A tale of two artists

by Esther Hammer
South Tampa News & Tribune
November 9, 2011

Steps of Eze

   Two artists, whose works vary greatly, have a unique relationship.  “It’s a rare thing to have two of your best-selling gallery artists approach you want to do a show together year after year," says Robert Rowen, owner of Nuance Gallery, of the two artists, both watercolorists.

A conversation with two artists
   South Tampa artists Taylor Ikin and Laura Waller are hosting their fifth joint exhibition in as many years at Nuance Galleries in South Tampa.
   Both artists are watercolorists, but Ikin paints large expansive landscapes on Yupo paper, a slippery, shiny surface that is generally reserved for commercial use; Waller paints smaller and more focused images on a traditional watercolor surface.
The Ikin/Waller kind of collaboration is unusual among artists, acknowledged Nuance owner Robert Rowen.
   "It's a rare thing to have two of your best-selling gallery artists approach you and want to do a show together year after year," he said.  "Their work is different, but there's this synergy that happens between them that makes it an interesting show.  And there's no competition."
   I recently sat down with the two artists over coffee to talk about their unusual partnership.
Q - How did you two meet?
TI - My first big memory of Laura is when she and her husband, Ed, bought one of my paintings about 15 years ago.  But we've known each other at least 20 years.
LW - That's right, because we share mutual friends.  And then after I bought the painting, I took a private Saturday morning class with Taylor.  It was painting on Yupo, and I don't paint on Yupo away from Taylor, but I love it when I am with her.
Q - How and when did you start exhibiting together?
LW - I had built up quite a body of work and wanted a place to show it.  There was a gallery that would show me but they said I needed more work.
TI - So she asked me to Ikin join her, and I was delighted.  But I was already represented by Nuance, so I asked Robert (the owner of Nuance), and he said he thought it was a great idea.  That was in 2007.  So this is our fifth year showing together.
   Q - What is it you like about exhibiting together?
TI - One thing is that when you establish the fact that it's going to be an ongoing thing, it makes you focus on what you're doing and building up a good body of work for it.

"Out on a Limb”, a watercolor on Yupo paper by South Tampa artist Taylor Ikin, is part of a two-woman show opening Saturday, November 12, 2011 at Nuance Galleries in South Tampa. Ikin specializes in large landscapes, while Waller creates smaller, more focused works. The show will be their fifth joint exhibition at the galleries in as many years.

LW - Our styles are very different, but between the two of us the people who come always find something they like.
TI - The audience appreciates the diversity.
Q - Tell me about your "differences."
LW - Taylor does a lot of the entire state of Florida, and I don't really do Florida.  I travel a lot, and I paint a lot of boats, which is something a lot of women don't do.  And about a year ago, I got into oils because they now have water-mixable oils, so I don't have to mess with turpentine.
TI - I do watercolors, and I work exclusively on Yupo paper for 17 years now.  I can't get enough of it.  Every time the brush hits the paper, it's a new experience, and I don't have to respond to it.  I just have to create out of the chaos.
Q - How about the size of your paintings?
LW - I like to paint small, which draws the viewer in, so they have to be engaged.  They're kind of using their own mind to finish the piece.
TI - The size I paint has been determined by the fact that I can't find a piece of paper larger than 26 by 20 inches from the Yupo people.  If I could get a larger paper, I'd love it.  I like that wonderful sense of freedom of being able to take that brush and load it with paint and zing it on the paper.  And the larger the surface, the more chance I have to play, and that is my joy when I'm painting.  The play.  The opportunity for the paint and the water to create something that I by myself could never come up with.
Q - Those are the differences.  So how do you "complement" one another?
LW - We both like photorealism.
TI - And we both like life a great deal, and it shows in our work.  We struggle to get a good painting and all that, but there's a great joy in that process.
Q - A lot of artists might say the same thing.  What else do you have in common?
TI - Our palettes are similar.  There's nothing jarring.
LW - Our works are from all over.  The show is a panorama of the world.
TI - Mine come from all over Florida and the South of France, where I went last spring and plan to go again next spring.
LW - And mine come from France, Quebec City in winter, California and Maine, where I usually spend the fall.
Q - Do you each have a favorite piece in the show?
LW - "July 4th at Laguna Beach."  My daughter had just moved to Laguna Beach, and we went there and saw all these congregations of families under umbrellas.  This particular group of people was such a blend of personalities, and you could tell they were all family.  So it was fun to paint them.
TI - "Steps of Eze."  It came from my visit to Eze in the South of France last spring.  It goes up these long steps to this window and it has a sense of clarity because the light is so gorgeous.  And I admire mightily the folks who live in those hilltop towns with all those steps to climb.  It's a happy place.  The way they use potted plants always interested me.  They give so much warmth to the painting."

Correspondent Esther Hammer can be reached at ehammer@tampatrib.com

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