Mentoring Speaker: Brian Taylor

In the month of May, editorial illustrator Brian Taylor visited the West Potomac Academy graphic design classes in Alexandria, Virginia. Brian has done work for a multitude of clients, including The New York Times, Wired magazine, Fast Company, The Wall Street Journal and many more. As this was the first illustrator the students have had present in several months, they were visibly eager to hear him speak and see examples of his work.

“Remember, if you find yourself stuck creatively, get away from the computer.” Brian Taylor

An open dialogue formed quickly between him and the class, even considering the early hour, and it immediately put everyone at ease. Brian gave a brief overview of his commercial art education at George Mason University and quickly began breaking down the insides of the illustration industry to the students.

“Take the time to develop your illustration style,” he instructed, “but as an artist, if it needs to evolve, let it.” Adding that when the students come to the point of submitting work to art directors, they will first need to make sure they know the style of the publication to which they’re submitting. Work that does not match that style will most likely not be accepted, he warned.

The students interjected their inquiries here and there throughout the talk, but one in particular peppered Brian with four or five in quick succession. This led everyone else in the room to believe the young man would next ask about what Brian ate for breakfast or the name of his first pet. We all enjoyed the enthusiasm and chuckled at the experience.

Next, Brian described his creative process, highlighting a hybrid workflow of both traditional analog illustration with finalization and refinement on the computer. He said that for pieces he knows will be printed (as opposed to being published on the Web), he will draw the original 150 percent larger than what the final piece will run.

Taylor 1

Throughout his presentation, Brian showed colorful examples of his work. He also handed out beautifully printed postcards and passed around a complete magazine he designed for himself to showcase his work to potential clients. He mentioned the transformation his work has taken over the years, especially when it came to color palette.

As the conversation died down, Brain presented a short editorial illustration assignment to the class. He gave each student a blank sheet of paper and boxes of Sharpies in various colors.

“Your assignment” he said, “is to create a drawing depicting a job interview done completely online, through the Web.” The students seemed a bit stumped by this at first, but as Brian gave further explanation and showed examples, they began sketching.

As the students worked, the class fell silent in concentration. The final result yielded a considerable amount of thought toward the final product, which included two hands shaking through a computer screen, faces drawn into the frame of a monitor, and two mouths connected by a system of wires.

As the presentation for May wrapped up, Brian walked through the classroom, quietly reviewing some of the students’ great illustrations. Drawing on years of experience, Brian gave students final advice.

Taylor 2

“Remember, if you find yourself stuck creatively, get away from the computer.”

The AIGA Mentoring Speaker Series has come to a close for the year and all are excited for the list of possibilities that next year’s series will bring.

More photos can be found on Flicker. Banner illustrations at top by Brian Taylor. Photos by Mariesa Dale.

Mariesa Dale is an AIGA Washington DC Chapter member and Creative Director for SolidDC ( She covers the monthly AIGA DC Mentoring Speaker Series at West Potomac Academy located in Alexandria, Virginia. For more information about this initiative or to speak at WPA, please contact Dian Holton at dian(at)aigadc(dot)org

By Mariesa Dale
Published June 13, 2013