By David Willard
The artists of downtown Winston-Salem have worked hard to help make the downtown area a place of unique visual experiences. Their work and personalities have helped shape what has become a place to let the mind’s eye explore the talents of these extraordinary craftsmen. This month’s artist is Cindy Taplin, and her journey to the Arts District began as a hometown Forsyth County girl.
Taplin spent her life calling Forsyth County home, growing up in Kernersville and Walkertown. She later attended East Forsyth High School and then Salem College, where she received her degree in mathematics. Taplin used her degree to become a math tutor for several years before finally pursuing her passion for art on a full-time basis.
“I always loved making art, but I didn’t start painting and showing my work until I was in my early forties, about ten years ago. I became friends with Steven Jones when he was managing Realis Gallery on Trade Street, and after I showed him my work he offered to hang my paintings for a month. That was in 2006. Soon after that, Mike Coe started renovating the building that became Artists on Liberty. Steven was designing the studios and asked me to share a space with him. That’s when I think that it became real to me: I was an artist working every day in my studio in the Arts District,” says Taplin.
Taplin’s educational pursuits at Salem College in mathematics have also found their way into her art. “I think I would call my style contemporary realism. I love abstract art and experimented, and still play with that from time to time. After much trial and error and beating myself up about not being loose enough or creative enough, I discovered that realism is what I really enjoy and it’s what I do well. My architectural paintings are a way to combine my love of mathematics and art and mechanical structures. The landscapes come from my love of nature. I’m fortunate in that I am able to travel often, and both the landscapes and architectural paintings are a way to share the places I discover and love with other people,” she continues.
Taplin’s other influences for her work, ironically, come from areas other than the art world. “I think my place paintings are more influenced by literature than by other artists, especially Thomas Hardy and Willa Cather. Their books make me want to see the landscape that inspired their stories. Wendell Berry makes me want to walk in the woods and to paint trees and meadows. When I’m trying to figure out how to get a shadow just right, or to simplify a composition, I go to one of my many art books. Probably most frequently I turn to Rackstraw Downes for detail or to Georgia O’Keeffe for simplification. My favorite painter is Mark Rothko. My work is nothing like his, but I hope that some of my pieces evoke the feeling of peace that I get from his big paintings,” she adds.
Taplin’s catalog of work is a testament to her dedication to her craft, but it is her outlook on her field that drives her. “Art is a way of life to me. I’m always working, even when I’m not in the studio. Observation is just as important as painting. Looking and really seeing is the most important skill for an artist. I hope that people will remember my work, and want to see more. I would like for a viewer to realize that extraordinary beauty can be found in the most ordinary places,” concludes Taplin.
Cindy Taplin has spent her life in the Forsyth County area and is now living her dream in the area that helped prepare her to do it. The window she opened to chase her ambition of being a full-time artist was in her own backyard. Now, she is working every day in her studio to keep making that dream a reality. It’s a reality that is being lived out in many studios in downtown Winston-Salem.