Hailing from a small town in Washington State called Puyallup, illustrator Taylor Benson spends her time hiding from “a lot of white, truck-driving, pro-gun” Trump supporters. “I guess it’s good I grew up in a town that makes me never want to leave my house, because it forces me to stay inside and draw,” Taylor laughs.
Featuring anthropomorphic noses, star-shaped wizards and poops with boggle eyes, Taylor’s “old school and colourful” drawings feel like something you’d find in a 70s colouring book if the creator had been a bit stoned at the time. Taylor mines her surreal ideas from retro TV and visual culture, or snippets from books or conversations. “I almost always have an idea of what I want in my head, and then I work for hours, days, weeks, months, to try and translate it onto paper as best as I can,” Taylor tells It’s Nice That. “Sometimes I get lucky and can come up with the final piece within a few hours or a few days, but usually it takes multiple hours and weeks for me to be satisfied with a drawing.”
Self-taught Taylor only became interested in illustration a couple of years ago after dropping out of community college. “I was too much of a stoner and anxious teenager to ever finish my schooling,” she says. “When I was 19 I decided to get sober and become more serious about my passion for art. I never liked art classes that much when I was younger because I never felt like I was given enough freedom, it turned me off. Now I am a big believer in the idea that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself,” she says.
Since then Taylor has figured out a style that suits the way she thinks and has developed a roster of cheeky characters that appear in her work again and again. From teenage crushes to Seinfeld to her experiences of anxiety and depression, Taylor’s drawings may look straightforward but there’s often some deeper meaning hidden within. Filled with cadmium yellow, skin tones, grey blues and rainbows, white space is also really important to Taylor’s pieces, she explains. “Less is more and I live by simplicity, I like this to show in my work,” she says. “It’s all about finding a sweet spot between too much and not enough.”
Taylor often has a hard time working on multiple projects at once, often getting totally consumed by an idea. “Each project is like a new boyfriend and I have a hard time cheating with another! But if it’s not working you have to walk away and try something new.” One of the most powerful aspects of taking up illustration has been its ability to cultivate patience. “It’s taught me a lot about enjoying the ride and not just the destination.”