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PROFILE : A Perfect Vision : Joanna Taylor paints the world as she'd like it to be. UNICEF chose one of her works for a Christmas card.

December 20, 1990|MAJA RADEVICH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The painted world hanging on Joanna Taylor's walls is an idyllic place.There are colorful, boxy homes, green meadows and landscapes covered with fresh snow. Starry skies meet clear blue waters. Family members laugh together. Children never cry.

"The things I paint aren't the way things are in real life," said the Camarillo artist. "You wouldn't even recognize the landscapes if you saw the real places. And sometimes the people come out younger. I paint things the way they are in my head, the way I'd like them to be."

Thanks to one of Taylor's paintings, the gap between her idealism and the real world is closing a bit.

An acrylic-on-Masonite piece titled "Showing the Way" was made into a greeting card at the United Nations Children's Fund. Profits from the holiday cards, now on sale, go to UNICEF to aid needy children. Another of Taylor's paintings may be turned into a card for Christmas 1992.

It's no simple achievement for an artist to have a painting selected by UNICEF. Katherine Andrews, head of the greeting card division, said thousands of talented artists from throughout the world donate work for the charity each year because of the organization's reputation and the exposure artists can receive. After several screening phases, only about 250 works are selected to be sold in various regional markets. "It's a competitive process," Andrews said, "and for an artist to get past even the first screening means they have to be very good."

Even with such an endorsement, and after gallery showings and selling some of her pieces for thousands of dollars, Taylor feels uncomfortable being labeled a professional artist. She squirms at the mere mention of payment for her work and prefers to keep a low profile, refusing to let her picture be taken with her paintings.

After all, for years her art was a hobby--her works something to be given to family and friends as gifts. Taylor liked to fiddle around with painting and drawing, "but the things I did never came out looking the way I thought they were supposed to," she said of her two-dimensional paintings, which are colorful and simplistic.

Taylor's style is usually classified as folk, naive, or primitive, and because she never received formal training as a painter. She follows the same stylistic rules as other folk artists--none.

She glues glitter on snow-covered landscapes so they shimmer the way a snowfall does on a moonlit night. She puts stick-on stars in the sky and writes her thoughts upon the grass.

When her 14-year-old son Brandon was a child, Taylor said, he would improve on her paintings, adding a line here and a drawing there without her knowing it. When Brandon was 8, Taylor let him do waves on the edge of a lake. That picture is the one being used for the UNICEF card.

"My work is a family project. We're all a part of it," said Taylor. "They're usually in my pictures and always in my thoughts and I couldn't do what I do without them." In fact, Taylor signs all her work followed with "BJBRB" for husband "Bob," "Joanna," and her children, "Bobby," "Rachel" and "Brandon."

In a painting of a fancy downtown street lined with shops, her 19-year-old son, Bobby, a law student, is pictured reading a book inside his law office. A sign on the clothing boutique identifies the owner as Taylor's mother, whom Taylor said is "a clothes horse." Brandon, who at age 6 removed all the doorknobs in the house to see how they worked, owns the hardware store and Rachel, 17, who tries to save every stray animal she comes across, is pictured with a dog in her arms in front of her pet shop.

In other artwork, Bugs Bunny, the family dog, romps with the children. There are even paintings of Tony, one of the family cats, who has been missing for a few months.

"My husband and kids have always been my strongest supporters," Taylor said, "but now it's nice to have proof that Mom actually is pretty good at what she does. It's nice to know that my family is proud of me."

UP CLOSE JOANNA TAYLOR

Vocation: Artist

Residence: Camarillo

Hobby: Making quilts and collecting American antiques.

Perspective: "I'm not as interested in antiques which are in perfect condition as I am in the worn-out, old things that common people used. I like to think about how many years ago some woman walked next to this beat-up chest, her old-fashioned skirt swooshing next to it. It's a link to history."

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