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Artist Portfolio: Tara McPherson
Published on 10/01/2009

A really awesome profile on me in ImagineFX! Scroll down to read the article.

Artist Portfolio: Tara McPherson
ImagineFX, October 2009

Her artwork graces gallery walls, comic covers, book pages and even the skin of her most avid fans. Tara McPherson reveals her hard-working, hard-rocking approach to painting...

The day we manage to catch up with Tara McPherson for a chat about her artwork, it's been a case of 'no sleep 'til Brooklyn' for her. She's in the middle of her summer tour to promote her new book, Lost Constellations. After eight US dates, she's back in her Brooklyn studio to finish nice works for a show at Barcelona's Iguapop Gallery. This is part of the European leg of her tour, which also sees stops in London, Paris, four cities in Germany, Vienna, Zurich and Rome. Later, it'll be back across the pond for Comic Con in San Diego and four stops in Brazil.

There's no other way of describing it: Tara goes about it like a rock star, and has the tattoos, hairstyle, gothic outfits and make-up to boot. "That's what I equate it to," she says. "A lot of artists don't realize the importance of supporting the things you produce. A band puts out a record and then tours to promote it and support it. I have the book and a toy set that just came out, and that's exactly what I'm doing."

Lost Constellations is based loosely around a series of paintings done for Manhattan's Jonathan LeVine Gallery, but also includes a range of work from the last three years. Meanwhile, Kidrobot has manufactured a series of 12 figures Tara designed under the title Gamma Mutant Space Friends. As you read this, she's probably signing posters, books, and Kidrobot boxes, and most likely being shown one or two tattoos by fans who have committed her work to their flesh.

Her strong fan base is arguably the result of how smoothly Tara seems to step from one art milieu to another. Her work straddles fantasy and fine art, illustration and the world of comics. But whatever she decides to work on, it's bold and imaginative, yet subtle and emotive. "A lot of people have been using 'pop-surrealist' to describe the genre, and I really like that term. I think that suits me and my style." she says. "I don't see myself in the fantasy genre, but looking at my work, you could definitely put me into that category. I deal with very fantastical themes, but I think its more surreal than anything."

As Tara points out, her work covers subjects like relationships, change and loss from a personal point of view. Yet she casts these themes in an alternative universe, full of physical anomalies and manifestations of things she's imagined. "Sometimes I enjoy being more whimsical and weird with the ideas. How far can I push the oddities? It depends on my mood."

Despite the smooth, almost glistening surfaces Tara often captures in her paintings, she's currently aiming for a looser, more painterly style. Some of the works she produced for the Iguapop Gallery exhibition are smaller drawings for which she's using ink and color. "I'm just trying to be loose and free with it, and see what happens. So it's kind of exciting to 'let the bra straps show' and be freer with things."

Give Her The Birch
Most of Tara's paintings start off as thumbnails, which she scans in and blows up to the size she wants them. By starting small, she believes, you can get the balance of the picture right straight away. After printing out the rough draft, she transfers it to her media which could be birch board, canvas or linen. The latter is a new media for her, and ones she's experimenting with for Barcelona. Then she works on the painting in oils. If she's producing a show, she'll often work on several paintings at once, each of which could take from three days to three weeks to complete.

These days, Tara is mainly devoted to her own projects - books, shows, and her own vinyl toys. Occasionally, other work comes along and, where possible, she'll explore the idea of using some of her fine art work for twin purposes. When the editors of the Popgun anthology got in touch, she painted a cover for them in a style to suit the show she was working on at the same time.


The gig posters Tara creates are another matter, mainly because they're screenprints rather that paintings. Mastodon, The Melvins, The Breeders, Neurosis and Kings of Leon have all used her artwork. "I love music and I love art, so it's a perfect marriage of the two, and I get to work in a different way," she says. "It's not fully rendered out and its not painted. Its dealing with value and color in a whole different way because it's screen printed. I love the flatness and I've always loved printmaking."

Like her paintings, her prints are held in high regard. In 2006, Esquire magazine gave her a poster for a Beck gig in Amsterdam it Poster of the Year Award. There's probably no more fitting accolade for an artist with such a rock-and-roll approach to her work.