Watercolor Artist Preserves the Pristine

Story by Cheryl Johnston
Focus Magazine
August 2011 Feature

   South Tampa watercolor artist Taylor Ikin has a heart for the natural beauty found outdoors.  Lucky for us, she also has a heart to preserve it in her uniquely identifiable watercolor paintings.  In fact, you might call Ikin a preservationist with a paintbrush.
   Ikin has called Tampa home since 1961.  She is widely recognized for both her talent and passion to, in her words, “preserve the precarious, fragile habitats than can vanish forever,” if we’re not careful.
   She describes herself as a woman whose “paintings record the wonders and beauty, often taken for granted,” and says of those, “My images demonstrate the necessity of preserving those in fact and in art for future generations.”
   Sites accessible to the public within an hour of Tampa have become a favorite theme in Ikin’s work.  She especially appreciates the bodies of water, vegetation, and landscapes that decorate Florida’s lush eco-systems.
   One particular body of work is of great interest to Tampa Bay area collectors: The Hillsborough and Fragile Florida Collection (2002-2005).  More than 43 interpretive paintings, including three commissioned works, depict legally protected nature scenes in Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Pasco Counties that are virtually inaccessible to the general public.  In her extensive online resume, Ikin elaborates: “From my guided field trips, I was very fortunate to observe, photograph and sketch the County’s pristine nature, situated on land acquired through the Environmental Lands Acquisition Properties Program (ELAPP), established in 1987 by the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners.  As these places are preserved, so the Collection will present the pictures and preserve the nature.”
   The Collection traveled from Tampa to Tallahassee, Washington D.C., Norfolk, Tarpon Springs and home again. Ikin’s commissioned paintings, including “Heart of Hillsborough”, “River Rapids” (Alafia River), and “Alderman’s Ford” (for the Environmental Protection Commission), can be viewed online.
   Numerous public, corporate, and private collections include Ikin watercolors, including The Vatican in Rome.  She has also been a featured artist at Florida House in Washington D.C. and the 22nd Floor Gallery in our Tallahassee state capitol building.

"Reflections" by Taylor Ikin
(Visit my Commissions page for a larger view)

   The past president of the 1,200-member Florida Watercolor Society was commissioned recently by the City of Tampa to create a special farewell gift for retiring mayor Pam Iorio.  Ikin took photos of sites such as downtown’s Riverwalk, the historic Sulphur Springs Tower, and Tampa Bay History Center among others suggested by Iorio’s peers.  This work presented a different challenge than the wilderness settings for which Ikin is normally recognized.  The scenic collage of Tampa’s notable sites affected by the mayor’s efforts while in office, titled as “Reflections”, now hangs in the Iorio home.  Good news for locals: Sure to become a collectible, the limited edition prints will soon be available for purchase.
   At age 17, Ikin’s best friend advised her that she couldn’t draw.  Thankfully, that didn’t deter her from pursuing an Art History degree.  Ikin confesses, “Fortunately, now I use a paintbrush to draw.”
   As a young bride, Ikin moved from Norfolk, Virginia to Tampa.  Widowed after nine years at 32 with two children, Ikin remarried and the family moved to Antigua.  Of that experience, she said, “We embraced the West Indian culture for 18 years.  I feel blessed to have had the God-driven opportunity to live in a third-world country during a transitional period of its history.”
   Exploring island fauna also proved as inspiration for her paintings and for her ability to, as she says, “pack and go.”
   Ikin hopes she’s paying that inspiration forward by teaching others, an activity that gives “the YUPO queen” great pleasure.  About 18 years ago, as a result of her environmental concern, Ikin began painting her vivid watercolor scenes in strong colors on a slick-surfaced “tree-free” synthetic paper used in the printing industry.  She credits YUPO for providing more “razzle - dazzle” and suggests “it’s like painting on glass.”
   For 30 years, Ikin has taught at the Dunedin Fine Arts Center and formerly at Belleair Arts Center. Now the Dunedin class and another each week paint at The Long Center in Clearwater (727) 562-4814.
   It’s important to Ikin that folks enjoy the time they invest.  With fondness, she remembers being invited in 1971 by her friend Pamela Wright to a painting class.  When Ikin expressed concern that she couldn’t paint, her friend said: “That doesn’t’ matter.  All we really do is smoke cigarettes and drink coffee.”  So Ikin went to enjoy the camaraderie, learn what she could, and simply “paint images to put on my own walls.”

Crossing The Creek

   In her weekly classes she presents a demonstration and suggests other possibilities.  Ikin relates, “I like to explore on my work in front of my students, so they’ll feel free to do the same.  I don’t want to limit the variety of creative expression.”  The method, she says is: “You do it and I will tell you how you can make it better.  You reach within yourself first.  That’s now how I teach.”
   The lessons provide individual attention, class critiques, motivational reading, art discussions, and the opportunity to try special paints.  She describes the cheerful environment as “filled with challenging ideas and a positive spirit.  It’s a class for the person who wants to make art (some also paint on 140 cold press or canvas).”  All are welcome, invites Ikin, “to bring the spirit to learn and explore because everyone is a winner in this class.”
   Professionally, Nuance Galleries at 804 S. Dale Mabry Highway in South Tampa represents the artist.  The Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art on the Tarpon Springs campus of St. Petersburg College often displays her work as well.
   The prolific artist serves professionally through membership, board positions, demonstrations, workshops, lectures, seminars, and as a juror in local, regional, national and international arenas.  Critics describe Ikin’s work as “heartfelt and empathetic,” a description she hopes applies also to her service to the community in general.
   Another passion is travel.  She and painter friend Laure Pericot, who is French and has worked as the former head of the cultural center in Nice (France) and at the Carollwood Cultural Center, just returned in May with a group of 12 others from 10 days in Nice.
   “Typically,” said Ikin, “these trips are more for reference gathering.  We glean perspective from visiting museums, famous sites, and landscapes.  I encourage everyone to bring watercolor pencils and pen and ink for sketching the views.  Some folks paint and we would never discourage that, but many just gather imagery.”  Pericot’s husband Mark also photographs images to inspire the group upon return.
   The next trips are planned for May and September to Nice and Tuscany.  For encouragement to sign up, contact Ikin now and visit the November 12th show at Nuance reflecting the 2011 trip. Exhibiting with Ikin will be her friend Laura Waller.
   More than anything, Ikin hopes her paintings “records the lands of today so future generations better understand the necessity of preservation.”  She describes herself on Facebook as someone who “enjoys people and sharing the fun and pleasures of learning and painting together.”  Additionally, she loves music, theatre, and being an active community supporter.
  Ikin also loves sharing her pleasant South Tampa home-studio with Abby, a Chihuahua-Shih Tzu puppy and considers herself privileged to paint her world.
  Ultimately, she offers, “My goal is to create an exciting body of work, images to be enjoyed not only for their aesthetic quality, but also to foster a unique awareness about park properties and public responsibilities as they regard our natural spaces.  In short, I hope to awaken the public to what is theirs – to respect it, to enjoy it, and take pride it.”

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