Organic in style, wacky by nature: discover Joe Taylor’s brilliant animated illustrations
Inspired by the Far Side comics and Aardman studio’s early experimental works, the Berlin-based animator and illustrator has a penchant for character development.
- Olivia Hingley
- 28 June 2022
Over the many lockdowns, creative inspiration was seldom readily at hand. Staying inside for 23 hours of the day pushed many into a slump and creative blocks were rife. For a period, the only time anyone was allowed outside was for their mandated daily walk. It was these very snippets of time outside where animator Joe Taylor began to have moments of imaginative flair. “Me and my girlfriend went for many slow walks around Berlin in the parks and along the canal,” Joe begins, “we spent more time observing the plants and birds, and nature in general.” Paying attention to the “patterns and forms in nature”, Joe now sees these walks as having instigated his new main source of inspiration. “It may not be very obvious looking at my work, but I think it’s a big influence on how I draw, in an organic way, letting shapes evolve rather than keeping consistency from frame to frame.”
And certainly, while Joe’s style may err toward the organic, more natural side of things, his themes and subject matter adhere to a much more surreal, absurdist design. Joe sees this element of his work as being founded in the illustrations he loved as a child. He outlines his dad’s Far Side comic books – for their “dark atmosphere” and “casual mixing of human and animal characters” – as being particularly formative. Also the older Aardman animations, specifically a compilation of their more experimental shorts that his family had on VHS, worked its way into his subconscious.
With such character-centred productions forming the basis of Joe’s pool of inspiration, it’s no surprise to find characterisation being one of the strongest facets throughout his work. Whether it be crooked-teethed rabbits, long-nosed wizards or frantic-looking cats, Joe has a way of making such disparate characters come together to create a positively wacky world. When creating a new character Joe tells us that he usually starts with the eyes and mouth, essentially, “the facial expression”. “Sometimes it’s a bit of a surprise what sort of personalities these create,” he expands, “and it guides the rest of the character.” Aside from this basis, Joe doesn’t really have many rules that he abides by, but he does have some features that he finds himself returning to. For instance, with rabbits Joe sees “a lot of extra expression can come from the ears,” and with birds (which he’s been drawing a lot more of since his lockdown walks) “a lot of personality can come from the plumage”.
It was when studying at art school that Joe realised he loved drawing. But, he later chose to study graphic design at university because he assumed it would be the only way to get a creative job. Graphic design ended up not satisfying his desire to draw and create surreal characters and scenes. After a few years, Joe found himself in Berlin, aiming to start working as a freelance graphic designer while having some time to work on his own drawing style. Through all this time, Joe tells us that he never really considered himself a “real” illustrator, and it was only when he moved to Random Collective – a collective, co-working space “full of great illustrators” – that Joe really began to trust his creative instincts. “The feedback and advice I got there was invaluable and it gave me the confidence to stick with it,” Joe adds.
Since becoming a full-time illustrator, Joe has completed some pretty impressive projects, including some fun interstitials for the TV series Cake and a low budget Ted-Ed animation. His favourite project, however, is his personal project, a series of looping gifs. Being a “satisfying” way to work, Joe feels as though the gifs he can “really get into the details of the animation as it’s only ever a few seconds long”. Also loving the feeling of “infinitely falling into a loop” when watching them, they go hand in hand with his love of repetitive music. With this in mind, Joe has hopes of releasing his own music, but for the moment, he’s pretty content creating “short beats” to go alongside his utterly hypnotic, wonderfully weird looping animations.
Joe Taylor: The Dancer (Copyright © Joe Taylor, 2022)
About the Author
Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.