Sometimes we are lucky to find someone whose magnitude of creativity inspires us to try to keep up. For me, this person is Wil Burlin. He has developed a style that is undeniably Wil. His work reminds me of the art of the early 80’s that emerged from the East Village; where there is a blurring of distinctions, a vulnerable quality and a sincerity from making art for the process, not just the $. His work is original, has a sense of humor, spontaneity and frankly… is really fucking cool.
Wil is also a musician. His music has a distinct feel, like his art. He was in the infamous Taos band Handsome Molly and now is involved in two projects: Darkness of Country and Blue Collar Poets.
I met Wil and his daughter Harlo at Eske’s. We reminisced about the ruckus Handsome Molly used to make here, as well as, Wil’s upcoming art show.
Live Taos: Can you explain your work?
Wil Burlin: My work is pen and ink on white paper. I got this style because my boss gave me some sketch pads and a bunch of pens. I started doodling and later started developing my style. My first work was all black and white, but once I started experimenting with color I never stopped.
LT: Where are you from?
WB: I was born in Maine. I moved to Texas with my mom when I was 4 years old, and while she was in school and such we started in Houston, then Ft. Worth, moved to a little town called Clarendon where I grew up, then Amarillo, and finally Austin.
LT: What brought you to Taos?
WB: I got tired of Austin after about 8 years. It was getting really crowded, and you couldn’t walk bare-footed down town or ride your bike without getting run over by a car. I moved to Taos sight-unseen when my baby mama decided to come up here and work on sustainable building.
We got here in the middle of the night. When I woke up in the morning on the mesa, I looked outside for the first time and nearly shit my pants. What the hell had I gotten myself into? I was expecting Taos to be a ski-resort-type place.
LT: Where do you find inspiration?
WB: I find inspiration in God, my daughter Harlo, Kan Namba, nature of all types (but I like the woods best), I find inspiration in music and other artists, and above all I find inspiration in myself and want to get better at my art every day.
LT: What is your favorite thing you have ever created?
WB: My favorite thing I have ever created would probably be my songs, but thinking about my art work, I would say my C3P0 gangsters and Crying Chewbacca are probably my favorites. I am always trying to make a new favorite though, and try not to let my art get stale. I get nervous that I may have already peaked out, but keep trying to make cool drawings.
LT: How do you deal with creative blocks?
WB: I have several ways to deal with it. First and foremost if I am not inspired I don’t draw. Willie Nelson said that your creativity is like a well: sometimes you use it up, and it takes a while to refill. If I am adamant about creating and have a creative block, I will do another form of art. I will play or record music, do some graffiti work on my zine Taos Underground (plug) or just draw some real ugly-looking, uninspired art.
LT: What is the best advice you were ever given?
WB: The best advice I was ever given would have to be “never grow old” from Grampa Burlin. He also had another classic that always crosses my mind: “play now, pay later; pay now, play later.” He used to tell me that when I was traveling around unemployed. Man was he right, I had a blast in my 20s but now I’m paying for it.
LT: Do you have a favorite Taos Artist/Musician?
WB: Don’t get me wrong, there are amazing artists all over town. I love Taos, but I am kind of disappointed in the art scene here. None of my favorite artists have any presence in the art galleries and when you walk around the plaza or main street it is depressing and seems like a dorky tourist trap. I want to see main street Taos with cool shops, galleries for people like us, coffee shops where you can sit around, skate shops, music shops, stuff like you would see if you were hanging out in the cool district in Portland or Albuquerque.
Oh, the question was do I have a favorite musician/artist in Taos. Yes, without a doubt I have been a big fan of Two Ton Strap forever, and I like Lenny’s Reign of Terror, my project the Darkness of Country, and my most recent favorite, the Cockpits. I like the work of Erin Currier, Hart Print Shop, Promo Hobos and the Hot Box Krew. There is all kinds of bad graffiti in town and I tend to like this better than the thought-out, more flashy work you see.
LT: Favorite Meal in Taos?
WB: This is making me hungry. I am a big foodie and I could talk about food all day. It is no secret that most of all, I love Varela’s Mexican Food across the highway from Local Boys Tattoo, next to Baskin Robbins. I also like breakfast at Doc Martins, Taos Diner, Monte’s Chow Cart, Leonel’s Fresh Tamales, Guadalajara Grill, Blake’s, meatball subs from Mondo, Pisano’s, Dara Thai, El Gamal, and anything at Toribios.
LT: Where can we find your work?
WB: If you want to see my work, I will be having an art show at Eske’s Brew Pub during spring break. I will have framed prints for sale for $20 and my books and zines will also be available. You can also see my work on Facebook on the Taos Underground site (not the new one, the original) and at the Broken Arts Club drawing blog.
LT: Finish this sentence: I Love Taos because….