Creative Life in the Gateway Arts District

Meet Joel Traylor, Visual Artist

Art LIves Here-3963Meet Mount Rainier Artist Lofts resident artist Joel Traylor. Joel works in oil stick, acrylic and digital art forms. Read below about how this DC native discovered his artistic process and how he came to the beautiful life he lives in Mount Rainier today. You can check out his work online at

How did you discover the medium you currently work in?

When I started making art in 1996 I used what I had: Oil pastels. Over time I wanted a medium that I could blend more easily, as the oil pastels were rubbing my fingers raw. I fell in love with oil stick.

Skyward v.2, acrylic and ink on canvas, 11x14

Skyward v.2, acrylic and ink on canvas, 11×14

The wet oily viscosity was perfect. I blended with my fingers and did not touch a brush until early 2000. I was forced to use acrylic paint for the Party Animals DC project in 2002. I did not like it. Acrylics dry too fast! I’ve grown to love acrylics, especially when mixed with textures like sand, pumice, and string.


How do you define “artist”?

An “artist” is a person with a curious and playful sensibility. Whether they create a “thing” or not is secondary.

How did you discover the Gateway Arts District?

Art LIves Here-3953

My girlfriend at the time found the Mount Rainier Artists Lofts on Craigslist before the building opened, late 2004.

I found the big windows, high ceiling, and burgeoning arts community so exciting that I applied and moved in ten years ago. Now I am here with three adorable cats and a wonderful wife.

If you could give your younger self a piece of advice about being an artist, what would it be?

I would tell myself to use my certificate in multimedia studies to get a paying job in animation and/or web design, avoid the instant gratification of street markets, and continue making gallery-worthy art.

Twas brillig, and the slithy toves, acrylic and ink on canvas

Twas brillig, and the slithy toves, acrylic and ink on canvas

What drives you?

Being open to playfulness, nonsense, and curiosity. Being so in the moment that I shift frequencies. Washing dishes with equal attention. It’s hard to say.

What is your greatest challenge as an artist?

The dichotomy between surviving and thriving.

What are you working on right now?

I am excited about combining painting with digital design techniques.

Are you an artist? We want to get to know you! Click here to participate in our Artist Interview process!


About Anne L'Ecuyer

Anne is a strategist, facilitator and consultant who stays closely connected to an international network of city leaders, cultural professionals, and individual artists. She is an expert in the creative industries and cultural tourism in the United States, as well as the contributions of the arts toward educational, social, and environmental goals.

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