Writing and Photography by James Lock
CARS ROLLED down narrow Savannah streets as I waited on the sidewalk in the sweltering sun. Local church bells hung lazily in the hazy light and mingled with the sounds of traffic. Tayler Ayers, running late, hastily pulled up in his white Chevy Tahoe – his signature "TEA" tag visible on the back window – and hopped out into the warm Georgia evening. His white shirt, black pants, and tattoo-covered arms matched his SUV, while his Braves hat gave homage to his hometown. He called to me from a block away and apologized before we walked into his apartment to sit down and talk about his artistic career.
Tayler Ayers is an artist and designer "currently based everywhere" but residing in Savannah--for the time being. He graduated in 2019 from Savannah College of Art and Design with a degree in fibers and earned a master's in creative business leadership in 2021, also from SCAD.
The first thing that became apparent when meeting Tayler was his openness and honesty. That openness is seen in his work, usually bold, hand-written quotes painted on a white or black background. However, he wasn't always interested in painting. Tayler's artistic career began in industrial design until a professor pointed him towards the fine arts and suggested fibers. "Initially, the painting started with writing. So like, me just writing about falling in love for the first time, yada yada yada, meeting a girl, new experiences, whatnot." The open-ended fibers department allowed more room for Tayler's fine art tendencies as opposed to the rigorous industrial design program. "Fibers was more open-ended. I could kind of do whatever I wanted to."
Tayler's process is driven by curiosity. Claiming he is more curious than he is creative. "I'm curious about some niche YouTube video and then like this conversation that this international family is having at Foxy Loxy's courtyard and then like this conversation between these two students in this foundations class. And I just take in so much information." He then sifts through the ideas and curiosities of the day and boils them down to something within his experience that inspires a quote. Not just trivial incidents, however. Tyler's process is about taking a real topic and finding a digestible, sometimes funny way, of starting a conversation with and in his work.
For example, he recently created a piece that reads, "NUDES ARE DOPE BUT DO YOU MEDITATE?" It's that idea that "yeah, [nudes are] cool, but like, let me see your therapist's receipts. So it's okay, cool; how can I talk about these things that I experience or that you might experience but make it digestible. So you could laugh, but you could also be like, oh, it's funny, but there's some truth in that too, you know?" Tayler starts writing down ideas as soon as he thinks of them. There's not much time from the moment an idea enters his head to when it becomes legible on a canvas. It's that simple. "I have an all-in method approach to like basically 95% of my life. I'm just going to throw myself at it and just figure it out. So that's literally my process, to be honest." Ayers' process has lead to many notable works, some even visible in Savannah. You've probably seen his trademarked "TEA" tag or his murals in the Starland District.
However, when asked which piece means the most to him, Tayler reacted, "Oh, Jesus, dude. I wouldn't say there's a single piece. I mean, when people get my work tattooed, that means a lot. Like it's one thing if someone gets a painting, like yeah, I get that, you know, they may
move to a different house, or they may put it in a closet. When someone gets a tattoo of your work, that's on you regardless if you outgrow my work at some point. So that means a lot." In particular, Tayler's quote "Love is never for nothing, even if it's not forever" means the most. "That one meant a lot to me just because, like, I've had six girlf friends, and I
thought I was gonna marry three or four of them each man... When I love, I love deep, like super hard. And breakup, they sink me, they sink my dog. And there are those feelings that you experience with being broke up with or breaking up with a person, and its something I've learned is...just because y'all didn't last forever and y'all don't talk anymore, that love is still there, and you learn something from that, and it's not just wasted."
Another notable work for Tayler is the Black Lives Matter mural collaboration, commissioned by SCAD and displayed on the SCAD Atlanta building. That "was crazy to me because... I've passed this building since I was ten years old. And I had all my friends from all my different schools or hadn't even talked to [tell me] 'Dude, I was just driving down 95 and I looked up, I was like bro, is that your work?' And it's a crazy feeling to be like, oh, like I did that in my apartment, in Savannah, during quarantine. Now it's on the side of [SCAD- Atlanta]." However, the success seen by Tayler comes at an expense. His work is a direct extension of himself. His current Instagram account is the same account he's had since he was twelve.
The veil between public and private on social media is virtually non-existent. "It's also just not a real separation like I'm sending memes from the same account. It's not like I can leave it at home. Dealing with that is very hard, and dude, just like, it consumes your whole world, especially since that's how I was eating." However, the lack of separation has emboldened him to post anything regardless of what other people think. "That is hard as hell. So ya, it's a lot. I am a very very blessed man, but this stuff, there's a lot of times where you're asking yourself how committed are you to this. Like if your, not 100 percent in, this probably isn't it for you, like nah. It's you have to be obsessed. It's like my rant on that man. I literally get to wake up and get paid for being myself, and I'm still in my 20s. I don't think I could ask for a better job for that. But it is a lot to think about because there are no major, there's no blueprint, there are no books on how this works. I'm learning." It's why meditation is huge to Ayers. "Mental health is a huge thing for me. I mean, getting sober was a huge thing for me. Talking to myself, to be honest, like looking at myself in the mirror and just actually slowing down and saying, hey, you need to enjoy the process before you can enjoy the fruits of your work. I'm really open with my stuff on Instagram, probably to a fault. Like I am very open, and I think talking to other people. Meditating, reading, going on walks, I think I eat pretty clean so that helps me as well. I just started taking Lexapro as well. I have high functioning anxiety, so I have to do some stuff to combat it sometimes and help myself out." Yet it's the vulnerability that makes Tayler Ayers a successful artist – his thoughts painted heavy on a solid canvas for all to see.