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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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


One of her favorite flowers is the hydrangea…


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.”


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.


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.


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


Incorporating this caterpillar was another request…


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


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.


High Arts Festival


High Arts Festival is a 23-day festival celebrating visual art, music and film. Public vote determines $32,000 in prizes. The event runs Sept. 14-Oct. 7.


The details

September 14-October 6
Thursday-Friday: 12-7 p.m.
Saturday: 12-5 p.m.

Location: Summit Artspace
140 E. Market St. Akron, OH 44308

Visual Art prizes will be awarded in the following categories:

  • Grand Prize Public Vote ($3000)
  • Grand Prize Juried Vote ($3000)
  • 2D Runner Up ($1000)
  • 3D Runner Up ($1000)

The visual art public and juried grand prize winners will also have to opportunity to go on a 2-day trip October 25-26 to a to-be-announced city to learn from their local arts community.

OPENING NIGHT: Friday, September 14, 5:30-10pm at the Summit Artspace

Come see my work along with many others pieces in the show, and stop by and visit me opening night in my studio on the first floor.  I am in room #104.  

See you there!


Live Family Sketching

This week I had a fun evening of live fashion sketching!  I went to a local house and joined a family in a birthday party get together.  I have never done live fashion sketching for a family like this before and it was a really fun experience!  At the end of the 4 hours I felt like I was part of the crew, they were so inviting and so fun!  They came over to me and posed for me as I needed them.  I even used a photo to add a family member into the painting who wasn't able to attend the party.


That night I painted 18 people total from the family!  This is a great way to capture a group of people in a loose and fun way instead of the typical photograph.  Doing quick sketches really pushes me out of my comfort zone and forces me to try and capture the essence of the person instead of every detail. 


If you are interested in having this done at your next party or event, please email me at taratories@gmail.com to start the conversation!


All framed up outside of the room I painted! 


Evolution Revolution

Every year, the Evolution Revolution blog by Lisa Graystone has has a gift guide which is just fabulous!  I always enjoy reading her biog year round, and also her gift guide during the holidays.  I was so touched to see that I was featured in there this year.  Take a minute to read her gift guide and also check out her Etsy shop where she sells beautiful vintage women's clothing!  Featured below are some Frida Kahlo socks that she featured which I must have in my life! To check out John's Crazy Socks click HERE


Plein Air Painting in Peninsula

Ever since I have lived in Akron, I have wanted to do the local Plein Air painting completion in the neighboring town of Peninsula.  Every other year it didn't seem to fit in with my schedule, but this year there was time to squeeze some outdoor painting in.  "Plein Air" is from the French expression, "in the open air."  I am not a landscape painter by any means, but I do love a good challenge.  I really like to push myself into new territories every once in a while because it forces me to grow and learn and to get out of my comfort zone.  

I woke up early and headed over to the Peninsula Art Academy where we were to bring our canvases to get stamped and get a map of the area.  I drove around for about a half an hour to find a good location. First I started off in town, but there were already artists situated on the side of the street in what I thought were good locations, and I didn't want to intrude into their spaces.  I was happy though, because I had envisioned myself by a lake somewhere in peace and quiet where I would not be disturbed.  Eventually I found that picturesque lake I was hoping for at Kendall Lake.  All that was there was a few fishermen on the dock so I figured I wouldn't be bothered there. 

I found an area that had a great view of the water and I started unloading my stuff.  It was muddy, but I was prepared with my waterproof hiking boots so I didn't mind at all.  As I started to set everything up I thought to myself, "what in the heck am I doing?  I have a million other things I could be doing right now and here I am standing in the mud setting up an easel."  I pushed that thought aside and indulged in the moment.  Doing things that are not practical are sometimes necessary for the soul.

I began painting.  I absolutely loved being in nature and hearing the bullfrogs and watching the red winged black birds fly around me.  It felt like I just pushed pause on life and was able to breath clearly.  It was a little cool, but sunny, so pleasant.  I soon got in the zone, and that's when they started coming... the visitors.  People were curious as to what I was painting and began to strike up conversations with me.  

One man told me that he was an artist and used to work for American Greetings.  He went on to tell me that because he had to do his art for a job to please others, it ended up killing his creativity and left him not wanting to be an artist in the end.  So sad.

