Taylor McArthur

Drawing Inspiration: Digital Artist Taylor MacArthur Creates a Career in Design

“I think you need to kind of face some things that are uncomfortable in life, too, in order to grow as a person, and those challenges can really help you in the future,” Taylor McArthur remarked. McArthur is Nakota and Cree from Pheasant Rump Nakota First Nation in Saskatchewan. She has lived in Brandon, Manitoba most of her life and has faced uncomfortable challenges. Instead of giving up, she sketched out a brighter future for herself. 

She’s currently working at the Media Ideas lab, the art gallery here in Brandon. It's a pilot project, helping develop and sustain independent media art practice outside of Winnipeg. She’s also working with a colleague on an exhibit that had to be launched in an online format due to the pandemic, all while working as an environmental designer.

McArthur always had a keen interest in the arts, reading, drawing, and painting all throughout school. After high school graduation, she didn’t know what to do and decided to follow a path she felt guaranteed success - becoming a teacher - but it didn't work out. She dropped out after three month, worked retail jobs until she found full time work but was missing the arts profoundly. 

To fill that void, she picked up a camera and learned to take pictures. She looked for a career that she could combine the arts with and found the Interactive Media Arts program at Assiniboine Community College. She learned 3D modeling, coding, web design, illustration, and graphic design. Initially she was looking to become a graphic designer to find a job in Brandon or Winnipeg, but that totally changed.

Rooted in her community, she’s yet to leave her hometown. She doesn’t want to be separated from her family with whom she is very close. The idea of being fully on her own somewhere new, trying new projects excites her but family keeps her close by.  Her advice for those contemplating making a move is to stay in touch with family, build a good network of friends and step outside of your comfort zone. She suggests looking at Facebook groups to join to connect with new people. Meeting new people during a pandemic can be a challenge but virtual options can connect you with community.  

McArthur’s journey hasn’t always been smooth sailing. She was dealing with family issues while pursuing her education then missed a lot of time due to an illness that took almost six months for doctors to diagnose. Her professors were understanding, helpful and accommodating to help her complete the program despite the challenges she faced.

Illustration by Shaikara David

Normally a shy person, asking for help was difficult but she’s glad she found the nerve. When asked what she would say If she could say anything to her younger self, she said, “I would tell myself it's okay to be who I am. Because growing up I was very quiet and shy. I wouldn't speak my mind or I wouldn't express things that I liked to other people because I felt like I was going to get judged.”

Her shyness wasn’t the only thing she struggled with. Ultimately, she was looking for acceptance, explaining,  “I wish that I didn't try to fit in so hard. Especially in high school, I tried so hard to fit in and be like everybody else who I grew up with, but I'm happy I'm not like that anymore.” These days, McArthur is a lot more independent and confident, coming out of her shell to share about things she never would have dreamed of discussing before and in full expression of who she is.  

To get through the challenges of the pandemic, McArthur found gym time helpful for stress reduction and clarity, as well as weekly Facetime calls with friends and family to enjoy human connection. She also walks outside daily to enjoy the sunshine, music and time away from electronic distractions or conversations. 

That time in nature is a source of inspiration for her. She loves being outside, walking and enjoying the golden hour light. “ I just feel like everything looks almost magical at that time. A lot of the work that I tend to do reflects that,” she reflected. The Milky Way and astrophotography also excites McArthur; she enjoys the reward of the image at the end. The music group Odesza is also inspirational to her and she listens to their ethereal, uplifting and positive music when she works, creating art and solving design problems. 

In the darkness of a pandemic, Taylor McArthur has created her own golden hour, finding the light through time with friends. As an astrophotographer, she knows that darkness isn’t always a bad thing, it’s when you can take pictures of the stars. Drawing inspiration from the land, her community and the things that light her up, McArthur sketched out a brighter future for herself: a rewarding career in design.

Thanks to Alison Tedford for authoring this article.

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