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Art and Industry – how Taylor MacLean balances both

Taylor MacLean with one of the works in his Perception Collection which will be exhibited at The Bistro for the next few weeks.
Taylor MacLean with one of the works in his Perception Collection which will be exhibited at The Bistro for the next few weeks. - Submitted

A few years back Taylor MacLean had a big choice to make – art school or a pipefitting course. He chose pipefitting but is happily pursuing art on his own time.
MacLean, who grew up in Stellarton, currently has 10 paintings on exhibit at The Bistro. He loves to paint but doubted he could make a living at it.
“I was accepted at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and my parents were very supportive but I went with a trade. I still wonder once in a while, but as long as I am able to paint, it is working out for me.”
He was the winner of last year’s Halifax Art Battle, a competitive event where painters have 20 minutes to create a painting while patrons mill around their easels, watching the process.
“With lots of good painters participating, it was pretty exciting to win.”
His rock star portraits have been displayed at trendy Ron Robinson, a Santa Monica, CA, store that blurs the line between upscale retail outlet and art gallery. He has had an exhibit, titled Timber Collection, at The Anchor in Fairview and friend Brad MacDonald, who grew up in the same Stellarton neighbourhood, displays his paintings at Skallywags, his Chebucto Road, Halifax, barbershop.
MacLean, who cannot remember a time when he was not doodling or drawing, took his only art lessons from Lynn-Sue Wice at an early age. He continued to sketch and developed a taste for street art and graffiti but busy with hockey and skateboarding as he got older, he did most of his drawing when he was on his own.
“Outside of drawing at home, the first thing I probably did was paint on skateboards. Some of my friends thought that was pretty cool.”
It was not until he took art at Northumberland Regional High School, that he started to think seriously about painting.
“My teacher was Ms. (Margie) MacKay and she really inspired me. She let see what I was interested in and gave me a lot of advice and encouragement.”
Parents Scott and Cindy also allowed him to paint on the basement walls at home.
“Thinking back on that, it might be where I started to get a taste for big paintings. I paint all different sizes but there is something about a big space that really appeals to me. I just love knowing I have all that space to fill.”
He actually cuts many of his large paintings into thirds.
“They got too big for my basement but surprisingly, a lot of people seem to like them in pieces. I keep hoping somebody will ask me to paint a mural some day.”
After high school, he and friends went to Australia for a year and when he returned he picked up painting again.
“I was in my early 20s when I started to paint on a regular basis, from landscapes to portraits to abstracts.”
His earliest paintings went to appreciative family and friends.
“I thought they were okay and people seemed to like them but I also knew my family would never say they didn’t like them.”
Selling his first painting was a pivotal point.
“I’d never even considered trying to sell anything so when I was asked if it was for sale I was shocked. After that I realized that instead of just doing art as relaxation, if I worked hard at this and if I was reasonable in my pricing, maybe I would be able to sell some pieces.”
His current exhibit, featuring five live-edge landscapes and five abstracts, sold two paintings on opening day.
“You don’t expect that but it is great when it happens. I’ve had a few exhibits and usually I’ll sell about half the paintings. The past couple of years have been better than I ever imagined.”
Since moving back to Nova Scotia from Vancouver, he often paints on wood rather than canvas.
“In my last couple of collections I’ve been using locally-sourced hand-cut spruce and pine which I prep and stain. I find the colour in the wood sets a mood I can’t achieve on canvas.”
The wood grain also helps with the perception of water, clouds or sand, he added.
“This is something I’m currently playing around with. I find it very intriguing and it is something I not have seen done by other painters.”
He still enjoys painting skateboards, surfboards, barn doors and glass windows but admitted trying to find his own style is challenging.
“I try to just keep at what I’m doing and fixing mistakes I make along the way but it is takes time to become confident in your style, especially with so many people’s ideas and art right at your fingertips on the Internet these days.”
For now he is focusing on using acrylics to create landscapes and abstracts.
“Being back in Nova Scotia I’m drawn to paint the landscapes. We’ve got so much beauty around us, the challenge is to capture it on wood or canvas.”
Living in Lake Echo now, he was in New Glasgow to take part in Art at Night and was encouraged by the level of community support.
“It is great to see people coming out to look at art. Personally, I’m really grateful to Heather and Rob Vinton at The Bistro for giving me and many other young artists a place to exhibit.”

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