For Lauren Taylor, her art is more than a creation.
"When I was in high school I had struggled a lot with panic disorder and depression/anxiety," Taylor told NBC Sports California. "High school was not the kindest place to me and I started doing art just whatever to kind of talk about things in a less vulnerable way."
The art she's referring to -- well, the term "art," doesn't do it justice. It's beautiful, but even that doesn't seem appropriate. There's so much meaning behind it. Perhaps it's because as talented as she is, she once earned a "C" in art class and with her creations, you'll find that hard to believe.
"I have literally no training in art I just kind of wing it," Taylor said. "I started creating on wood about five years ago, just because there’s so much wood in the game that I felt like it complemented the piece to bring in the wood grain."
Taylor admits she has love for each MLB team, but there's a special affinity for the A's.
"I have a pretty big A’s trip coming up here, but I'm also a Red Sox fan I won’t lie to you there," she said. "I'm also a big Rickey Henderson fan and my mom grew up in the Oakland area so I’m kind of familiar with that part of the world."
It was sports that started this entire journey.
"After I got hit in the head with a baseball, not just a little bump, but like really in the face with a baseball, the mental health stuff -- I had no idea how much a concussion can exacerbate symptoms. I started to think like ‘Are there athletes out there that don’t feel comfortable admitting they’re struggling?’ I heard [Red Sox utility player] Brock Holt talk about it a little bit and I started thinking ‘We need to be okay with talking about this more and how can I help.'"
Now, Taylor volunteers as an operator for the Vancouver Suicide Hotline -- she's also a mental health advocate. She says as many stories she hears from people who need help, she doesn't feel there is enough talking about it.
"So I just decided that as I build my platform with sports art, it’s equally important if not more important to me to lead by example that it’s okay to talk about the struggles we have as well, not just ‘This is my art I’m successful at this, this and this, my social media looks perfect, and I’ve never struggled a day in my life,’" Taylor said. "I think it keeps the people that are unwell feeling more broken and more unwell and my thought from day one is I’m going to be as honest as possible, share the good but also be like ‘Hey I had an awful anxiety day today, and I sucked, and I had a panic attack and I sat in my apartment and that’s okay.'"
But art has a sneaky way of helping cope.
"You can make an art piece that’s really deep, but then at the end of the day just be like ‘it’s just art man,'" Taylor said. "Then really it’s cathartic. If you told me ‘Oh that’s what you’re going to do with your life,’ I would have laughed.
"Still sometimes am shocked by it. But that’s how it started, and I was also playing college fastpitch and was getting ready to play college fastpitch so I was very much in love with the sport already. As I was playing, it kind of took a back seat and then after I took the line drive to the face and was out pretty significantly that’s when I started going back to doing art of baseball because I was trying to get that fix because I missed the sport so much."
Taylor's pieces took on a mind of their own once she decided to create them on wood. But it was hiding the images within the images that was a game-changer.
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These pieces will be part of the Battle of the Bay Art Show on August 24th and 25th in Oakland. Details coming soon! “Oakland A’s” Mixed media - acrylic paint, digital stencil and ink on birchwood Features Rickey Henderson as the focal point of the piece with the 1989 World Series team celebrating within his jersey. “San Francisco Giants” Mixed media - acrylic paint, digital stencil and ink on birchwood Features Willie Mays as the focal point of the piece with the 2014 team closing in on the completion of the iconic embrace between Bumgarner and Posey after the final out to secure the World Series win. #laurentaylorillustrations #battleofthebay #baseballfan #rootedinoakland #oakland #oaklandathletics #sfgiants #sfgiantsfan #sfgiantsbaseball #sanfrancisco #sanfranciscogiants #williemays #rickiehenderson #originalartwork
"The first one I did of that was Felix Hernandez of the Mariners," Taylor said. "I took a photo of him and then I started trying to do in the reflection of his glasses some of the Safeco Field's strong blue skies. That was the first time I was like ‘Okay maybe this is the direction I want to go.’ I was proud of it for two reasons, One, I bounced back from a little bit of a zinger of a rejection and two, It’s how all of this changed, it’s how I’ve gotten to the next level of sports art."
That initial rejection was from a baseball card company in which her art was criticized from someone saying "a Lehman hobbyist could do this."
She's made countless pieces for any MLB athlete you can imagine from Bryce Harper to Aaron Judge. And has even met some of them and presented them with the pieces they've inspired.
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STAY TUNED for details. . This is the most exciting collaboration I have ever done and I still am struggling to trust that the 1.5hrs I spent with Mr. Mays discussing baseball was not actually just a dream. . . . . . . . . . . : #laurentaylorillustrations #williemays #sayhey #sayheykid #thecatch #giants #giantsbaseball #sanfranciscogiants #attpark #baseball #goat #hof #cooperstown
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Art delivery for @madisonbumgarner at @sfgiants Cactus League training facility today. He was as country as I had hoped (In a good way)! . . 11x14 mixed media - acrylic paint, digital stencil and ink on birchwood . . @mlb @mlb_players @abesilvestri @sfgiants . . . . . . . . . . . .#sanfrancisco #sfgiants #giantsbaseball #sanfranciscogiants #baseball #mlb #commissionedartist #madisonbumgarner #madbum #baseballlife⚾️ #cactusleague #springtraining
So the rejections seem far away in memories, but Taylor knows they don't hold her back. She always bounces back -- the theme of her life.
"Metaphorically and literally," she laughed.