Gabrielle Brace

From an Art Graduate


When I first looked at Norman Taylor’s work I was aware I was being presented with just a cross-section of a life’s work. The images I saw straddle decades and genres with such casual, effortless eclecticism I might have thought these were the works of several artists.

I could see his work ranged from bold woodcuts and masterful ink drawings, full of stark lighting, architecture and contrast. “One image which stood out was Norman Taylor’s drawing of a 1940s pinup who is conjured in just a few expressive lines and there she pouts; sultry, flimsy, fun”.

I felt sure that I was looking at a strong graphic artist.

But quite aside from print making and black ink, Norman Taylor was a talented watercolourist.

I feel that perhaps what makes his watercolours especially good is the application of one medium’s sensibility to another. This same aptitude for graphic imagery has been applied to the wishy-washy medium. It might seem, at first, a diffuse body of work but this cross-disciplinary approach could be what made these paintings impressive; because creating a great watercolour is all about knowing when to stop.

In his painting of Rozelle Close, the house is rendered with the same precision as the aeroplane diagrams he drew for a living. While the bungalow has an authoritative geometry, the garden makes use of the watercolour’s natural behaviour to become more loose, more fluid and unpredictable. “The tree the centre of the painting is so obviously painted, offering a pleasing contrast to the bricks behind”.

So many fall at the first hurdle of watercolour, myself included: you didn’t like the first mark you made and it just got worse from there.  To be a great watercolourist you need to start confidently and stop before you over work it. In fact, stop before you even think about over working it because there’s no going back. It is clear Norman Taylor was totally in control of this unpredictable and un-correctable medium

The connecting thread that runs though Norman Taylor’s varied work is an absolute certainty of when to stop. It is this which makes his paintings so successful; he knows when to meticulously build a wall and when to make a gesture of a flower bed.

Gabrielle Brace, BA (Hons) Illustration, Hereford College of Arts