March 2007 Issue features a 6 page interview. You can read the transcript below.
DPI Magazine March 2007 Issue
How did you get started in the illustration field?
I got my start in the illustration world while I was in college. I was an illustration major, Fine Art minor. A friend of mine was a photo editor at a magazine and asked me to do some illustrations with them. It slowly grew from there, and then after I graduated everything started falling into place. More jobs, bigger jobs, more frequent jobs.
What do you remember most about the early days of your career? Have you ever given up?
I remember having this angst to create and be a successful artist. I had, and still have, a major drive for success, and very specific goals. I had a 5 year plan after I graduated, and I accomplished everything I wanted to, amazingly! Now I have a 10 year plan I am working on, which is to cut out most of the commercial work and focus on my gallery career. I work hard at trying to be an elegant and talented artist. I feel I have a gift and I have to use it. I also get such fulfillment from painting, especially when I finish a piece. Which theme is your favorite drawing? Why?
I've been mainly interested in love and the loss of love, relationships, human interaction, and personality quirks. I think this theme interests me so much because the emotions we feel in relationships with friends and lovers are so intense. People commit murder and unthinkable crimes in the heat of the moment. We are capable of such outrageous things when driven insane by love. I also have been getting interested in monsters, human abberations, and space. There are certain themes I am looking to explore at my next solo show at Jonathan LeVine gallery in Feb. 2008. How do you create surreal style in fine art works?
I think it comes from a combination of my artistic inspirations... rennaissance, mannerist, and baroque paintings, japanese woodblock prints, comic art, and a selection of current painters. There are so many more, but those are the main genres. I don't want my work to be photo realistic, I just draw and paint as I see things in my head. I have never forced a style. When i was a student, there were so many kids that would and their work, to me, came out looking so derivative. I took a long time for things to come together for me, but in my last year of art school, it all just suddenly fit. So now I feel how I draw and create images comes from a completely natural and standpoint.
Could you tell us something about your painted illustration? Which illustration work took a long time to complete?
Most of my illustrations are painted in acrylic, with the use of some oils, on sanded and gessoed 1/2" birch wood. I think the longest I spent on a painted commercial illustration job was for the New York Is Book Country poster that features Sandman and Death on it. I think I spent about 2 weeks on that at least. Most of my other book covers have taken me 3-5 days to paint.
How many posters have you have created? Could you provide some details and tell us your ideas?
Oh, I think I've made around 70 or so posters now over the past 5 years. The thing I love about doing rock posters is that I get complete creative freedom when i'm working. There is no art director guiding me in theme and concept. The only thing the client looks into is if the show information is correct. This way I get to explore so many different ideas of mine. I have worked out a lot of characters and thematic elements in my poster work that transfers into my other art. Certain posters where that has happened with, for instance, are Beck, Shonen Knife, Bright Eyes, Mars Volta, and others. And there are recurring characters that appear... I keep using the ones I like the most.
What is your moment to create art works in a day? Which thing will inspire you very much?
I usually do most of my drawing and painting in the late afternoon into the evening. It usually takes me some time to get going in the studio, due to taking care of business things like emails and such, but then once I start I don't stop until I'm completely exhausted. I have a tendency to work long hours when I'm in the midsts of a painting. The things that inspire me the most are looking at books, reading, discovering, taking a walk, talking with friends, going to galleries, and just observing life and new things.
Since you became an artist, what challenges have you have met?
It's very difficult to be a robot... Sometimes I feel like that's what I need to be in order to keep on schedule with my deadlines and projects. But the fact is, I'm only human... Sometimes I need to step away from things and take time off. Maintaining that constant inspiration to be creative all of the time is the most difficult thing I've experienced with being an artist. Artist's block or whatever you want to call it. Sometimes the creative juices flow, and sometimes they don't. The key, I think, is finding your personal motivation tactic(s). For me, most of the time it's stepping back a bit so I can step forward.
Besides illustration, could you tell us about your tattoos?
I have had a fascination with tattoo art since I was a teenager. The day I turned 18 I went to Hollywood Boulevard with my best friend and got a tattoo. That wasn't my first one though. When I was like 15 we gave ourselves tattoos with ink and a needle and thread. That hurt. Well they all hurt, but that hurt the most. The needle was going way too deep. Now, I have a lot of friends who are amazing tattoo artists that have worked on me... Mark Heggie, Jason Schroeder, Henry Lewis, Clay Decker and others. But I haven't been tattooed in almost 3 years now. No rush though- there's plenty of time and skin.
Could you tell us something about latest exhibition in Europe?
I just got back from my book tour throughout Europe. I went to 8 cities for book signings and art exhibitions for my new collection of art called "Lonely Heart: The Art of Tara McPherson" published by Dark Horse Press. It was an amazing 5 week adventure. I'm putting together a photo journal of the whole event right now that follows me through my whole trip.
What is your future plan?
I want to paint and I want to continue to create art that I'm passionate about.