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Artist Gary Taxali talks about his pictures and his favorite books

Gary Taxali talks about a recent exhibition in Los Angeles...

READERSVOICE.COM: And did you just come back from that exhibition in Los Angeles?
(Chumpy’s Night-School at La Luz de Jesus Gallery, January 7-31)
GARY TAXALI: Yes, I was there.
RV: And how many pictures did you have in that one?
GT: I had 21 pictures in that show.
RV: With the pictures you do, how do you go about researching them? Do you look at old pictures from the 1930s, or old advertising?
GT: Absolutely. It was something that I did more in the past than I do now…
I have stacks and stacks of books, notepaper, and I scour the antique stores, people send them to me and I just find them in various places.
And inspiration kind of happens when I’m looking at the surface of the book cover or the page, and then I’ll work with the texture that’s on it, and I’ll try and be super-minimal because the texture and the paper is so nice.

But sometimes it’s the other way around, where I’ll just draw a character and I’ll really like it, and then I’ll screenprint it on old paper, and I’ll add a few things to kind of make it look like it was an old advertisement or a page out of a book or something…

It’s incredible the beautiful surfaces that are out there.

I used to try and mimic ageing the surface, but there’s just something about what time does to a piece of paper that you can’t mimic.

I mean, all its imperfections and the way certain inks will kind of fade. It’s fantastic.

RV: So it’s mainly book covers you paint on?
GT: When I do the mixed media stuff.
In the current show, what I did with a few pieces was I bought some handmade Japanese paper and I screenprinted and painted on top of it.
So because it’s handmade it had that kind of quality in many ways.
It was imperfect. It didn’t have square edges.
It was made by a person so, you know, it had that kind of raw feel to it.

And there’s a store here in Toronto that sells handmade paper, so lately I’ve been going there, buying some of their papers and screenprinting on it.

RV: And you’re planning on doing an animation as well.
GT: Yeah, I did do one for a Coca-Cola commercial, and I’d like to do that again.
I mean, I hear songs that I like, you know, like a Tom Waits song, or a Kinks song. I think, “Man, I’d love to animate that…”
RV: How would you go about creating an animation if you decided to?
GT: If that did happen, I would get on the phone and start calling people I know who are directors and stop motion animators, and I would put together a group of people, and I then I would say, “Ok, let’s make this thing happen.”

And I would probably start storyboarding some ideas with a guy I know who’s a really good director, the same person I worked with on my Coke commercial, and I would probably start creating some of the characters myself.
Just jump into it head first and see what happens.

RV: I saw a photo of a tattoo of one of your drawings, too. Did you see that one?
GT: Yeah, where is that? Was that online?
RV: Juxtapoz magazine.
GT: Oh, ok. Yeah. He did that, yeah, a guy in Brazil.
The thing is huge, like it’s his whole bicep.
And the funny thing about that was I put that image on my website and a month later he emails me, “Look what I did last night.” (laughter) Whoah!
RV: How did you feel about that?
GT: I thought it was kind of funny. At first I was a little bit weirded out by it.
It took me a few days to respond to him. It’s a strange world we live in, right?
But he seemed to be a nice guy, and then he asked me for a discount on some art, and I said, “All right, I’ll give you a little discount. If you made that kind of commitment.” (laughter)