Rod Taylor recently retired after a long and influential career as an art educator. This enabled him to resume his interests in art and photography at a personal level. He was born, bred and educated in Manchester, and went on to study Painting and Printmaking at the then Regional College of Art in Manchester, where he also gained the Art Teacher’s diploma (with Distinction). On leaving college, he continued to produce his own work, holding a number of one-person exhibitions in the North West during the 1960s and 70s. He taught Art & Design in Manchester high schools for almost a decade, before moving into advisory work, commencing in 1971 as an Advisory Teacher and then an Inspector in Essex.
In 1974 he was appointed to the post of Art Adviser to Wigan, where he worked for 18 years. He established and was Director of the well-known Drumcroon Education Art Centre, which opened in 1980, a schools loan collection of original works of art and design, and the Artists in Wigan Schools Scheme, which sought to place artists in every school within the borough. Following his retirement from Wigan in 1992, he became a freelance Art Education Consultant, writing and lecturing on 5-18 art education. The main emphasis of his work was on the critical studies implications of young people engaging with art and design and artists and designers across time, place and cultures.
From 1981 to 1984 he was Director of the national Critical Studies in Art Education project, funded by the Schools, Craft and Arts Councils respectively. This project looked at how young people of school age might beneficially learn more about art and artists as a study in its own right but also in ways that could significantly inform and enrich their own artistic practice. He has lectured and run courses and workshops for teachers and trainee students across the length and breadth of the United Kingdom. In addition, he has been invited to work in many overseas countries, having visited Canada and Germany three times, Australia and Italy twice as well as the United States, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Switzerland and Austria.
The researches of the CSAE project led to his first book, the seminal ‘Educating for Art’ (Longman, 1986). He has subsequently written another five books, from ‘Artists in Wigan Schools’ (Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 1991) to ‘Understanding & Investigating Art’ (Hodder & Stoughton, 1999). This book was commissioned by the National Gallery, and relates national curriculum art and design requirements to the National Gallery collection. He also co-authored ‘Approaching Art and Design’ with his wife, Dot (Longman, 1990). This guide for A-level students focuses on the work of students in two Wigan sixth form colleges. In addition, he contributed two volumes to the Falmer Press Library on Aesthetic Education, edited by Peter Abbs: the ‘Visual Arts in Education’, (1992) and ‘The Arts in the Primary School’, with Glennis Andrews as co-author (1993).
Many of the plates in his books result directly from
photographs he had taken himself. On his retirement from Wigan he embarked
on a photographic project documenting how his ’Universal Themes’
– the human figure, environments, flora and fauna, events, the fantastic
and strange and the abstract – manifests themselves in art and design
of the locality. These themes also provide the basis for each chapter
in ‘Understanding and Investigating Art’. In turn, these researches
led naturally to his use of photography as an art form in its own right
and in combination with the drawn and painted passages and surface embellishment
that so strongly characterise his work today.