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Cover and feature in Ox Fanzine
Ox Fanzine
Published on 11/11/2006

Cover and feature interview by Ross Feratu in the largest German free rock magazine. Here is a link to the back issue or you can read the transcript below.

Feature / Interview - OX-Fanzine # 68

How would you describe your art and your style?

I would describe the style as a combination of varying influences... ranging from Renaissance and Mannerist portraiture, to Japanese prints and animation. It's always hard for me to classify it myself, but I would say it fits in the Pop Surrealist genre. I like to capture the idealized visual aesthetic mixed with dark subject matter.

Do you have any idols or influences concerning your work/art?

Some of my favorite artists are Bronzino, Botticelli, Van der Wyden, Terada, Schiele, Amano, Kent Williams, Glenn Barr, James Jean, Junko Mizuno. But that's narrowing it way down, I have like 3 huge bookcases of amazing art books. I'm kind of a book junkie!

Do you prefer some special kind of music while working?
 What brings you in the special kind of mood for working?

The good kind! I always listen to music in my studio, but what I listen to varies depending on my mood or if I'm working on a project for a band. When I'm brainstorming for a poster I'll put on that band's music to really immerse myself into their vibe. If I'm painting, sometimes I'll put on more melodic music like Pinback or The Doves, but then I notice sometimes when the music slows down I paint slower! So then I'll put on some metal, like High on Fire or Iron Maiden. I listen to such a wide variety of music though... everything from Love to Pentagram to Dr. Dre. I think I'm a music junkie too!

Do you have a special time of day or season that fits perfectly for working? e.g. some people like to work at nights, some by day....

Ideally it's great if I can wake up early and get in the studio by the late morning, but I'm such a night person lately. But I'll try to get in around noon and leave the studio by 1am usually. I seem to get more work done in the winter too, summer is so hot and nice out that it's hard to be indoors sometimes! But generally speaking, I work best with the least amount of distractions around, which is why I don't have a TV or anything in the studio. The internet is a big enough distraction!

How do you start when you got a certain job from a client? There isn't always so much freedom of creativity…

You'd be suprised. I get so much more creative freedom than I thought I ever would with a lot of jobs. When companies hire artists to create an image for them, they are hiring them mainly for their ideas. I rarely ever get told what to draw or paint. And I find when I really push the limits, I get the best results.

Did you ever have a blackout concering work? No ideas, no idea how to start, feeling like you're stuck on a one-way street?! What do you do then?

Yes, that happens to everyone. The technique that works best for me is to start out by writing down ideas and brainstorming with word association. I'll just write down whatever pops into my head, then I'll reread what I wrote down, and write more things that associate with the first ideas. By then I'll have a couple pages of words, notes and sentences. Then I look over them and start forming a more cohesive idea that relates to the job at hand. Then I do rough drawings and decide on which works the best.

How is life in NYC? You still live there, don't you?
Does a city help you being creative? How does NYC reflect on your art?

Yes, I still live in NYC. It's such a great city for me, inspirationally and culturally. I grew up in LA, so I'm used to living in a large place, but NYC is the total opposite of LA to me. LA is so large and spread out- you have to have a car and there is an inherent sense of separation in that city. I feel that the layout of NYC forces people to interact and I find that fascinating. No one drives, and when you take the subway you talk to people and your arm touches theirs. It's more intimate. And everyone walks here, so you get a combination of everyone from Donald Trump to a bum walking down the sidewalk. It's really great. Also the art scene is amazing here. The best galleries, museums and artists in America I think.

What is being reflected in your art?

I like to focus on human relations and odd interactions, so I find that NYC is a perfect place for me to explore that. The strangest and coolest things happen just while you sit in a park or walk down the street!

Do you like travelling? Which countries blow your mind?

I love to travel and thankfully with my work I get to go to a lot of events that I'm in all over the place. Like the art tour I'm going on this October and November through Europe to support the release of my Lonely Hearts book. So far I'd say that I love Italy the best, for the paintings and architecture, but this next trip I'm getting to go to some new countries I've never been to before, so we'll see! Also I really want to go to Japan soon.

How come you mostly have people characters in your art?

It's simply the thing that I am drawn to and relate to and enjoy drawing. I love figurative art. Whenever I have drawn something that doesn't have a person or character in it, I feel so uncomfortable drawing it.

As a lot of artists do, do you also let parts of your relationships and experiences be mirrored in your work? How much Tara is in your art, concering you personal life?

Well... A lot! My art is my catharsis. I also let my friends' relationship experiences help me with ideas. But yes, relationship troubles are an endless source of inspiration for me. I try to not let them be too melancholy, though. You will notice with my characters that they have an air of confidence and power to them no matter what the situation. Hopefully that is inspiring to the viewer. My heartless girl named Orion is definitely an extension of me.

What kind of music do you prefer?
Tell me about your favorite bands, the best last concerts/shows, the best friends from any bands..

The best recent show I went to was Slayer and Mastodon. I hadn't seen Slayer since I was like 20 and had never seen Mastodon before. It rocked and since I had done the poster for the show, I got to watch from the stage. Pretty nice!

Lately I have been listening to Shellac, Isis, Red Sparrowes, High on Fire, Joy Division, Mastodon, Early Man, Refused, Dead Meadow, Starlite Desperation, Kings of Leon, French Kicks, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Echo and The Bunnymen, BRMC, Cheap Trick, Goblin Cock, Pentagram, The Sword and tons more...

When I look at your work, there’s always these kind colors and the girly-like art, but you connect your style with bands like MASTODON for example that are a really heavy band. How does this work for you? It seems your art suits to any kind of music and band. it’s amazing!!

Ha, thanks! I think it's because it's music that I truly like and find inspiring. And I'm not going to change my palette or style because it's a heavy band. I want to create something for it in my personal vocabulary. Now of course, image-wise, it has to suit the band, but I love doing darker and adult imagery, so it works.

What can we expect from your upcoming book,"Lonely Heart: The Art of Tara McPherson?"

It is the first published collection of my work. It includes paintings, drawings, posters, and some other cool stuff too. I also had the idea to make transparent vellum overlays for certain images, so the viewer can see more of my process and how I think when I approach my work.

You will be in Germany this year for your exhibition in November 2006- please give me your dates again. Are there any special galleries /cit /places you are looking for?

I will have a show at Feinkunst-Kreuger in Hamburg on November 4th, Videodrom in Berlin on November 8th.

What other projects, works, exhibitions, cooperations, jobs and plans are in the near future?

The Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall story I worked on comes out in October through Vertigo DC, which is my first painted comic. I have a bunch of toys in production with Kid Robot now (those should start coming out next year sometime). I'm going to spend the next year painting "Donor" - a 100 page graphic novel for Vertigo written by Stephen T. Seagle, painting for gallery shows, doing freelance illustration and posters, and designing more toys! Also, I teach a Concept Illustration class once a week for 3rd year students at Parsons in NYC. I think that should keep me pretty busy... maybe...