Five questions with artist Taylor Ikin

by Kathy Steele
The Tampa Tribune
October 3, 2013

This week with chat with artist Taylor Ikin, whose watercolor painting of the historical Jackson House - “Ella Slept Here” - is on display in the lobby of Tampa City Council chambers on the third floor of City Hall, 306 Jackson St.

The painting is well-travelled, having been in the Florida Watercolor Society Exhibition in Orlando in 2012, and the Florida Artist Group Exhibition in Tallahassee this summer.

Ikin is among many who recently have joined a campaign to restore the 112-year-old rooming house at 851 Zack St. where famed singer Ella Fitzgerald and many black entertainers found lodging during segregation.

The award-winning artist is known for her watercolor interpretations of Florida’s natural beauty and landscapes.  She was one of the first artists to popularize YUPO, a slick synthetic artist’s canvas.

Q: What resonated with you about the Jackson House that prompted you to paint “Ella Slept Here”?

Answer: I have always felt my experience with the paintbrush gives me a responsibility to record visually the life of today for the future tomorrows.  The Jackson House has such history and when one thinks of the folks who slept there, danced there and sang there … at that time the only place an African American could sleep within the city limits … it becomes more than just a boarding house ... it becomes an important piece of history.  I view the Jackson House as a welcome sign for those arriving at the train station ... a view from the past ... a property to be preserved.  And I thought ... if I painted it, recorded it ... maybe someday it would have a purpose as a celebration of preservation as well as being a visual reminder of the music and talent that have been such a large part of the history of Tampa.

Q: What were your artistic influences growing up?

Answer: My youth was spent riding horses.  I enjoyed art projects in school but never gave it much thought until I spent four years at Holton Arms School in Washington and art history was part of the program ... I spent 2 years studying our required assignments at the National Gallery of Art.  My art history background was such a rich experience but I never thought I myself could paint.  Fast forward 15 years later and I am living in Antigua, in the Caribbean, and a small group of expats insisted I come to their art class on Thursday ... and so the story goes ... I was fortunate to have visitors request a painting to take home.  There was not much to buy on the island at that time, so I had an appreciative audience.  My work is now collected world wide including North America, South Africa, Australia and many parts of Europe as well as the Vatican.

Q: Why do you choose to express yourself in watercolors?

Answer: I started out in oils ... for about 4 weeks ... and decided there was too much prep time, paint smell and drying time ... so I switched to watercolors because of the fluid approach ... the razzle dazzle of moving paint, the ability to capture an image with just a few strokes of the brush and because it sparkles and plays well with the environment.

Q: What does YUPO add to the creative process?

Answer: When I started painting I was using heavy watercolor paper.   As I progressed I realized my joy came in lifting and moving the paint about ... a process more difficult on a texture surface.  I bumped into YUPO at a conference where a friend was airbrushing on it.  At last!  A surface that was slick ... the paint could razzle, dazzle about ... a surface made for my lifting and fluid approach.  At that time it was not front and center in the painting world ... it was a surface created for the printing industry.  By good fortune I developed a relationship with the YUPO Corp.  They embraced my art and my joy in the surface and supported me with paper and the catalogue for my travelling show, The Hillsborough Collection.  I have recently been asked to test a surface called TerraSkin®, a surface slick and fluid like YUPO ... but made from stone!  Each surface has its own unique response to the paint and makes the painting process a joyful, creative adventure.

Q: Not everyone is an artist, but can any one paint?

Answer: I believe anyone who can hold a paintbrush can paint.  Children have such joy in making marks on paper and as they grow they are sometimes trained out of the playful process by a well meaning adult trying to tell them to make it look like the flower or dog etc. ... I enjoy giving adults the freedom of just making the marks ... they will take care of themselves ... purple dashes make great trees!  Flying paint, when colliding with the surface, might bring a joyful wave.  So toss, splash, wipe out parts of the image ... anyone can do that.  So, in my opinion ... anyone can paint!

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