Taratories Blog

"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...


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! 


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.


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.


The intensity...


The final elements...


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).

My first "Curiosity Portrait" with Cara Mancari

On my artist residency in Wales back in the fall, I used women's portraits to tell the stories of the Welsh folktales from the area.  Not only did I enjoy painting the portraits, but I loved reading a story and trying to visualize what that might look like in a painting.  One day when I was there I had an idea.  The idea was that when I came back to the States I would tell the stories of as many women as I could.  Right then and there I started formulating a list of questions I would ask the women that I interviewed.  

I decided that I would call these allegorical paintings "Curiosity Portraits" because there is so much mystery and curiosity held in these unique portraits.  One thing I have always been drawn to in art are the questions.  I love trying to figure out what the meaning is behind the paint and what story the artist was trying to tell.  

When I got home from Wales I was so excited to get started on my first "Curiosity Portrait" but I still felt like there was a piece missing.  I wanted something that would be a common thread that would be woven through all of these portraits but I didn't know what that would be.  So I waited, and waited.  Until one day in February I had an "aha" moment!  It all clicked and I was freaking out I was so excited!  

Before I went to Wales I had an idea in mind that I was going to pursue while I was there and it incorporated fashion.  I had brought with me a big envelope stuffed with inspirational images from fashion magazines and some pinterest boards full of great images I could use as inspiration. Although I didn't end up pursuing this theme in Wales, I still had these images lingering in my head.  This particular day in February I started thinking about these images and a lightbulb went off in my brain.  I thought to myself,  "I could tell stories of women through fashion!!"

And so it began.  My first model was the beautiful Cara Mancari...


I went on a little weekend retreat at the end of February which was the perfect time to work on this painting.  Before I left on my retreat I had interviewed Cara asking her a list of questions about her passions, memories, likes, dreams, etc.  I just LOVE this part of the process because I love getting to know people and what things come together to make them who they are.  I have always loved asking people questions because I truly love learning about people!  

At the retreat, I began by looking through my notes from the interview and writing down things that I could use as symbols and visuals to express some of the things she shared about her life.  Next, I searched inspirational images that I could incorporate into the painting.  Here is my messy table where I began a sketch to put all the pieces of the puzzle together.  It was challenging, but for some reason I really love the challenge! I love painting portraits but it has never felt like enough for me in the creativity department.  Having to take these steps of creativity is exhilarating for me and takes portrait painting to a whole new level.

I then worked out a color palette that I was going to use based on her answers in the interview.

One of the questions I asked her was, "what was your favorite memories from growing up?"  She told me that when she was a little girl she loved playing in the woods and she found these curved branches that she used as the top of her "house." She made her house and then found moss that she laid down under the branches to lay and play on.  Cara loved this imaginary play and I thought that would be a beautiful thing to capture in the painting.  

Here is the moss in her headpiece...

Here are the branches...

Her favorite bird is a blue jay so I perched him on top of the branches...

I asked Cara, "What about nature inspires you?  What are you drawn to?"  She told me that she loves asymmetrical patterns in nature.  So I painted a tree bark pattern on her clothing...

I asked her "If you could live in a scene of a book or a movie where would you live?" and she told me that it would be "Lord of the Rings" so I decided to add a hobbit house underneath the moss in her headpiece.  I also incorporated wild flowers in front of it because those are her favorite kinds of flowers.

Another thing we talked about was what dream she had for her future and she told me that she wanted to own her own interior design business.  She told me that Scandinavian design is her favorite kind of design.  I really didn't know what Scandinavian design looked like so I did research.  I just love learning about new things through art processes!  I found that in Scandinavian design a lot of black, white, copper, blush, and hints of blue are used (hence the color scheme).  Considering this, I thought that the copper on her headpiece and black polka dots would be the perfect elements to complete the piece.  Blush is actually her favorite color so that worked out nicely, and also the fact that she loved blue jays worked out well with the color scheme as well. I also hung the blue jay feathers from her head piece to bring more blue to the bottom of the painting. 

My favorite elements in the painting are the polka dots and the way that her face blends in with the blush background.  I love the subtlety of it and it veers from my norm. I would like to play with more subtlety in my future works.  Cara was thrilled with how the painting turned out and was so excited to see all the personal elements of her life story incorporated into the painting.  

When she saw it she said, "It's so cool because I feel like my life is a storybook, that my experiences and the details of my life are more than just subtle memories, but vibrant details and a part of who I am!" This quote really encompasses what I want people to experience through these portraits.  I want every woman to feel like she has a story, a beautiful story.  That her life is valued.  What is your story?  Email me at taratories@gmail.com if you are interested in telling your story without words.. 

Made in London

This past week I decided to do a little self portrait inspired by my birthplace which is London.  I was born and raised in England and moved to the States when I was 10 years old.  Even though now I am a US citizen, England will always hold a special place in my heart.  I used watercolor paper because I was going to do the sketch of myself in pencil, and paint the background with watercolors. At first, I was irritated by the texture of the paper when I was drawing my face, but as time went on I grew to enjoy the texture.  I think it adds some dimension to the drawing.

Two of my favorite things in the world to draw are 1. hair, and 2. fabric.  They are similar in ways to me.  They seem to be alike in the way that they flow and fold.  With both, the depth of the layers create contrast depending on how the light hit the different areas.  I love drawing these layers!

I have worked with watercolor for many years, but I have not spent much time using watercolors with the wet-on-wet technique.  With this technique you apply a layer of water on the paper and then apply the paint onto that layer creating more of a free flowing affect.  I just love the spontaneity of this technique and I plan on experimenting more with this way of painting in the near future!  To add to this spontaneous look, I splattered my watercolor paint in the background and also on my dress.  I have never done the splattering before and it was really messy but really fun!   

I wanted to make it look like I painted the Union Jack behind myself which is why I included the paint brushes in my hands and added the splatters on my clothes.  I am really happy with the way this turned out and I hope to do more again!  I am now taking commissions, so if you are interested in having your portrait drawn in front of your homeland painted flag please contact me through my website or at taratories@gmail.com.

"Made in London" 9X12 by Tara Deetscreek   

"Made in London" 9X12 by Tara Deetscreek