Watercolorist Zeek Taylor is no stranger to the art scene in Northwest Arkansas -- but now he will receive statewide recognition as the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Arkansas Art Council's 2012 Governor's Arts Awards program for his contributions over the last 25 years.
"I was totally shocked -- almost to the point of tears I was so happy," he said. "It still hasn't quite sunk in."
Taylor will be presented with the honor at a Little Rock awards luncheon in the fall. The annual Governor's Arts Awards program, sponsored by the Arkansas Arts Council, recognizes individuals and corporations for their support of the arts in the state.
The Eureka Springs artist has worn a variety of hats in the region, including donating time as executive director of the Eureka Springs Artists Registry, a nonprofit organization that represents 436 artists in the Northwest Arkansas area and provides a free webpage to showcase artists' work.
Taylor also serves on the Eureka Springs Mayor's Arts Council and the board of directors for the Eureka Springs Chamber of Commence.
"We're working on creating more outdoor art for the city in parks and other public locations in town," he said. "We're also working on establishing a continuing dialogue with Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville and working on cross-promoting the two art communities together."
In addition, Taylor frequently contributes his art for regional benefits such as the Wine and Roses Gala, a fundraiser for the Donald W. Reynolds Cancer Support House in Fort Smith, and auctions for Youth Home in Little Rock, the Good Shepherd Humane Society and area colleges.
Taylor trained as an oil-based painter and later switched to watercolors early in his career. He studied art and journalism at Arkansas State University and continued his painting education at the Memphis College of the Arts. A native of Marmaduke, he has been a resident of Eureka Springs for the last quarter century and is a former public school art teacher.
"One thing that makes my watercolors look different is because I was never trained as a watercolor painter, so I've sort of approached it as if I were an oil painter," he said. "I use a lot more pigment than I do water so they don't look like traditional waterprints as much. They have a lot more detail and greater depth of color."
Taylor averages four to five art shows a year and enters two to three highly competitive special exhibitions across the state every year.
Some of Taylor's paintings currently are on display at locations including the Out on Main Gallery and Iris at the Basin Park in Eureka Springs and the Bentonville-based Norberta Philbrook Gallery, which was named after one of Taylor's paintings of clothed chimpanzees. Coming up in August, Taylor has a month-long exhibition at the Equality Center Gallery in Tulsa.
"Everything from the scenery to the people is an inspiration in Eureka Springs," he said.
"Several people asked me, 'Since I'm getting the lifetime achievement award, does that mean I'm through?' It totally doesn't," Taylor said. "I'll get up the day after I get the award and paint."
In fact, Taylor gets up every morning to paint, long before the streets crowd with any sign of life. He keeps only a slightly shorter weekend schedule.
"I wake up early and I'm already at work in my mind," Taylor said. "I usually start painting between 4 o'clock and 5 o'clock in the morning and I work till 5 or 6 at night. And if I'm not interrupted, I even forget to eat, I just keep on working."