In this intimate interview, Christina Nafziger talks with self-taught artist Taylor Mouroufas about her unbelievably realistic and breathtaking paintings. Describing her work as compelling and fearless, Taylor discusses the joy she finds in the small details of her work and the importance of putting yourself out there.

Artist Statement:

Since I was a very young girl, I always knew that creating was what I was created to do. Art has always been who I am, who I was, and who I will continue to be. Becoming a full time artist has been my lifelong dream.​

I create realistic artwork that invokes a sense of wonder and emotion in all who view it. From spectacular landscapes and crashing ocean waves frozen in time, to portraits of people and pets, my work isn't bound to a certain niche subject. I create everything for anyone, because art is for everyone. I thoroughly enjoy painting everything under the sun. My years of self-taught study and practice in the style of realism has allowed me to create art that captivates the eye. No matter what subject I create, I strive to bring a level of realism that invigorates the senses, which further entices emotion to come forth.​

I envision a world where art that serves a purpose fills every home. Whether it's there just to make you smile, remind you of your favorite place, commemorate a loved one, or fit a certain aesthetic, it all serves a purpose to the human soul. I envision every painting on every wall inspires the fruits of the spirit listed in the Book of Galatians. I hope to help make a world where love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are encouraged through my art as I serve God's people on this earth.

Image description: A painting by Taylor Mouroufas of three glass bottles sitting on a table with lime slices next to it.
© Taylor Mouroufas

Can you tell us a bit about your journey becoming a full-time artist? When did you first start painting? Have you always painted in a realistic style? 

I’ve been creating art ever since I could remember, but my mom says that as soon as I could hold a Crayola marker, I was coloring and drawing, and I haven’t stopped since. It always felt natural, too. I knew from a young age that I wanted to make art for all long as I lived. Of course to some people being an artist isn’t a viable career option, so I’d say I want to be a veterinarian or a marine biologist. But in my heart, I knew I was an artist and nothing would change that. As I grew older, becoming an artist and pursuing art as a career was the future I was destined for. I’d say that I was always drawn to a realistic style but for a few of my younger years, I was into cartooning. I taught myself to draw all the characters from my favorite cartoon shows as a kid and would create my own “episodes” or storyboards. I outgrew cartooning and went right back to realism. This style of painting captivates my soul in a way that’s hard to put into words. Being able to look at something and recreate it and all of its little details is my way of showing the beauty of the world through an artist’s eyes.

Your skill in painting is unbelievable! How did you acquire this incredible skill? Do you have any advice for artists trying to achieve a realistic style? 

I actually haven’t received or sought any formal training or education in my practice. Aside from an elective art class in high school, I’m completely self taught. I cannot fully explain how or why, but I have always had a knack for looking at an object, person, or scene and recreating it on a canvas. In all honesty, it comes as naturally to me as breathing. I began receiving inspiration from my favorite artists via social media early on, which has played a large role in my growth as an artist. Seeing other realism artists succeed gave me motivation to be better and grow even more. My advice to artists reaching to achieve a realistic style would be to really delve deep into color theory. Color matching is vital to realism and it makes a massive difference, as well as light and shadow. My biggest advice that has helped me the most is to focus on the details! No matter the size of my paintings, I always use the smallest brush I have to create details. No detail is ever too small. It will always make a difference! 

Image description: A painting by Taylor Mouroufas of two hands cupping water from a stream.
© Taylor Mouroufas

Your renditions of water are mesmerizing. What draws you to water as a subject? 

Water is one of the most beautiful forms and forces in nature. It’s ever changing and you can never paint the same water twice. There’s such a vast variety to be found in all forms of water and I truly enjoy painting all of them! From forceful crashing waves on the open sea, to soft foamy ripples on a shoreline, they all hold a specific beauty that deserves to grace a canvas. 

Change (good or bad) can often be difficult. Can you tell us about a specific turning point in your art career? How did you deal with this time of change? 

I absolutely agree that change can be quite difficult and old habits die hard. I’d have to say that the most significant turning point in my art career was when I made the hard transition from painting exclusively in acrylics to exclusively in oils. I had dabbled in oils in school and enjoyed it, but I really disliked how difficult they were to clean. I was taught to use just water to clean oil paint brushes while I worked! I stuck with acrylics for the convenience and it wasn’t until I met my now husband (who is also an artist, a very talented one I might add) and he was shocked that I was lead so astray. He told me to just try oil painting again, this time using a proper medium to clean my brushes. I was quite stubborn and fought against it because change is hard and it was a medium I wasn’t too well versed in. But I decided to bite the bullet and try it. I immediately fell head over heels with oils and I have not touched acrylics since! Using oils has drastically changed how my realism looks and I will forever be grateful for my husband for guiding me and helping me grow as an artist. 

Image description: A painting by Taylor Mouroufas of two legs submerged in teal water.
© Taylor Mouroufas

What would you say has been your proudest moment (as an artist and/or human)?

In my art career thus far, I’ve had plenty of moments of feeling proud of myself and my work. However instead of reveling in that feeling, I always redirect it to gratitude. I count my blessings and thank God. One of those moments that really stood out to me was this year in fact. In January 2022, I decided to really dive into working at making art my full-time career. I brought myself out of my comfort zone and began putting myself and my work out into the world beyond just posting to social media. By the end of the month, I was accepted into my very first art gallery. It’s a local art gallery in my hometown that I was told by countless people that I should display my work there over the years. The amount of gratitude I felt then and still feel now is insurmountable. I’m proud of myself as an artist because this is a major moment in my art career, but also just as a person. I put myself out there and learned how to be confident in who I am and what I do.

Image description: A painting by Taylor Mouroufas of golden clouds in the sky.
© Taylor Mouroufas

How would you describe your art in three words?

This is an excellent thought-provoking question. Art itself is so multifaceted that boiling it down to a few words was a challenge for me! Especially since I don’t have a specific niche subject and I enjoy painting everything under the sun. After much deliberation, I would break it down to these 3 words: compelling, fearless, and life. Compelling in that my work captures the eye of the viewer and keeps it, urging them to study all the small details there are to find within. Fearless in that I don’t back down from a challenging piece. The little details don’t scare me and I will paint on an even bigger scale so I can capture them as accurately as possible. Life in that my work is a reflection of the world as I see it. Whether it’s a nature or a living thing or a still life of an inanimate object, there’s always an air of life breathed into it through movement, color, and light.

What are you currently listening to in the studio? 

I love this question! I’m always listening to or watching things while I paint. I’m a huge true crime and horror fan so I tend to listen to true crime or mystery podcasts. My favorites are the Inhuman Podcast, Disappeared, Cold Case Files, and my all-time favorite: Unsolved Mysteries. I’m able to lose myself in my painting and step away from reality for a little while when I listen. If I choose to watch something or have it play in the background, it’s almost always reruns of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Image description: A painting by Taylor Mouroufas of a bull in the wilderness.
© Taylor Mouroufas