EVERETT — The hubbub over the wine and appetizers ceased as Sam Taylor stepped up to the black cloth.
About 10 people watched as the brawny man with a bushy handlebar mustache pulled down the cloth to unveil his latest painting, an abstraction of a circle surrounded by orange transitioning to blue and black titled “A Sunny Day in Everett.”
The room erupted in applause.
What’s up with that?
Taylor’s home is the unofficial art gallery of Lago de Plata Villa, an over-55 manufactured home park on 112th Street S.E. near Interstate 5 in Everett.
This day was special.
“I’ve never had an unveiling,” said Taylor, 73, a retired trucker and bus driver. “This is the first one.”
He invited the neighbors to see his new painting — and the neighbors invited The Daily Herald.
“Our resident painter is unique,” Colleen Casler and Kathey Tappen wrote in an email. “He paints with previously used house painters drop cloths and leftover house paint. We are attaching two of his paintings to show how striking they are and how talented Sam is. We are so proud of him and hope you would consider featuring him in your What’s Up With That? column.”
Striking indeed were the images of a bold red-and-black abstract and a subdued representation of a flowering tree.
It was a preview of the 30 paintings of all shapes and colors on display at the house he shares with Deidre, his wife.
A tiny shed in the back is his workshop, in addition to a studio in a spare room inside.
“I’m kind of the Home Depot artist,” he said. “You can buy a drop cloth that’s really large for very little, for pennies compared to canvas. House paint you can get mixed the color you want.”
He also uses burlap. “A woman gave me 300 burlap sacks. She was giving them away on Craigslist,” he said.
The cloth is cut and stretched over a frame he makes of wood or foam board.
“I add stuff to the paint so there’s texture,” Taylor said. “There’s this powdery crap that thickens the paint or I grind up paper and put that in the paint.”
Spatulas and house paint brushes are his main tools to make the strokes.
Sometimes, he uses Super Soaker water guns, aiming from high and low.
“The red-and-black painting, I had to get up on a ladder,” he said.
Ever resourceful, he squeezes paint from plastic ketchup and mustard bottles, using side-dish lids from Kentucky Fried Chicken to mix colors.
The paintings are organic. “It’s just from my head,” Taylor said. “The first one I ever sold was just sky, water and hills and I called it ‘Sailboat’ and people said, ‘Where’s the sailboat?’ There was no sailboat.”
Taylor’s handle is @WorkingMansArt on Facebook and Instagram.
His influence is Franz Klein, an abstract expressionist of the 1950s that he learned about in college in the 1970s.
Taylor earned an associate degree in art at Shoreline Community College, but didn’t consider art as a livelihood.
“Me and Deidre, we were making kids and stuff,” he said. “I went, ‘I don’t want to be poor.’ My dad was a Teamster.”
The couple lived in Brier for 32 years and raised two daughters. He drove a truck and dispatched for The Seattle Times, finishing out his work career as a King County Metro bus driver.
“At no point in my life did I ever think I would be an artist,” Taylor said.
He started painting after his wife’s first attack of multiple sclerosis 30 years ago, before the disease was under control.
”At the beginning she slept 20 hours a day,” he said. “I was rattling around the house and had to find something to do or I was going to drive myself crazy. So I went out to the garage and I just started. I started filling up the house. The girls said, ‘Hey, Dad, we think you should sell some of this?’”
He had a show in Seattle about 15 years ago.
“I sold 12 pieces and I said, ‘Whoa, I must be an artist.’ That spurs you on,” he said.
He’d like to have another show. Paintings are priced $400 to $1,200.
The drop cloths and burlap give him two-sided options. Some look better from the other side the way the paint seeps through the cloth.
“I do the front and if I don’t like it I look at the back,” Taylor said.
If he still doesn’t like it, it’s not the end.
The rejects are rolled up on a shelf, waiting for inspiration to strike.