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Gary Taxali was born in Chandigarh, India in 1968; a year later, his family immigrated to Toronto, Canada. Encouraged by his parents, Gary took art classes as a child which eventually led him to pursue an art education. He graduated from the Ontario College of Art in 1991 and immediately began working as a professional illustrator. A few years later, he began showing in exhibitions and galleries. In 2005, he launched his first vinyl toy, "The Toy Monkey," which included a special edition created for the Whitney Museum of American Art. He's currently working on his next mass production toy figures, "Oh No" and "Oh Oh" and This Is Silly, a children's book to be published in 2009 by Scholastic. Gary also devotes a portion of his time lecturing and teaching at various arts organizations and schools in the U.S. and Canada.

02.27.08

Illustration Isn't Art but Illustrators Are Artists

Have you always been able to draw or was it a skill you learned in college? I don’t think one can learn to draw in college. While they’re certainly honed in art school, if one doesn’t possess basic drawing skills no amount of school will help. However, one can learn how to better see and connect that to two dimensional interpretations in order to effectively communicate.

What was your first paid assignment? It was a spot illustration for Toronto Life magazine on male aggression. I was still a student and didn’t know how the whole sketch/final thing worked with art directors. I basically walked into the art director’s office and presented her with three originals with no prior sketches sent. She laughed, picked one and explained to me in two minutes how illustrators work with clients. I learned more in those two minutes than I did in four years of a dysfunctional art school education.

Which illustrator (or fine artist) do you most admire? Nevermind artists. I admire rock musicians. My goal is to go back in time and be Wayne Kramer from MC5. (I can’t play a guitar though, so maybe things are best left the way they are.)

What would you be doing if you weren’t an illustrator? I used to work for Canada Post on the loading docks. I don’t really have any other skills so I guess stacking mail bags infested with mites and rat droppings would have been my day job.

From where do your best ideas originate? The Junction—an area northwest of the city core of downtown Toronto. It’s next to the train tracks and in a Portuguese neighborhood filled with churrasco joints. Home sweet home.

How do you overcome a creative block? Who has the luxury of time for creative blocks when you have a string of perpetual deadlines chasing you? I admire those who have time to dissect the minutiae of their creative exploits. No working illustrator has that luxury.

In one word describe how you feel when beginning a new assignment? Sexy.

Do you have a personal philosophy? What did Bill Murray say in Meatballs? Oh yeah, “It just doesn't matter.”

Do you have creative pursuits other than illustration? I’m a DJ and that gives me sheer joy. No requests, please.

What music are you listening to right now? “Sugar Sandwich” by Toronto’s own The Leather Uppers. It’s garage rock brilliance.

What's your favorite quote? “We've gone on holiday by mistake” --Withnail (from Bruce Robinson's film Withnail and I)

Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? Perseverance is your ticket to a successful career. Create personal work, at least one piece every week. Your ideas are better than any art director’s so don't let them feed you concepts. Style should not drive the picture; the picture should drive the style. Illustration isn't art but illustrators are artists. Don’t ponder why some people do bad work and become household names, it’s the nature of the industry. Lastly, if you don’t feel sexy, you don’t look sexy.

What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? Nobody knows, better than me, what’s good for my career. Well, Steve Heller does—but nobody else.