College for Creative Studies: Art Practice (Fine Arts)


James Taliana

Member and past president of the Boothbay Region Art Foundation (Maine

Art has been more than a passion for Jim Taliana. Whether he was creating advertising campaigns or working on paintings for upcoming exhibitions, Taliana has kept art as the focus of his life’s work. 

“Almost anything has potential as an art image, whether as a traditional, contemporary or social-commentary image,” said Taliana. “Seeing, thinking of the possibilities and creating good work give me real satisfaction. And I love to do demonstrations and teach.”

Taliana started taking advertising and fine arts classes at CCS in the fall of 1959. After attending the College full-time for two years, he was recruited by a prominent art studio. He continued his studies for two more years, going to CCS year-round by taking classes part time during evenings and summers.

While he was still taking classes, DMB&B (D’Arcy, Masius, Benton and Bowles) advertising agency lured Taliana away from the art studio and hired him as art director for the Cadillac account. Eventually he was assigned to additional accounts, including The Detroit Free Press, Knight-Ridder Newspapers (former publishers of The Free Press), The Metropolitan Detroit Convention and Visitors Bureau, The Kirsch Company (window treatments), Dow Chemical, General Tire Chemical and Plastics Division, Detroit Diesel and Whirlpool. He took on the role as the agency’s Career Day spokesperson at CCS (and other schools), as well as the agency’s representative at Cranbrook’s annual open house. 

“Through my annual presentations at CCS, the head of CCS’ advertising department at the time got to know me as a knowledgeable professional in the advertising community and a person that could present ideas with conviction and enthusiasm.”

“He asked me to teach two courses: Corporate/Business to Business Advertising and Direct Marketing (1998-2000). I loved it! 

“In addition to teaching, I worked with President Rogers on the design and direction of the CCS book printed and distributed at the open house. It had light, buff-colored stock cover with flaps front and back, and a double gatefold in the middle. Very grand. I also designed the art work for the invitations and poster for the 1996 Detroit International Wine Auction and Celebration. It had a painting of grapes on the front and was printed on mostly light violet stock.”

Two years after Taliana started teaching, he and his wife, Gloria, who was faculty at Oakland University at the time, decided to move to the midcoast of Maine. Once they were situated in the new state, he began teaching drawing and painting classes at the Boothbay Region Art Foundation, a diverse group of over 230 fine artists and patrons of the arts based in Boothbay Harbor. 

“Of the classes I teach now, I enjoy the drawing class most because it is the most essential and very rewarding,” said Taliana. “Drawing is the most important skill in art aside from thinking conceptually. It shows up in everything we do—from planning to execution. Whether with a pencil, pen, brush or computer tool—the confident ability to get your hand to automatically draw what your mind wants it to is key”. 

Taliana eventually became the foundation’s vice president and was later elected president. He recently concluded his three year presidency and now serves on the Board of Trustees and handles most of the public relations.

Though the foundation, Taliana became familiar with the vast artist community in Maine. He recognized the need for a state-wide, juried photography show, so he established the Maine Photography Show, serving as chairperson its first year. Twenty-five years earlier, he had gained experience as founder of the Michigan Photography Show while serving as Arts Chair at the Scarab Club of Detroit. He went on to be its youngest president ever in 1975.

“The Maine Photography Show was an instant success and has grown tremendously each year,” Taliana said. “We are lucky to have had repeat sponsors, a strong committee and a growing presence across the state. The first year of this event, I recruited Anne Havinga of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts as the show’s judge, which drew a large number of entries and a good audience. The standard was set for an annual high-quality show.” 

In his own work, Taliana has enjoyed experimenting with diverse materials and mediums. He likes the defined effect from combining ink drawings with watercolor, yet also enjoys working in three dimensions with wood, paint and found objects. He has illustrated three children’s books (“The Littlest Tugboat,” “The Seagull Who Refused to Be Ordinary” and “The Small Tall Ship”); and built a barn facade on the wall that serves as the centerpiece for a “Charlotte’s Web” themed children’s room at the Boothbay Harbor Memorial Library. The barn has real doors that reveal the characters Templeton the rat in the hay loft and Wilbur the pig behind the main door. 

“Kids and adults alike love opening the doors and are surprised to see the storybook characters,” he said. “The art I do for the children’s books are illustrations that emphasize and depict important parts of the story. I usually help edit the story first, then apply my drawing and painting ability to what I believe are the key visuals that will surprise kids and be a wonderful, adventurous experience for them. The designing of these pages are very much like doing storyboards for tv commercials, which I have done many. In my fine art I work from my own ideas and execute in the manner and medium I wish to satisfy my own current thinking.”

Today, Taliana is working on two more children’s books, the annual collectable poster for the Boat Builders Festival 2010 and a series of paintings he plans to exhibit in 2011. His art is represented by the Cary Gallery in Rochester, Michigan; the Artists of Lititz Gallery in Lititz, Pennsylvania; The Ambleside Gallery in Greensboro, North Carolina; the Maine Art Gallery in Wiscasset, Maine; and the Boothbay Region Art Foundation Gallery in Boothbay Harbor, Maine.

“Every summer I conduct a five-day plein-air painting workshop on the coast of Maine (July 19-23, 2010), which is great fun,” Taliana said. “And I get to meet really interesting, talented people.”