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An Artistic Life:

Talking With Taylor Jensen

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Taylor Jensen.

Longtime Phoenix-Metro Artist Talks Mentors, Procuring Shows, Living As An Artist, Music, And How He Is Writing A Children’s Book In Part To Make His Mother Have Something To Brag About At Work

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By Wayne Schutsky
Modern Times Magazine

Feb. 24, 2014 — Of the many events that fall under the upcoming Devoured Culinary Classic banner, Palette to Palate has to be the most unique and interesting. P2P partners local chefs and artists and asks them to interpret each other’s work in real time. Originally the brainchild of Petite Maison founder’s James and Wendy Porter, this year’s Palette to Palate will take place at the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel on March 5.

I took a moment to sit down with one of the artists, Taylor Jensen, who will be participating in the event alongside Virtù chef Gio Osso, to talk art, collaboration, smut and childrens books. He creates paintings, drawings, tattoos and even “smut” zine called Bacon Cat that gives local artists a venue to showcase work that would likely be frowned upon in many galleries.

A little background for you: TJEN and I have known each other for quite some time after playing in a short-lived prog rock band together in high school. The band went through several names until I, on a whim, changed our nom de guerre to Tokyo Drift. We then began receiving tens of thousands of plays a day on MySpace long after we broke up (more due to the popularity of the non-canon Fast and Furious film than the quality of our music).

Thankfully, Jensen’s artwork is far more complex and enjoyable than our early attempts at rock stardom. Unlike many artists, his work routinely shifts in style and tone, though his pieces often showcase ethereal, dreamlike depictions of people, landscapes and things.

Modern Times Magazine: What does your artistic process look like? Do you have a method?

Taylor Jensen: I definitely have a method. The first rule is to clean, clean everything. By then I’ve thought about what I want to do.

Every piece I think looks different, usually, unless I’m creating a series of pieces. So, depending on whether I’m doing a painting or a drawing or a tattoo, it’s all just very different. I lose Instagram followers all the time because I’m so inconsistent in the way my work looks and some might say that’s an issue, but I just don’t really give a fuck.

MTM: A lot of your paintings that I’ve seen, and a lot that I saw way back when, are very dreamy in a crazy way. Would you agree with that and, if so, where does that come from?
TJ: I guess it comes from knowing some of the rules to painting and then not caring about them. And then you get this psychedelic thing where you don’t where the light source is coming from or just certain things are off and it gives you this weird perspective of the piece, I think.

MTM: You were painting before you knew what the rules were, so to speak?

TJ: Yeah.

MTM: And then you had training and went to classes and all that kind of stuff. How do you mesh that? Is it just a natural thing that happens - how you play with those boundaries? Or is it a conscious thing you do?

TJ: It depends on the piece. Normally, it’s kind of a natural thing. I started off just painting on my own because I was bored and alone and didn’t have many friends at the school I was at. I found a mentor about two years ago, I think, and he taught me how to plein air paint, how to do still-lifes. I’ve had a lot of mentors since then and, I don’t know, it’s all pretty natural and I just do whatever comes to mind or whatever the client that I’m working for wants and try to make it appealing.

MTM: Have you done a lot of collaborations with other artists before [Palette to Palate]?

TJ: I honestly don’t like collaborating with other artists, because I’m super selfish. And, people ask me all the time and I just don’t. It’s why I’m not in a band. I just couldn’t.

MTM: Do you have any work up right now?

TJ: I have work up at Hillside Spot in Ahwatukee, Just Blaze in Phoenix, and that’s it for now. This is probably the slowest I’ve been as far as shows. I usually have four or five shows up at a time. I’m just kind of figuring out where I want to go next, I think.

MTM: Do you have any advice for artists who are just getting started or having trouble booking shows?

TJ: If you’re having trouble getting shows, you’re probably being inconsistent in the way you handle people and the way you follow through. Because if you have any follow through, it’s like high school where you show up and you get the gig. Just show up, do what you say you’re going to do and give as much as you can and I think things will work out for you.

If you’re not confident in your skills so far, then seek someone out that is confident or that you think is on the level that you want to be at, and find out how to do what they do.

MTM: You said you’ve had a lot of mentors. Can you talk about the people who have helped you shape what you’re creating now?

TJ: I try to hang out with a lot of people who have a lot of different skills, whether it’s business or art or playing shows or people skills. I think success, you kind of think of it as a one-man gig, and a lot of the time it is, but you don’t always see all the effort and sweat that other people put in to what you’re doing. I just have tons and tons of people to thank for that.

MTM: So, you’re working on a children’s book, too?

TJ: All of my original copies were destroyed, so I am currently reworking that. I was at a bar after my last show, I’m doing a smut magazine that’s an illustrated magazine, free speech, underground, whatever. It’s terrible.

Anyways, after the show, we went to a bar and I ended up getting into a bit of a scuffle there and got punched in the face. My sister gave me an ice pack, but I was like ‘Nah, I want to wear this. I’m proud of this.’ So, I put it down on my desk, and I was a little bit drunk, so I didn’t realize I put it down on top of all of the originals for my book.

I woke up the next day and was like ‘Who the fuck spilled a beer on my book? Goddamnit!’ I was so pissed. And, then I realized it was me.

MTM: Anyone who knows you or has seen your art knows that this childrens book would not be your typical children's book? Am I wrong?

TJ: No, I just wanted to make something that my mom could just show her friends and be like “Look what my son did. I’m so proud of him.” Because, the smut magazine doesn’t do that.

MTM: That’s funny because a lot of authors and artists who make children’s books are doing it so they have something their kid can look at.

TJ: I do not want kids.

MTM: But, you’re saying ‘I want something my mom can look at.’

TJ: Yeah, she’s a therapist, so I feel that would just go really well in her office or her friends would dig it.

MTM: What are you reading, watching, looking at? Anything. What’s inspiring you?

TJ: What am I watching? I read tons of personal development books. How to Win Friends and Influence People, shit like that. That, for me, tends to get boring really quick, so I’ll read the Bible occasionally, just to like give me inspiration there or give me something to laugh at.

What else? I just picked up Tuesdays with Morrie. I love that book. I always read Ayn Rand. Her shit is just the best. She’s the best author.
I try to read everyday. I sit in the bathtub for half an hour everyday and read and that’s my quiet time, my alone time. That usually happens after 12.

MTM: Going back to the Bible. Since I know a little bit about your personal life, you’ve had an interesting relationship with the Bible.

TJ: I was raised Mormon and then kind of fell away from the church. Then, I got into a bunch of trouble and went back to the church, realized that it wasn’t really my bag and kind of just went back to getting into trouble and here I am now.

It’s all just self discovery and finding out what works for you. If it doesn’t work for you, it’s cool. I have no ill will to the Mormon church or any churches unless they’re doing things to hurt people or incite violence.

I got a lot shit for going back to the church, but there were a lot of things that I needed to figure out in that seven or eight month period of time.

You can see Jensen’s work at Palette to Palate, Hillside Spot in Ahwatukee, Just Blaze in Phoenix and Bacon Cat smut magazine.
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