Run! Punk Run!
IN CONVERSATION WITH TAYLER AYERS
Hey, it's Travis.
Hey, How's it going, man?
Good! You know, my girlfriend and I just went and bought a bunch of plants. We went to the hardware store here and bought a bunch of plants, had to take ‘em back on the bus because we don't have a car, so it was kind of funny. Thanks for being cool and letting me push this back an hour. What are you up to?
Right on. I’m currently fulfilling orders for this release we had last weekend. So I’m trying to fulfill a bunch of things before I head out of town tomorrow.
That's cool. Yeah, I wanna get into all that. But first, can you introduce yourself?
Yeah. My name's Tayler. I’m 26 years old, and I'm based in Carrollton, Georgia.
What's Carrollton like?
You know, deep South. It's cool, it's my hometown, but in general it's definitely an interesting environment to be working in.
Where do you usually go running?
Here in Carrollton, Ga we have a beautiful trail called the Greenbelt. I run there, or around the city. Imagine a small southern town with a lot of soul. Throw in a mixture of an up and coming downtown scene surrounded by postcard style country roads and overwhelming woods. And back in Savannah I would run the Talmadge bridge that connect Ga to South Carolina and run through downtown. Savannah is a coastal city combined with a Southern yet progressive energy. I’ve been all over the world, but Savannah has the best sunsets/sunrises. Especially for AM/PM runs.
What was your introduction to running?
Honestly, sobriety. I got sober about three years ago, I was coming out of a really big depressive state. I grew up playing tennis, but I wanted to get away from that. So I started running a lot, and got even heavier into it when I got back to Savannah where I’m doing a lot of bridge runs…. you know, seven milers. I’ve been getting after it. I just needed something that was meditative and running is that for me, meditative and calming and I’m able to kind of just black out… you're forced to be super present with yourself.
What do you usually think about when you're out there running?
I think about myself. Not in a narcissistic way, but in a self improvement way. Maybe I’ll think about designs or a direction I wanna move in. If I'm struggling with something, I’ll go on a run. But also I try to just run and stay in tune with running. I feel like if my mind is racing and I’m also running, I’m exhausting myself and not fully present. So I try to think about stuff, but also be super present in the action, and be thankful, man. Truthfully, if anyone has the luxury or the ability to have a healthy heart, two legs and not be disabled or unable to like exercise - that's a blessing, man. To be able to go on a run today… some people can't even walk, and I think about that a lot. I'm able to maintain a level of physical health which allows me to do this, so I try to be incredibly grateful for my well being.
What did you learn this year about life that you didn't know last year?
I learned that things do get better and there's always a flow to things. I think it's so important, man. It's, uh I thought about it a lot last year, but, like, as I've gotten older, the stress of life of trying to figure out how to make things work never really goes away. But if you're able to learn from each past month or each past year and apply those lessons to the future, then while things don't get easier, your threshold to deal with those things get stronger.
What does activism mean to you?
It’s a daily stride towards righting the wrongs and speaking up for people who don't have a voice. It's taking a point of view and taking a stance on something. I really pride myself because that’s the kind of work that I do in a sense. I'm not afraid to put my foot down. Here's where I stand. It’s easy for one to do that when you’re around the same five people and in a vacuum. But it's a lot harder to do on the social media platforms in front of people who don't know you. I think activism is taking your stance and something that I really hold close to my heart.
How does art resonate as a tool for activism for you?
Art has always been a voice for the people. It’s the closest man made element of humanity. It’s the epitome of community and rising above so I’ve found that art is my vessel for my messages. Art is the fast lane on a highway, so often times that’s why it’s very uncomfortable to others. It’s the driving force of culture. The voices of creatives all around the world drastically shape the direction of the world.
What causes do you support? And how can people get involved or help in any way?
Black Lives Matter for sure. That's a behemoth massive thing, But there's an organization in Savannah I’m super passionate about it's called Deep Center, and it helps under privileged at risk, low income families. The organization provides a writing center for kids with traumatic experiences in underserved communities, and it allows them to deal with some of the traumas and whatnot through creative and expressive ways instead of resorting to the streets.
You mentioned earlier that because you were an advocate for children in foster care... could you elaborate on that and what that work means to you?
