One the best parts of my job as Assistant Merchandising Manager of the Museum store is that I get to oversee our regional craft program. I enjoy interacting with the many artists that participate in our program. So I was definitely looking forward to sitting down with Eureka Springs watercolorist Zeek Taylor. Zeek is an Arkansas native with strong ties to his community. Using a dry brush technique on clay board he paints many different subjects, but he is best known for his chimpanzees. Why chimps one might ask? Zeek’s first chimp painting began as an assignment for a decorative pillow company. They requested a clothed chimp for one of the pillowtop images. The subject matter was fun and whimsical, and it offered Zeek the opportunity to combine his interest in costuming and storytelling. The subject matter stuck with him. He loved making up the stories that went along with each chimpanzee. The theme is chosen first and from there the story and personality emerges.
Zeek’s decision to become an artist all started in the first grade when he won an art contest. His medium was crayon and paper and the prize was a delicious Chick-o-Stick fit to satisfy any first-grader’s sweet tooth. From that point on Zeek was hooked on art. Though the rewards have changed significantly, he still enjoys the prize. Today appreciation of his art is one of the most rewarding parts of his work. Art is an obsession for Zeek, but he loves every minute of it. He checks his ever-present to-do list each day to keep new ideas at the ready. At work in his home studio, you might find him giggling as he paints a new subject while listening to a variety of music that includes Pink, funky bluegrass, and classical. His motivation is the pleasure of creating something that is sure to entertain others. And he doesn’t mind if you call his work “pretty.”
With so much to do and so little time, Zeek says he might consider simplifying this year—but on second thought, probably not. In addition to his art, his commitment to the arts in Northwest Arkansas remains high on his priority list and keeps him very busy. Zeek has been a part of Crystal Bridges since before it was built. He sought out ways to be involved, and he became a connection between the soon-to-be Museum and the arts and cultural community of Eureka Springs. Now he is a regular fixture at Museum events and he visits often to find inspiration in the collection of American artists. Some of his favorites include Andrew Wyeth and John Singer Sargent— admiring both the composition and techniques of these and many other artists.
Viewing Zeek’s work is a stress-free art experience. He asks nothing of the viewer except to experience the joy, laughter, and whimsy of his chimpanzees. Zeek does have some favorites though, and now they have been compiled in a new book titled Chimps Having Fun. Zeek will debut the book at the Museum Store on Saturday, January 17. He will be in the store from noon to 4 pm to sign books and prints. Come out and meet him!