Caps Off to the Many Layers of Spray Artist, Bill Taggart aka Dadsocks

I met this New Jersey gentleman in Tempe, Arizona of all places and have seen art in new light ever since. Bill Taggart is a cultural chameleon, sharp mind and brilliant muralist.

When Taggart clocks off and removes the tie he steps into the shoes of Dadsocks and tames every canvas.

Frankly, this cat deserves a story because it's about time his work blows up and I'm sick of seeing an overly-skilled genius remain under-hyped.

Now let me steal your eyes for a moment and guide you into the world of intelligent street art through the wise words of Dadsocks.

anticipate the reaction to an action

How do you see the world?

I think I view the world differently than most artists. With a background in Finance and having worked multiple corporate jobs, I tend to think much more analytically than I do synthetically. Or simply, I’m more of a linear thinker who tries to anticipate the reaction to an action. I think that’s why I gravitated towards stencil art. There are set rules and predictable reactions to every layer that’s sprayed. This has definitely shaped the way I view everything around me; from my relationships to the way I view geopolitical situations. I understand that relationships and the delicate balance of something like Ukrainian and Russian relations are nowhere near as predictable as a painting but for me linear thinking helps me organize the chaos of my thoughts and cut out the fat, for lack of a better term.

every time you press a cap it has to be intentional

Describe the feel of spray paint as a medium

Especially when combined with stencils, it provides immediacy to your labor that other mediums can’t.

There’s always one layer in a stencil painting where the image comes to life and you can begin to see your process is working out. When that happens, it’s an incredible feeling of satisfaction and you learn to trust yourself and your abilities more because of it.

The downsides to this are that every time you press a cap it has to be intentional. Once it’s on that canvas there isn’t much you can do to work with it like oils or acrylics. You either deal or make the necessary corrections. It can be frustrating at times but it’s always rewarding taming a medium that most people find a mystery.

Would you say your pieces scream or whisper?

I would say they definitely whisper, if it doesn’t remain mute, the message I’m trying to portray. I feel like most art is whispering some grandiose idea that most onlookers would never pull from a piece. I like the idea of approaching a new painting with an idea in mind for myself and allowing others to pull their own meaning out of it; ask ten people and get ten different answers kind of thing.

When you step into the dadsocks mentality how does it differ from office Bill?

To be honest, other than loving the work I’m doing, the mentality doesn’t change much. The corporate world has processes for everything and straying from them will get you in trouble. For me I treat my process for painting the same way. Stencil art requires some serious focus and organization from building the stencils with drawing programs, like Photoshop and Illustrator, to cutting them out (by hand or machine cut) to spraying. The moment you get lazy with the process you will see the effects in the finished product.

To be honest, other than loving the work I’m doing, the mentality doesn’t change much

I also have seen a lot of people burned by the disorganization of artists in the past and I want to redeem the perception people have of artists with professionalism, great service, and organized communication. It sounds drab and slightly anal but it goes a long way to bringing a great experience for any clients I get or galleries I interact with.

10 crucial elements/tools to your craft?

  1.  Computer and drawing programs: I use Photoshop and Illustrator but there are some incredible freeware programs out there like GIMP and Inkscape.
  2. A high quality photo or photo of a drawing
  3.  Large Format Printer provided to you by Kinkos
  4.  1mm or less thick chipboard (thin dense cardboard that’s flexible and durable and perfect for machine cut stencils)
  5.  Xacto Knife
  6.  Laser Cutter
  7.  Montana GOLD or Montana 94 Spray Paint
  8. Painters Tape
  9.  Something to paint on
  10.  Some serious patience and diligence

How does the SW art scene measure up to what you’ve seen around the world?

I’m really not into the SW art scene that is thriving here in Arizona. Most of what galleries are selling here are the Double C’s – Cactus and Cowboys- alongside depictions of First Nations people in head dresses for the tourists. With that being said there is an awesome mural culture budding in downtown Phoenix but it’s not promoted well and largely unknown,if you aren’t actively seeking out events or new works. It absolutely pales in comparison to LA and NY scenes mostly because that’s where the money is flowing to artists and where they can gain the most exposure. I’m hoping there’s a shift in the southwest soon that creates an environment for contemporary, street art styled work, which is not abstract expressionism, to become desirable to local collectors. It’s happening in the other US art hubs like Miami, New York, and LA so it is only a matter of time before Scottsdale housewives want some stencil art in their homes instead of a $40 million dollar line.

