Local illustrator wins national award


Artist’s career began with a child’s drawing kit

Taylor Payton
Taylor Payton

In early April, Illustrators of the Future invited 12 finalists to California in order to compete for the illustrator of the future winner. Of the finalists in attendance, Twin Cities illustrator Taylor Payton made the trip thanks to a submission he considers to be his three best works to date. Payton ended up placing second in the competition.

“It was a gorgeous event,” Payton said of the experience, which he explained consisted of two stages of competition. The first stage was entering the competition of more than a thousand entries out of which 12 finalists were chosen. The competition is heavily based on sci-fi and dark content. In the second stage, finalist illustrators were assigned to writers who also were selected for the contest. Payton was assigned to the storyThe Graver” by Amy Hughes, which Payton describes as “enthralling” and “heart-wrenching” while still a little dark.

Azure Acolyte
Azure Acolyte

“I was really grateful I got the story I got because it actually got me back into fiction after reading it,” said Payton. “I could totally see it as a sci-fi movie.”

While working with Hughes and her story was a great experience, Payton said that he also gained from many of the other offerings. For him the “coolest part” of his trip was being around his peers from all over the world, including illustrators from Korea, China and Taiwan. “Being all connected by one interest, because we love what we do, that part was flooring to me.”

Along with being surrounded by peers came walks down Hollywood Blvd, an award ceremony, and Payton’s favorite part — the free workshops. With great excitement, Taylor explained that he and the other finalists got to learn tips and techniques from industry heavy-hitters like Larry Elmore and Dave Dorman.

Though he did not win first place, Taylor’s illustration for “The Graver” came in second place to “The God Whisperer” illustration by Daniel Davis. “I was sitting there in disbelief,” he said as he described the experience.

Taylor said it all started with an art kit his parents bought when he was a kid in which he would create drawings with his friends at school. Eventually the kit evolved into a Palm Pilot Payton used in his teens, utilizing a doodle application to pass time and keep practicing his craft.

Then Payton attended the Arts Institute International — Minneapolis Campus, where he studied animation and found his true passion to be drawing. “We had to copy five styles from people we admired, and I picked all of the people who I looked up to and brought it to my professor for his approval,” explained Payton. He said his instructor’s response let him know that he didn’t believe Payton had yet honed the skill set needed to complete the task he presented.

“My heart sunk a little bit,” said Payton. “I realized that I hadn’t been practicing drawing [but rather] I had just been animating and trying to make things move, and I couldn’t draw as well as I wanted to. Then this focus just snapped inside of me. I realized I didn’t want to animate, I wanted to paint again, so I went back to the masters.”

Picking up techniques from several artists is what led Payton to accept his award in Los Angeles just a few months ago. At the end of his acceptance speech, which can be found on YouTube, Payton encouraged everyone to dig deep and put themselves into what they do as well as to “pay it forward.”

Following his own words, he offers free training and paid courses through his online site Powerpainter.org, which he tells MSR is a place people can go to learn the basics.



To view some of Taylor Payton’s work, visit his website at taypayart.com.

Khymyle Mims welcomes reader responses to khymylewrites@gmail.com.