Totally. I was adopted at birth by two white people. Being black and living in a different world other than how a lot of black kids with similar situations grew up was and is VERY interesting. It’s also the source for my biggest insecurities and my often over focus on independence. I explain my situation as this...silver spoon but it rusted over time. Certain privileges are still existent and certain ones are not. Given my situation, alongside with 8 different schools/colleges since 8th grade, I’ve seen almost every spectrum of wealth, family dynamics, etc. I ask myself “how could I create something that allowed the kids who weren’t as lucky as I was to experience what I experienced?” One of my biggest dreams is to create a fully funded k-12 school where students just have to show up and learn. Come hungry for knowledge and food and we will send you home with both. I’m a firm believer in that redesigning the education system is the solution to the greatest problems we face as a human race. That’s something I hope to fully tackle. Right now, I use my platform to create and educate.
At the end of the day, I’m blessed and I’m looking for ways to give back and pay it forward.
Are you a fan of punk rock or it’s ideals?
100%. My first official tattoo was a Black Flag tattoo. I got into both punk and metal at the same time, and just loved the unrefined DIY approach.
What attracted you to it?
It just is what it is. You either like it, or you don't like it. I also tried hardcore veganism, and now I’m plant based. But I learned a lot of that from punk rock ideals.
Seeing as how you have a Black Flag Tattoo... who is your favorite black flag singer?
Henry! I knew that was gonna come up.
I'm more of a Keith Morris guy myself, but Henry's got the best running shorts for sure.
Haha! The shorts. Yes.
Best shorts and Henry’s also the best speaker and writer, super charming.
I was rocking the shades and military shirts, and I got the snake tattoo and the Black Flag tattoo solely because of him. I even wanted to get a reaper on my arm, just like Henry. Damaged is a great album, and I have it on vinyl.
So, you do a lot of things in the world of art; clothing, stickers, tattoos, murals… Which medium is your favorite? Out of all of them...
Good question. Probably writing, and then painting stuff I love. Anything to do with text. I think naturally I’m a communicator, so writing is always gonna be something very near and dear, close to my heart. Painting wise, I’m definitely self taught. I paint a good bit, but I'm more inclined to get an 8.5 by 11 sheet of paper and go to town on that than I am to paint on a canvas.
I saw a post you made a few days ago [on Instagram], where you said it'd been about a year or so since you’d quit your job and made the leap into art. Tell me about what that transition was like…
I’d been selling work consistently since I started and I didn't really look at it as a business until towards the end of my undergraduate in 2019, and I couldn't really find a job. I had this distinct style, but I didn’t know how to turn it into a business yet, and I was confused. I applied and started working at a local coffee roaster called Perk. It was great, and I actually enjoyed it, but I just remember feeling exhausted by the end of the day. And having to wake up again the next day and do it all over...I was thinking, man, this sucks. I hate this, it isn't fun. I was feeling kinda shitty, to be honest. But then I sold a painting for three grand and started thinking like “Dang, even if I work four to five days a week at this place, it’ll take me three months compared to what I just made in one weekend on my own stuff…” It just didn’t make sense. And then I had the realization that if I have these dreams, if I wanna go for this thing - if I really wanna give it, like, the slightest chance - I have to go 100% into it. No Plan B, no back up. Because if I give myself an out, I'm gonna take it. So I literally quit on my 90 day review.
That's awesome. Was it scary though, initially?
Yeah man, like super scary. There were many stressful nights. Me just sitting there. Cuz like, when you really go into being self employed in art, specifically visual art, there’s like, no blueprint. With freelancing stuff, there's a blueprint, and you can kind of somewhat follow it. But besides the one person in Savannah who I talk to regularly, I know pretty much no one around my age that is able to work full time on art. And my parents didn't necessarily have the answers because my mom’s a dentist, my dad's an accountant. But I just had to figure it out. It's scary, though man, you're spending money on groceries and there's no guarantee that you're gonna get that back. So it's I mean, it's still scary.
Has it gotten easier?
No, not really. But I get to wake up and figure out which parts of myself and my ideas I want to sell today. And that's a very good blessing and stress to have. But it's a trade off, man….. I’ll say this, it's not for most people. And I think you really have to be a little bit in a non state of reality to kind of justify doing something like this.
You said that you’re pushing prints to eat… could you explain the modern hustle of being an artist that sells their work on social media and what that entails?
