Taratories Blog

Island in the Sky

This summer I was commissioned to do a 5ft X 5ft Curiosity Portrait but without an actual portrait. My Curiosity Portraits are heirloom paintings, created on commission, and painted specifically for the individual.  I interview my clients to learn about their life and what makes them unique.  I then go back to my studio and find symbols and elements from my interview notes that I will then use in my preliminary sketches.  After brainstorming creative ways to combine the various imagery, I begin.

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The first thing that I painted was this whale. I’ve never painted a whale before and, I must say, it was my favorite part to paint! I asked her “what scene of a movie or book would you step into if you could?” She told me that she would step into the movie “Man on Fire” where a bodyguard fought for a little girls life. She loved the relationship he had with the little girl and how he gave his life for her. She talked about the memory of the time where she was on a swim team and didn’t feel like she could make it to the end of the lap. Her dad came to the edge and told her, “it’s ok, you can stop swimming.” She always wanted that kind of male presence to keep her safe. I represented this male presence with one of her favorite animals, a whale. She loves how majestic they are. The whale is rescuing her and will be holding up everything in this painting that represents her.

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When I saw the wall in the home where this painting would be hung, I noticed the design on the chairs in the room. Incorporating the design around the whale gave added a graphic element and also added some movement and depth to the painting.

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Then I painted a wash of blue over the entire bottom of the painting.

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She asked God if she were to be an animal what would she be, and He revealed to her that she would be an owl. I loved painting this great horned owl on top of its own little garden island.

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She has always wanted to see a hummingbird nest, and now so do I!

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One of her favorite flowers is the hydrangea…

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Her friend had a vision of her in a garden as a flower. This flower was no ordinary flower, but one that was larger than life! In her vision, God told the flower “I love you, you are one of my favorites.”

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This flower was the most time consuming element in the painting. To give you an idea of size, it’s about 3 times the size as my head. I probably spent about 30 hours on the flower alone! I layered colored pencil, paint, pencil, paint, and so on, until I achieved the desired look that I wanted.

At some points as I worked on it, it was very meditative and soothing as I worked on the repetitive petals, but there were some times that it was really hard to push through and work because it was feeling monotonous. Working on art is a very good discipline and it is a good feeling when you push through the hard parts and stand back to see what you have accomplished in the end.

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She requested that I incorporate these butterflies and I let the blue sky peak through the wings since it was the exact color that I needed for the butterflies. I surrounded the flower with the butterflies to give glory to the flower. I represented God’s favor on her with the gold dots falling from the heavens onto the flower.

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One of her favorite things to do as a child was to swing on her swing in her garden…

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Incorporating this caterpillar was another request…

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This is a photo of me and the painting before it was stretched and framed.

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Here it is in its new home! It was such an honor to do this painting and I can’t wait to paint more Curiosity Portraits in my lifetime. If you are interested in having me paint your story without words, email me at taratories@gmail.com.

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"Melancholy Mandrill"

Recently I painted a new animal painting to add to my collection that has been in the works.  I have always loved the look of Mandrill monkeys so I decided to use one for my next subject.  First I sketched out the basic placement lines of where I wanted the monkey and crowned african eagle to go.

I began the monkey by doing a layer of colored pencils on his face and body.  Then I followed the pencil with a layer of paint.  I continue the process of layering and building up the layers of pencil and paint until I achieve the results I want.

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The photo below is not quite done yet, but getting there...

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Almost there...

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And finally there.  The cherry on the top was the details such as the little hairs on his eyes and nose and the reflections on his eyes.  The details are always my favorite and the parts that keep me chugging along when I am having a hard time pushing through.  Knowing I get to add these little details really put a fire underneath me to get to the finish line. Painting the texture of fur has been SO FUN for me! 

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I always love a polka dot, and recently I am into pale pink combined with black, so this is what I chose for the background.

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The background was done with a technique called negative painting.  An example of how it is done can be found HERE .  I also painted some imaginary fruit to add to the monkeys environment.

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The intensity...

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The final elements...

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The finished painting...

"Melancholy Mandrill" 28X38 inches

"Melancholy Mandrill" 28X38 inches

This painting and others can be found at Artisan Coffee Shop at the Whole Foods Market in Akron for the whole month of April (1745 W Market St, Akron, OH 44313).

