Upper Deck: Hello Taylor, would you like to introduce yourself?
Taylor Callery: Hi, I’m Taylor Callery, I was born in Pittsburgh, PA and have lived in some terrific cities that include Detroit and Baltimore, but at the moment I’m back living and working in Pittsburgh, PA – a place that will always be home. I have a BFA (2004) from The College for Creative Studies in Detroit, MI where I studied Illustration, Fine Art, and Graphic Design. I’m actually celebrating 10 years as an independent artist and illustrator this year, which I’m very proud of. I got a late start to my career, as I really didn’t get serious about my trajectory until about 2009.
Since then my work has been featured in the pages of Harper’s Magazine, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, Scientific American, Mother Jones, Sports Illustrated, The Smithsonian, The Atlantic, and over one hundred national and international publications and advertising campaigns. I’ve also been recognized by prominent entities such as American Illustration, The New York Society of Illustrators, 3×3 Magazine, Communication Arts, and the Society for News Design among others. My original and contemporary works have been exhibited and featured in a number of galleries worldwide that include Paris, New York, and Washington D.C. to name a few.
UD: What does “being creative” mean to you? How did you create your own style?
TC: This is most certainly a complicated question to answer, but I truly believe that being creative starts with finding your individual voice as an artist, and having something worthwhile to say. I’ve committed my life to being a creative, and I think that you have to be willing to accept the process, commitment, patience, and practice over a life time. Passion, hard work, and experiences in the community outside of the studio are all cornerstones of my creative process. All of these elements fuel the fire that rests in the depths of my being, which are all connected to how I translate a concept, illustration, or painting.
Creating a style happens naturally over time, and it’s constantly progressing and changing along the way. I’ve found my creative language through the process of problem solving assignments, but also allowing myself to experiment and push the boundaries in my personal work that seems to always filter its way into the profession realm. My style has changed quite a bit over the years, as I’ve been influenced by maturity, a keener eye, and overall awareness of my own translation of creating art. Style to me is not only how things look aesthetically, but how an artist actually solves a problem within the visual concept.
UD: Can you describe the time when you first realized that creating was something you absolutely had to do? – or – What made you decide to pursue a career in the art world?
TC: Like most artists, I was drawn to art at an early age as a child. My influences definitely included the comic books of the late 80’s and the spectrum of comic art found in the 90’s. I was a huge Image Comic Book fan, and these influences still exist in my work today. I’ve been following this path for quite some time, but the decision to pursue this as a profession came from my mentors, fellow artists, and good friends found in John Ritter and Jacob Thomas. I’m grateful for these influences because they gave me a view in to what the illustration and art world could really be if you pursued it with passion, intelligence, kindness, purpose, and fun.
From 2004 to about 2009, I was working odd jobs during the day and creating art in the evening. The art at the time had no real direction, as it was almost more to keep the wheels greased per say. I went to an illustration lecture given by Jacob Thomas in 2008, and this is where I found my fire to pursue a professional career in art and illustration. The way he spoke of his work and his career had a tremendous effect on me, and at that moment, I knew I was ready to take this profession head on. Shortly after this lecture I started to build a portfolio around the clients I wanted to work with, and within a year I had saved enough money from fresh illustration work to quit my day job and start working as an independent artist – and the rest is history.
UD: What kind of creative patterns, routines, or rituals do you have? – or – How do you work? Is there a “process” or more of a “flow”?
TC: I’m actually very regimented and organized when it comes down to getting to work. The nature of the freelance world is very unpredictable, so you have to be on your toes – which I love. Keeping a tight schedule that allows for some flexibility is how I work best. I mostly work digitally within the realm of illustration, but I keep a mixed media approach that stems from my physical or fine art background that finds its way into my illustrations. This mixed media approach keeps it fresh for me and allows a channel to be open for authenticity in my work.
I certainly have a process to rendering images digitally in an efficient way, but it truly is more about the flow of an image. I really enjoy letting the compositions form themselves through experimentation and pushing an image as far as it can go, and by doing this, you know how to reign it back in when necessary.
UD: Who are some of the artists that have inspired you?
TC: There are so many that it’s impossible to list them all, so here are a few of the big ones: Robert Longo, Gerhard Richter, David Hockney, Roy Lichtenstein, Mort Kunstler, FAILE, Greg Miller, Todd McFarlane, and many more.
UD: What type of work do you most enjoy doing? (Graphic, advertising, comics, gaming, conceptual, etc)
TC: I am absolutely infatuated with illustration and I adore a more politically charged editorial assignment, but there is a certain freedom and deeper connection to my fine art that I simply can’t deny. After working behind the computer on illustration assignments all day, it’s an absolute joy getting my hands dirty and working physically on a large scale painting or silkscreen series.
UD: What’s your favorite piece of personal work you’ve ever created?
TC: At this moment, I would have to say it’s my piece entitled “My Love”. It was inspired by the relentless support and care of my wife. No matter the chaos within me, she has always been there to support my life and career in immeasurable ways. I truly wouldn’t be where I am today without her and this painting is an honest reflection of those emotions. This piece was eventually actioned off for charity to benefit those who suffered from the hurricane season down south in 2018.
UD: What is your dream project?
TC: There are so many projects I would be grateful to be a part of, but the top of the list would be to do a mural on the famous Bowery Wall in New York City.
UD: Who would be your dream collaboration with?
TC: In these modern times, it would have to be collaborating with the fantastic artist collective found in FAILE, hands down.
UD: What was your favorite part about working on this product?
TC: The freedom to explore, experiment, and simply be myself was most certainly the most enjoyable element about working on this limited edition print. Plus, what a great subject and context found through Upper Deck and LeBron James himself.
UD: What were some of the challenges that you faced?
TC: To be honest, there were no challenges with this image. Projects like this almost create themselves. The energy, subject matter, and freedom allow for images like this one to flow freely without any true complications.
UD: Anything else you would like to add?
TC: I had an absolute blast working on this project, and starting a new relationship with such a great art director found in Samantha is a dream come true. I couldn’t be happier with how the entire process played out, and it’s a true honor to illustrate a limited edition print of one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Since I was a child, I dreamed of working with Upper Deck, and I’m so grateful to fulfill this dream with such a perfect subject.
My contemporary art site: www.taylorcalleryart.com
My illustration site: www.taylorcalleryillustration.com
My Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/taylor.calleryillustration