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.


"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).

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

Cadair Idris: Wales Residency

I feel slightly exhausted from painting so much these last 3 weeks.  It has been like a marathon and I feel like I need a break from my paintbrush for a little bit which feels really weird coming from my mouth!  I feel like 3 weeks was the perfect amount of time to be on a residency.  I could have pushed myself to do more art if I was staying longer, but I feel like I am ready to go home and see my family.  Yesterday I took a break from painting and did a little sight seeing.  First stop was Machynlleth again to go to the shoe shop where they design and hand craft their shoes.  They actually custom make the shoes for you to fit your feet!  The shoes were so amazing and I wanted many of them, but the ones I wanted the most were, of course, the most expensive ones in the store.  They were made with rabbit fur and cost a whopping $600, so obviously I didn't order any.  The designer and owner said that these shoes are meant to last a lifetime which I love.  Maybe some day!

I stopped at the train station to buy my ticket for my journey to Birmingham and after I bought my ticket I walked back into the center of town.  On my way down the hill I realized that the last time I did this walk was the first day I got here and stepped off the train.  I remembered how I felt while I was walking.  Exhausted, sore, excited, in awe that I was actually in Wales!  I remember taking in everything for the first time and now it seemed almost normal! I walked past this pub which was my first stop after I arrived when I had the fish and chips.  Then my eyes started welling up.  I got a lump in my throat as I realized that my time was drawing to an end here and thinking about my adventure that I have had here.  A tear trickled down my face and I had to take the moment to reflect and say goodbye.  I am so grateful that God gave me this amazing experience and I am so sad that I have to leave this part of the world that I love so much!  

I pulled myself together and Yuki and I drove to a nearby local mountain that is smaller than Snowdon but still pretty big called Cadair Idris.  This palatial tree was at the entrance to greet me.

The journey to the base of the mountain was a beautiful experience in itself!  There was beautiful streams and loads of mossy everything.

The views on the way up were incredible and we walked up hundreds of rock steps and pathways weaving all the way up.

I loved this awesome slate bridge over the stream.  We sat and took a break and caught our breath here and watched the water flow down in front of us.

As we got closer to our destination there were more expanses of land in sight.  Every direction I looked in was absolutely breathtaking.

Then we finally arrived and it was so calm and quiet.  The mountain was so beautiful from all angles and the lake in the center of it was so placid.

And we found more red mushrooms!  There is no short supply of fungus here.

And of course there were more sheep...

It was an amazing three hour hike and I am so glad I got to experience more of God's creation and the Welsh landscape. I have really gained a new appreciation for nature since I've been here and I can't wait to do more exploring when I get home!

Reflecting: Wales Residency

Yesterday started off with some time in the studio working on a new painting and also ended the day working on it.  I am on my third painting and I am really excited about this one!  I headed next door for lunch.  I'm now a regular at Andy and Adam's!  

I had the most AMAZING carrot and ginger soup there which helped warm me up.  I feel so cold all day long here and I long for the moments that I get to warm myself up with soup or a hot drink.  

This is what the street looks like right outside Maelor.  I love this street.

After lunch Yuki and I went for a walk that ended up being about 3 hours long!  

This is a local old chapel that is being turned into art studios, so we heard.  My dream!

We saw more sheep, some cows, some great stone buildings, and a beautiful mossy stream.

We stumbled upon this old post office that is for sale!  We peered in the windows and it was gorgeous inside!  It was a long room with a wood burning stove on either side and a spiral staircase right in the middle of the room!!  If I didn't have a husband and children to go home to, you bet I would be buying this place and never returning.  


We were heading to the old slate quarry and on the way was this old telephone booth so of course I had to have a moment with it.

We stopped to read about the history of the slate quarry then trekked on the footpaths to get to it. The slate was surrounding us in every direction.  It was on either side and underneath our feet.  I just LOVED the sound of the slate underneath my boots as I was walking.  It was a very satisfying sound.  I video taped the sound so I would always remember it. 

The size of the hole in the mountain was monstrous...

I collected a few things along the way to press and I just happened to open up the bird book to the owl page which is ironic because that is what I was painting yesterday.  I have never painted an owl before but as I did I began to really learn about the form of an owl and all of its details.  Every time I paint something I have never painted before I learn more about it as I study the subject.  To me, painting equals learning.  It is easy to look at something without really studying it, but with art it forces you to take note of every detail.  I felt like my walk today was a little like this.  When you are in a car you don't stop to study the world around you.  On foot you have the chance to be a student of the world around you.  Every time you touch the moss, pick up a fern, feel the smooth slate, watch the light hit the mountainside and move as the sun shifts, listen to the sheep bleating and the water dancing over the rocks, you are a student.  A student of God's artistry.  His amazing, awe-inspiring artistry that I love to capture on my canvas.  Although I can never be the level of artist that God is, I love learning about what He has presented us with and reflecting it as best as I can.


Lovely: Wales Residency

Today I went to Machynlleth today and went into a few shops. An art supplies shop, flower shop, and grocery store. I just love all of the quaint buildings here.  I love the age of everything in Europe.  I feel like there is an authenticity in the way the buildings are.  There is no trying to be anything they are not, they just are. And they are just LOVELY.  Lovely is a word I don't use often anymore like I did when I was a kid but I find myself wanting to use the word more while I am here.  Today while we were out I was talking about a time to meet up and my English accent slipped out!!!  I couldn't believe it was surfacing already and it has only been 5 days since I arrived.  It caught me by surprise and made us all laugh!

This afternoon was studio time and I was doing more researching on folklore and did a lot of drawing my mock up for my next painting.  I am enjoying taking time and putting thought into each piece and I am finding that visualizing these tales have brought me so much joy!  It is fun to be inspired by where I am and feels like a natural thing to be painting.

Yuki and I took a great walk this evening and the sunset was just gorgeous and the photos don't do it justice.  


After our walk we stopped at "Slater's Arms" next door and had fun people watching.  There were people eating bowls of stew while the pub dog sat at their feet waiting for scraps.  People chatting by the fireplace, a young girl making a tower out of coasters, and some others playing pool.  I ended the day with more studio time.  Man, this is the life. It's so lovely...