Inspired by Jackson Pollock, painter Pearlie Taylor makes a name for herself in retirement

SHARE Inspired by Jackson Pollock, painter Pearlie Taylor makes a name for herself in retirement
A painting by Pearlie Taylor with a brown background, a woman signing with her mouth open and a stand-alone microphone next to her face in the foreground, with a rainbow of paint splatters on top of the whole painting.

The Blues Singer


When Pearlie Taylor, 80, was just a young girl growing up in Englewood, she turned her passion for creating art into a business—selling drawings to her classmates for a nickel a piece.

“Starting at a young age, I’d draw on everything but the walls,” says Taylor. “Looking back, I was always an artist.”

A second painting by Pearlie Taylor, with a dark blue/black frame with a bronze inner trim. The painting has a dark blue gradient background with an abstract face in the foreground. The face has one eye, a nose, a mouth and an ear with an earring in varying sizes with all different colors. The face is mainly yellow, with features of orange, blue, white and green.



That passion would follow her throughout her entire life, even when she didn’t know if she could make time for it. While raising five children and building her career in her 20s, Taylor would take one class at a time at Roosevelt University in life drawing and pastels.

While working full-time as the first female typographer in the catalog advertising department at Sears, Taylor began taking classes at the American Academy of Art where she learned to work in graphite watercolor, oils, charcoal and pastels—creating figurative work and landscapes.

When her husband passed in 2002, she moved into a condo and continued to run the franchise business they had owned together. In the midst of all this change, Taylor turned to the constant in her life—painting—as a way to deal with her grief. Not knowing how to begin, she laid a canvas on the living room floor for a week as motivation.

“I realized that I didn’t want to die not knowing what kind of painter I would’ve been, and that I could use the distraction,” she says.

Serendipitously, she got a call from Andre Guichard, a local art curator who said he had been shown some of Pearlie’s work by her late husband and that he wanted to show 10 of her pieces as part of a show at the South Side Community Art Center. Determined to create an all-new collection of 10 pieces, she would get up early to paint in the morning, go to work, and then come home to continue her painting. Inspired by artists Jackson Pollock and Dale Chihuly, she began working primarily in acrylics.

A third painting by Pearlie Taylor with a black glassy frame. The painting, with a white background, is an abstract image of a vase of flowers. Using black as the outline of the vase, green for the stems and leaves, the flowers are orange circles with red centers that are randomly placed over the green stems. There are light blue, purple, black and green paint splatters over the whole painting.


“It was exactly what I needed at that time, and it kept me from falling deeper into grief,” says Taylor.

Taylor continued to paint whenever she could, but it wasn’t until she retired in 2005 that she found herself able to fully dedicate her time to painting, and she hasn’t stopped since.

Her advice to people who are considering learning to paint in retirement is not to wait.

“Once you hit a certain age, you receive the gift of finding out who you really are,” says Taylor. “Art is a perfect way to find out who you really are, and you never know who you might bring joy to through your work.”

A headshot image of Pearlie Taylor, an 80-year-old African-American woman, with short-cropped black and gray hair, wide, circular red-framed glasses, big, golden-hooped earrings, a gold necklace chain and a light yellow tank-top. Pearlie Taylor is smiling in the picture.

Pearlie Taylor.


Taylor’s art is currently on display at Gallery Guichard at 436 East 47th Street in Bronzeville.

To find volunteer opportunities in your community, visit

To hear Pearlie Taylor’s story and more stories like this, subscribe to the “Creating the Good with AARP Illinois” podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

A fourth painting by Pearlie Taylor that is completely abstract, with bold shapes and sizes of color that mainly feature purple, black, white and yellow, with highlights of green, orange and gray.


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