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Bluebeard Unveiled: Artist and Educator Extraordinaire

Will Taylor, a South & City College Birmingham English tutor and an amazing artist from our Digbeth campus has recently been filmed for an episode of a BBC show called ‘Make it at Market’, which will air on BBC 1 in December. Dom Chinea of ‘The Repair Shop’ collaborates with a group of business and craft specialists to assist aspiring creative entrepreneurs in turning their crafting passion into a sustainable livelihood.

The college caught up with Will to find out more about his art, inspiration, and how it has helped his teaching:

Q: How long have you been at the college and has your role changed over time? Have you always been based at Digbeth?

“I have been at the college for around ten years, but I first worked here about fifteen years ago at Hall Green delivering Key Skills. Since then I have worked across most of the campuses, but have mainly been based at Digbeth. I have taught English consistently during my time at SCCB. The majority of my delivery has been at GCSE level, however, I have delivered a lot of Functional Skills too.”

Q: Can you tell us about your journey as an artist?

“I have always created art – drawing, painting and I even spent a year learning glass-blowing at evening classes. But it didn’t become a true passion until about 2019 when I first drew something that I thought somebody might feel was worth exchanging cold, hard cash for.

Things were a little quiet during Covid, but in 2021 I took my art out in public for the first time to sell it from a stall at a rock festival; less than a year later, in mid-2022, I had my first solo exhibition and this year I have been filming with the BBC for a programme about amateur artists turning professional. I used to work in pencil but hated the way graphite would spread over the paper and make it grubby. To avoid this, I moved to drawing in ink, but the challenge then was to create the subtle shading you can do with a pencil, and dot-work (or pointillism) was my solution. Initially, I used fine liner felt-tip pens, but now use draughtsmen’s pens and old fashioned dip pens – the ones with metal nibs that you dip into a pot of ink.”

Q: Tell us more about this TV programme?

“’Make it at Market’ had its debut series last year and I am going to be in the second series which should start airing in December this year. It takes amateur artists in a wide range of media – this series includes stone carvers, willow weavers, embroiderers, and me – and helps propel their careers forward into a place where they could become full-time professionals in their chosen field.

Each half-hour episode features the story of two artists. The series is initially aired in a daytime slot on BBC1, around 3pm/4pm, but episodes from the first series are now being reshown at prime-time evening slots and getting viewing figures of nearly 1.5m. There are talks in place for the show to be transmitted on BBC America sometime after its first showing in the UK.”

Q: Do you incorporate art into your teaching methods, and have you seen any positive impacts on student engagement and learning?

“Having seen how having a passion and a goal can transform your life, has given me a new way to talk to students about their futures and their plans. Running my own business selling my art online, through galleries, and in person has also given me insights that have informed my teaching to our students who often have entrepreneurial goals and projects in mind. When teaching students from creative subjects all the elements come together and there is an opportunity to be completely authentic with the students and try to get them to understand the vast range of skills and attitudes that they already have and which they should seize at SCCB to develop so that they can achieve their dreams in the future.”

Pen drawing of a toad by Will Taylor, Bluebeard Art. Titled My New Familiar

Q: Could you describe the inspiration behind your work and the message you aim to convey through your art?

“There is a strong spiritual message in my work, when I draw animals for example, they are the ones that strike a special chord within us or which have specific significance in mythology, and different religions and belief systems. A lot of my work mixes the every day and the spiritual/mythological. We can never fully escape the stories our ancestors have told, we are surrounded and infused by beliefs that span many centuries. My images try to remind us of them, to make them clearer in our daily existence.”

Pen drawing by Will Taylor, Bluebeard Art titled White Stag

Q: As both a teacher and an artist, you have a unique perspective on the intersection of education and creativity. What advice would you give to students who aspire to pursue their artistic passions while also excelling in their academic studies?

“There are a lot of great designers, writers, artists who never get to share their gifts with the world, who die unknown with their gift wasted. Occasionally true genius breaks through, but to find your passion, develop it, share it with the world, and make it your life, takes every skill, every advantage, and every ounce of determination you can find.

If you have the chance to gather and improve any skill, whether you think it aligns with your personal mission or not, take that chance, gather every possible power you can to succeed, every possible tool that might help you build your dream.”

Q: Thank you so much Will for your time. How can people see more of your work and find out more?

“My website is the best place and you can follow me on Instagram BlueBeardArt”