"The Polar Plunge"

I have always loved polar bears.  I could watch them swim in the water all day!  I decided that this would be the perfect animal to paint next!  First, I sketched out my composition. I wanted the polar bear to be as close to life size as possible.  During my research, I found that polar bears are about 4 feet standing on all four legs.  I was able to make him close to life size being around 3 feet tall.  He felt HUGE when I drew him up on the canvas and I loved the grand presence of him.  For some reason, I always want everything I paint to be as life size as possible, whether it be people, etc. and, in this case, animals.  It is so much easier to capture all of the detail in my subjects when they are larger, and then I almost feel like they are in the room with me and a part of my space.  

I began my mixed media painting with my first layer of colored pencils which is a great way to map out all the lights, darks, and variations of color before I lay down the paint.  My mixed media technique is unique in that I layer pencils, then paint, then pencils, etc. onto my canvas.  It really creates a beautiful depth and atmosphere to my paintings that I wouldn't be able to achieve in the same way with using paint or pencils alone.  Drawing has always been my first love and years ago I found this mixed media technique that has suited me perfectly. It was magic the first time I ever tried it and I have been obsessed ever since!

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I was a little nervous about painting a white animal because sometimes it can be tricking creating the variations of tones in white, but it really helped starting off with a tan base so that it wasn't so intimidating and helped create immediate contrast between the white I was laying down on my canvas.  One of my favorite things about doing art is studying a subject through painting it.  I never would have realized that there were so many different colors in a polar bear's fur, or that lines form where clumps of hair separate (i.e. hand and head).

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The next animal was a bearded seal.  I had no idea there was such a thing as a bearded seal until I started to research animals to paint.  But once I found this kind of seal I was set on painting him!  I love all the long whiskers they have and they were just so cute! He is missing half of his face here but this is the work in process...

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I developed the seal more and submerged him in some painted water...

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I wanted this painting to have a nautical feel to it so blue and white stripes seemed like the perfect pattern to incorporate.  It took me some time to figure out the best place to incorporate the stripes. In my sketchbook I made a few pages of thumbnail sketches playing around with placement and colors etc. until I arrived at this... 

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Florals and stripes are a classic pairing and the flowers were a great way to add some color into this painting since my animals were very neutral.  I used the flowers as a repeating pattern in the background and used my paint without much water to create a soft texture to the flowers.  This is a dry brush technique that I don't think I have used on my canvas paintings before and I really like the way it turned out.  It gave the flowers a kind of velvety look.  Painting the fur has been a wonderful way to show me that I can create a variety of textures with my medium and makes me want to explore other textures.

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The final step was to paint a blue background around the flowers and really help make the bear pop.  It sure did!  After I laid on the blue, the white of the polar bear was a striking contrast and I couldn't be happier with the result.  I added a gold edging to the circle and gold dots for some embellishments in the background which is the cherry on the top for me!

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The finished painting is 30X36 inches and is available for purchase.  Email me at taratories@gmail.com for any inquiries at all about this painting. It will be on display locally to the Akron area next month. More details to come on that so stay tuned!  If you don't want to miss a beat, send me your email so that I can get you on my email list. I don't usually send more than one email a month but it is a great way to stay in the loop about local shows, art sales, etc.

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"The Fox and the Hare"

I began this painting with the idea of trying something new.  Animals are not something that I have not explored much before, but the thought of painting a sweet little hare was enticing.  

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I use a mixture of acrylic paint and colored pencil in my paintings. I started by shading with my pencils on the canvas and then adding a layer of paint on top of the pencils. I continue the layering process with the pencils and paint until I get the results that I want. 

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I discovered that the colored pencils are the perfect medium for capturing the texture of fur and whiskers, etc. which means my medium works perfectly with animals!  I can also achieve the glassiness of an eye with my paints and pencils.  The eyes seem to be the features that really brings the animals to life!

After I drew the hare, I naturally surrounded him or her in a circular frame which I usually incorporate into my work.  I sensed a look of alarm on the hare's face which is why I added a predator... the fox.  He is interacting with the hare, yet he is still separated from him.  He is protected from his environment inside the circle.  

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I just loved painting the orange tones in the fox and I just knew that a blue background would be the perfect compliment to his fur.

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I used a photo I took from time spent in Wales as inspiration for the wooded background.  I also added a sprinkle of gold speckles around him to create some movement and give the impression of fireflies, or fairies, or whatever you want them to be.  The pattern in the background brings more movement into the painting and cause the viewer to keep their eyes moving around the painting.  The pattern also adds to the story being told.  If you notice, there are hare silhouettes running away amongst the pattern which could be an omen of what is to come...

