Taratories Blog

"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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Critique: Wales Residency

This last week we had two new resident artists come to stay.  The girl on the left is Michelle Loa Kum Cheung and the girl on the right is Jessica Raby.  

Jessica is currently getting her MA in Aberystwyth and is studying film.  She collects things from nature and isolates outside of their natural environment to film and photograph.  This is her in her studio filming a flower she picked around the area while here.

Michelle is a painter and uses a unique technique where she burns into wood and uses oil paint to paint around and inside her burnt drawings.  Right now she is doing a commission for a restaurant which is a tetraptych (painting that has four parts).  Go to Michellelkc.com to see more of her work.

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And there is me.  I focus mainly on using a combination of acrylic paints and colored pencils on canvas.  I have been enjoying exploring this mixed media technique more and more and have enjoyed focusing on people as my subjects. Since I have been in Wales I have been using Welsh folklore to tell stories in my paintings and I have had so much fun trying my hand at allegorical paintings!

This week we decided it would be fun to do a critique with each other in our studios.  I haven't done a critique since college and it was so fun to be a part of something like this again!  First we gathered in the attic and watched what Jessica had filmed so far on the projector.  

We loved the flower that she had filmed slowly spinning as it hung from her studio ceiling.  The light created beautiful shadows on it and I loved how mesmerizing it was to watch.  She talked about her work and we also took a look at some of her past films.  She appreciated our input and used it to help her plan out her direction for the rest of her stay here. If you want to see more of her work go to www.jess-raby.com.

Next we looked at what Michelle had painted so far on her panels and she talked about her process and how she got into pyrography.  She talked about what kind of subjects she paints and how she is drawn to landscapes but likes to play with scale in her paintings in a surrealistic way.

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The time came for my critique. I talked about my different paintings that I have painted in Wales and how I incorporated Welsh folklore into them. We talked about some of the commonalities that the paintings have with each other and the parts of the paintings that worked better than others.

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Discussing art with each other was so fun and we all benefitted so much from our discussions.  Here are a few more detail shots from another painting I did.

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"Bleeding Hearts"

Recently I did a commissioned painting for a man who lost his daughter to cancer this past year.  In this photo there is a father sharing a sweet moment with his daughter who was battling cancer at the time that this was taken. He is a photographer and normally is behind the lense, but for this brief moment he was the one captured on film instead. 

Using my typical circular designs, I framed the faces and sketched in the placement of everything on my canvas.  I began layering skin tones first with my paint and colored pencils.

I developed his face first and then moved on to hers.

The joy captured in their expressions in this moment in time was so touching.

Changing the color of his shirt helped me go with a monochromatic and more subdued color palette.  The shadow where there heads are touching really became an important element of this painting because it gave some important depth and contrast.

After searching and searching for the perfect flower to include in this piece, I stumbled across the "bleeding heart" flower and right away knew this was the perfect choice because of its symbolism.

The person who commissioned me to do this painting asked me if I would make sure the designs weren't distracting from the faces.  So instead of color, I chose to paint with gold to be used as a neutral inside the outer circle.  

I then began painting in the flowers and designs.  I chose the white "bleeding hearts" with tips of red to help tie in the little sliver of red in the camera.  I struggled so much with picking a color for the background behind their faces...

I needed a color that wasn't too strong, yet one that would be dark enough so that the heads would stand out from it.  I didn't want a distracting color, and I didn't want to clash with the colors I already had here.  So many things to consider.  I ended up layering many different colors of paint and pencil to achieve the color that I ended up with.  I just kept going with one more layer until it felt right!  

The blue washy background really made everything pop and tied it all together.  I was so glad to be able to be a part of this family's healing through the language of art.  As I painted this piece I found myself praying for the family and feeling my heart bleed...

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