Yeah. I mean, you're living in the DM’s, that's for sure. Like you're constantly DM’ing people and everyday that’s a hustle on its own in context to figuring out like pricing and maybe talking with local business owners about getting your work in there, but also like, staging and finding out what kind of stuff people interact with and then figuring out how to put that in the product and then figuring out what price point to put that at. Constantly situations like that. I'm always kind of looking for opportunities, you know, not opportunities that are just solely cash grabs, but something that seems pretty on brand. Where I could make some money, get some new exposure, but also help me get better at my work now and give me a chance to practice. Its kinda hard I think because a lot of artists traditionally don't like to self advertise. The brands that I really, really gravitate towards are not actually other artists. It's more brands like Supreme… How could I also not just be a brand? I’ve had my personal Instagram account since I was 15. How can I manage pushing a brand and putting out my personal thoughts? How do I personalize and DM companies as myself but also as my brand? Honestly, I've created a lot of opportunities solely by just DM’ing people, and that's really the way. You're kind of forced to be fearless in a way.
Well, it's almost like, How do you wanna spend your time? How do you break up your time between spending time promoting art and making it?
I'm always kind of in a promotional headspace. I spent a lot of time creating too but it's such a hard balance. Full transparency dude, I spend all my time on this phone. This is all I do. Even if I'm with people, I'm using it as a source of inspiration. Like, how can I take something from this moment and use it in my work? The concept of time is interesting when you’re an artist because you’re always trying to find new ways to be inspired. And then you have to figure out a way to promote that. Plus I do a lot of research. You know? Like I don’t do what Supreme does, but I can adopt the drop and release business model, and that's been super successful for me. By offering things at a smaller price point, like my art on a water bottle, you know. A product that people can look at and actually use in their daily life.
Are you ever surprised by which pieces people respond to, or which ones are more popular than others?
I’ve written down lists of things recently, and those have been super popular. One list was: things I wish I would have known between 20 and 25. That post took off. There was about 1000 re-shares. That was wild. But I'm not too surprised by what really works and what doesn't. I don't have an issue of putting out a shirt that I know has a really good chance of selling because it's still my work. So it’s not like I'm catering to the audience. When you make the transition from being an artist and running it as a business, I personally think it becomes 50% what you want and 50% what the market responds to.
It’s the modern way and this shit evolves every day - the tools we use evolve, the audience is evolving and everything in general is speeding up, you know?
I think about that all the time. The modern consumer is now like, 100 times smarter than any consumer out of any past generations, you know? People are voting with their dollars and voting with their likes. In a way you're kind of paying for real estate kind of someone's mind, and it's not necessarily in a competition kind of way, because I don't think I'm competing with other artists. I’m trying to get my products out there and have creative freedom, but also make something that is gonna sell, because the reality is the likes and shares don't pay anything. And you have to constantly be innovating. And most people don't like hearing that, especially artists.
What advice would you give to people who are looking to pressure a career in the world of art?
Hmm. Learn the basics of finances/accounting. That will save you during the moments of slowness from selling work and in the business of selling work. Be open to pivoting on an idea or approach. Embrace the lack of security in this industry and be present in every moment. Some of your success might be fiscal, spiritual, new relationships, losses, going broke, etc. That’s all apart of the process of this while art thing. Oh and be 400% honest with yourself as to why you’re choosing this path. The easiest part of being a full time artist is waking up and everything else is super hard. There are going to be plenty of moments when you feel like quitting, so you have to remember why you’re doing it. There’s nothing wrong with selling out or only making 1/1 of designs or just wanting to make pretty pictures, but you have to be honest with yourself as to the why behind it.
Is it ever hard, or scary even, for you to release certain art or just ideas into the world?
Yeah, totally. 100%. Especially when you start to get like, physical success, like getting more followers and getting bigger brand situations. You worry about losing followers. Then there's a lot of people who have never personally met me but followed me for four to six plus years and they really know about me. They've seen the girls I've dated, they know what my parents look like, what my house looks like. And I’ve been able to really build a super strong committed following because they feel invested in what I do. But it's also hard because, like, I’m an extrovert, but this has made me an introvert. It’s made me reclusive a bit. Sometimes I’m like, damn is this some wild stuff my girlfriend is gonna give me a phone call about? I’m not trying to get cancelled or anything like that. But I definitely didn't think about certain things. Both sides of the political party follow me, and I don’t cater to either one. But I do think about stuff that I put out, like, 100%.
How do you define success? What’s that look like for you?
I just wanna be happy, physically and mentally healthy, and I don't wanna I don't wanna stress about money. Those three things...like I'm cool. I just want to be able to take care of myself and the people I love. I want freedom without the stress of being like Oh my God, this isn't gonna work out. I just wanna continue what I'm doing.
What's what's the best advice someone has given you?
When much is given, much is expected, and you're the average of the five people you spend your time with. My dad told me that, and it holds true to this day.
Do you have any last words?
I just wanna say thank you. Thank you for taking the time.