Another man told me that he used to come to the lake with a friend of his and sit on the bench nearby.  They used to paint there together and did not communicate with words.  The friend of his was Chinese and spoke only Mandarin, so they connected through art which transcends all language barriers.  His friend since passed away.  This story was so touching.

I had many other interesting conversations with people while I was there and found out from the park volunteers that there are baby eagles in a nest nearby (which they were right because my family and I went looking for them where they said they were, and they were there!).  Near the end, a man stopped by to observe and his dog planted a hot steamy one right behind where I was standing!  He was so embarrassed and I was glad that I was almost done painting!  It turns out that the most inspirational part of Plein Air painting was the conversations I had with people, which was the very thing I was planning on avoiding!  

My painting is now for sale at the Peninsula Art Academy (hours: Wed-Sun 11-5pm) and there will be an artist reception next Friday on May 26th from 6-9pm where they will announce the winners of the competition.  Hope to see you there!

Photo credit for all photographs: Cara Mancari

In Her Mind's Eye

"In Her Mind's Eye" 40X26

"In Her Mind's Eye" 40X26

People have always said that I am a dreamer, and rightly so.  When I was a child, my teachers remarked to my parents how I was a day dreamer and was always staring out the classroom window.  Looking back, I don't know what I was thinking about, but I do know that I wasn't thinking about the math problems that were on my desk.  This young girl that lives in another world in her mind has continued into adulthood.  I have been raising 4 boys for the past 17 years and during these years of motherhood I feel like that I would have shriveled up and died inside if all I did was care for my family and live the life that one would only see on the outside.  Whether you have a full time desk job in a gray space or you're feeding babies and are up to your elbows in peanut butter and jelly, the monotony of every day can be a tough reality to face day in and day out.  Even though I was not able to live out all the creativity that I wanted to at different stages of my life, I have found ways to keep my brain in motion to help me to keep being a dreamer.  We should all be dreamers!  Life would be a happier place if we allowed ourselves to break free from the monotony and be inspired.  What do you fill your brain with that keeps you dreaming and inspired?  What is in your mind's eye?

How to Live like a Dreamer:

1. Visuals: Collect images that are inspiring to you and that make you feel happy.  I truly believe that the reason that Pinterest is so successful is because it allows people to to fill their senses with things that take them away to other places. It breaks the visual monotony of what we see every day and allows us to dream. Dream about those images when you are scrubbing toilets or working on a deadline for work.  It doesn't have to distract, just give those images a minute of stage time in your brain and let it help fuel you to carry on and complete your current task at hand. What's on your favorite pinterest board? 

2. Believe that anything is possible:  The definition of Optimism is "hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something."  It is this positive outlook that will spur you on to think out of the box and dream of possibilities that may look impossible to others. What do you think is impossible but something that you would love to experience or accomplish?  Dream about those things.

3. Be a future person:  What drives me and motivates me is having goals for myself and a mental bucket list that I am contemplating.  Right now my future goal is having an art studio in the woods somewhere, possibly a treehouse, and there is nothing anyone can do to take that vision away from me.  The thought of this treehouse alone is enough to keep my brain dreaming and gets me through the most boring of days.  What is an unrealistic dream that you have for your future?  Dream about that.

4. Look and Listen:  Fill your brain up with whatever you find inspiring and/or motivating.  I just read "Big Magic" by Elizabeth Gilbert which was all about creative living beyond fear.  That was a great read!  Try to make time to read, and if you don't have time, then listen to podcasts!  I only started listening to podcasts last year and after the first one I was hooked!  What I love about them is that you can multitask as you listen to them.  I listen to them as I drive, work out at the gym, cook dinner, and of course while I do art.  

For you artists out there, I have some suggestions of podcasts that are my top two favorites.  The Jealous Curator: Art for your Ear, and Savvy Painter Podcast with Antrese Wood.  They interview artists and I love learning about people's stories and their personal journeys as artists.  These conversations continue to play in my mind long after they are over and give me so much to ponder.  What are you reading and listening to?



5. Take time to think: Whether it is over a cup of coffee or before you go to sleep at night, during Pilates, or in the shower, dedicate some time to letting your brain take a little vacation.  Our brains need time to breathe.  Don't think about when you have to drive the kids to such and such, or when that bill is due, or the stack of papers you have sitting on your desk at work.  Have your brain enter places that make your heart sing and let inspiration find you there...