Can you put a finger on street art?

I don’t think street art is amorphous. I think that the amorphous claims come into play when legislators start having conversations about the differences between street art and graffiti.

Why are some street artists protected and others labeled as vandals and prosecuted?

I don’t have a definite answer to this question as I wouldn’t label myself as a street artist but I do see all forms of art done in the public realm as street art; illegal or legal, tags to murals.The simplest reasoning behind the disconnect street art has with its roots in Graffiti is how they are treated by law enforcement. There are plenty of resources on this subject by much more qualified people.

RJ Rushmore writes a blog called Vandalog and has written extensively on street art in a scholarly fashion; current and historical.

it is only a matter of time before Scottsdale housewives want some stencil art

Describe the lifetime of a piece.

The Elephant mural took approximately 30 to 40 hours to complete from design to the completion of painting.

The Lions took 50 to 60 hours.

The process for my murals is slightly different than my canvas work. Rather than cutting out individual stencils for each layer aligning them on the wall and spraying we use a much more tedious but efficient process. Because of this they require a lot of help. I paint all of my murals with a partner named Mark Gabriel Laos under the moniker of Reel Feel.

Using a projector, we outline each layer or template with the designated color by hand with a ½ inch brush. Once the outline is done I’ll hand spray the fill to complete each layer. Over time I’ve really enjoyed the mural process more than creating the stencils. It requires much more continuous labor but it is much more intimate and requires much more trust in my stencil process.

Where has the pursuit of art taken you both metaphorically and geographically?

Geographically, just in Arizona, but I may have some opportunities to paint murals in Seattle and California in the near future. My hope is that this could take us all over the country and abroad in the near future.

Metaphorically, it has taken me to new levels of confidence socially and in my ability to commit to things and see them through. I used to be pretty Laissez-faire about life and what I committed  time to. Pursuing art has allowed me to be intentional about what I’m doing, who I’m doing it with, and am I being responsible in how I’m cultivating it.

5  tips for aspiring artists

  1.  The best thing I could have watched as an artist was a short two minute video by David Liu. It’s a motion graphic video with audio from Ira Glass, the founder and host of This American Life on NPR. His words in this short clip were so inspiring and kept me from quitting art all together. I would highly recommend everyone watch this and take every word to heart. 
  2.  Be vulnerable and be able to take criticism. Put yourself out there, make mistakes, and learn from them.
  3.  Stop getting frustrated when the quality of work in galleries is worse than yours. Use it as a confidence booster and contact the gallery. Not every gallery is booked all year and they will have cancellations. You never know until you try. If you’re not going and visiting your local galleries, Start! You’ll learn a lot about where you’re work needs to be and might be surprised with the quality of what is showing right now and give you just the confidence you need to step out.
  4. Start building an online presence. I’m still working on this but it’s incredibly important.
  5. Be professional. Act like you know what you’re doing even when you don’t know what you’re doing. The art world is a mystery to even most artists and especially potential clients for commissioned work.

How has social media shaped your craft?

It hasn’t necessarily shaped my craft itself as much as helped promote it. Having the ability to share my work with people all over the globe from a 3 inch screen is incredible and motivates me to create more work more often to satisfy followers looking for fresh content.

What about doubt?

It keeps my design clean and simple. I don’t doubt enough to keep me from stepping outside of my comfort zone entirely but it helps me dumb ideas down to what’s possible with stencils and spray paint. It also helps me keep things interesting and new. I’m always excited when I doubt a new process but give it a try anyway and it works out!

On your horizon?

I have my first solo gallery show at Revival Art Collective on May 16, 2014 in Phoenix, AZ.

It’s untitled but I want to speak to some of the issues happening in Ukraine and all of the pieces have been inspired by photos of the protests.

Other than that I am open for commissions for canvas pieces and murals big or small!


Peep These, Too