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The Fox and the Hare, 20X30 inches

The Fox and the Hare, 20X30 inches

Above is a picture of me with the painting right before I packaged it up and shipped it to its new owner. I literally sold it to someone as I was putting the finishing touches on it which was so exciting!  Someone reached out to me because she had seen my posts on social media of my progress shots and she was drawn to the painting for a couple of reasons. 1. she collects rabbits, and 2. Her maiden name was "Fox"!  How perfect is that!!

I never know how people will connect with my art which really shows me that I need to keep being true to myself, because there will be someone out there that may connect for reasons I would never think of.  Here is a photo of the painting in its new home and it looks like it was meant to live there!  It brings me so much joy when I see my art in other people's homes and is truly the best part of my job!!  

I am going to continue to try painting more animals and explore this idea of animals and their prey and hopefully build a collection. Stay tuned!  For daily updates on my process, etc. make sure you follow me on Instagram and Facebook @taradeetscreek_artist so you won't miss a beat!

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Bonds Of Love

About 3 months ago we lost a very special man in our church too early in life.  His name was Ricky Miller.  He left behind his wife Liz and their four precious children.  Soon after his passing I was approached by someone who wanted to have me do a portrait of him and their sweet daughter.  This was to be a gift not only for his wife, but also for his daughter who would grow up without her daddy.  I was so touched by the thoughtfulness and generosity of this dear friend.  I searched for a photograph that I could use as reference.  I found a photo video montage and took a screen shot of this one to use.  

I changed a few things like tilting his head in closer with hers, giving them more of a lively glow, and changing her dress.  Having them emerge out of the dark like this was something I have never done with the current medium I am working with and I really enjoyed bringing a little chiaroscuro into this painting.  I prayed for his family all the way through the time I spent painting and it was heartbreaking contemplating so much on their pain and loss.  When I paint people I become instantly connected with whomever I am painting.  It is inescapable.

When I went to choose the kind of flower that I was going to use, I decided to go with honeysuckle.  I chose it not only for its beauty, but for its symbolism which is "bonds of love" which I felt was so appropriate for this piece.  Somehow a bird always sneaks into my paintings.  They seem like the perfect balance to the composition and finishing touch so I add them.  This time I chose a hummingbird which became inspiration for some of the colors I chose to use in the rest of the painting.  

Of course I added some gold bling on the bird and also on part of the flower's stamens.  

The phrase "art is so personal" is an understatement.  This is as personal as you can get and I love that this moment was memorialized on canvas for his daughter to have forever.  I feel honored that I was chosen to paint this and I pray that his daughter will always know how much his daddy loved him every time she looks at it.  To read a blog written by Ricky's strong and admirable wife, go to www.musingswiththemillers.blogspot.com

"Bonds of Love" 20X20

"Bonds of Love" 20X20

Fashion Illustration: A Relic Revisited

Recently I had a friend suggest the idea of fashion illustration to me.  When I was a little girl I used to copy pictures of fashion models out of magazines and make my own books out of them.  I kept a lot of my old art work from when I was young and I found this little book of my fashion drawings which makes me laugh so hard!  I don't know what is funnier, the weird title I gave my book, the 80's clothing the women are wearing, or the quirky face (top left)!  I literally hadn't thought about the idea of fashion illustration since I was probably 10 years old until now!  The thought of combining two of my loves, fashion and drawing, got me excited.  

I quickly set out to try my hand at it as an adult and bought some fresh new art supplies to really get me jazzed up.  I just LOVE brand new art supplies, there is nothing better!!  I thought a lot about how I wanted my illustrations to look before I started.  Then I looked for an inspirational photo to work from and found a beautiful Marchesa gown that I wanted to draw.  I loved all that was going on in the dress and the styling of the model.

I first did a pencil drawing of the model, scanned it, and then I printed it out several times and experimented with how I was going to do the background before I committed to anything on my good paper.  Unlike working digitally on photoshop, if you mess up, you might just ruin your entire piece so its always a good idea to do some trial runs first.  

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This is where I landed.  Since her dress was so detailed with so much going on in it, I went with a more simple background.  I can't escape gold these days (or birds, for that matter), and I also find the circular shape surrounding a subject so comforting so these things were once again incorporated in the background. I used guache, acrylic, and pen and ink to complete the design and frame her face. 

I had SO much fun doing this illustration and I will continue to explore fashion illustration and see where it takes me.  I think its good to sometimes revisit an old idea in a new decade, you may find that you've dug up an old treasure thats been buried with years and time, but once its dusted off, it feels new and wonderful!!