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.


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