"For many years my habit was to spend two or even three months on one painting, trying to create an image without flaws. I've begun to realize that painting is not about the absence of flaws- painting is about being fully awake, and fully aware of a larger world outside yourself. At best it is an act of spiritual renewal." - Taryn Day
This is Taryn. She is awesome. :) I first discovered Taryn through browsing the Daily Paintworks site and instantly fell in love with her very thoughtful and poetic figure paintings and portraits. Her still life, landscape, and animal paintings all have this same quality too. Everything that she paints seems to tell a story about what it is to be human. Even if it's a portrait of a sheep. And to top it all of she is so nice and genuine. You'll love her. :) To see more of Taryn's work you can follow her blog Awake and Painting by clicking here. And visit her website by clicking here.
Welcome Taryn! I’m so excited to have you on my blog today. I’m a big fan of your work. I’d love to get to know you a little better. Could you tell us a little about your path to becoming the artist you are today?
Thank you Crystal, I’m a fan of your work too! I’m pleased that you’ve chosen me for an interview, because I get to spend some time navel gazing, something I love to do. My path has been somewhat long, as I started painting in oils at the age of 16, thirty six years ago. I started out loose and painterly, feeling excited and inspired just about all the time. In my mid-twenties I started to slow way down, using tiny brushes and spending two or three months on a small painting. I was after the way light caressed surfaces, and usually painted interiors and the way light from a window would create beauty in an ordinary room. This worked well for a few years, but then for some reason my drive and excitement over painting turned slowly to dread. I would often begin a painting with enthusiasm, only to eventually paint the thing to death, losing my initial feeling.
Then I married and had two kids, and began to work a series of part time jobs and desperately tried to fit painting in when I could. Sometimes it would work out, but too often I would overwork a piece, probably out of a lack of confidence. A few years ago I began to be aware of the Daily Painting Movement, and thought that trying to paint small pieces in one day might help me to get out of my perfectionist bog. Many small and quick paintings later, I found that my work was improving, but most interestingly, was usually not as bad as I thought. I mean, I used to think that my work was not fit for anyone’s eyes but my own until I’d worked on them for a long, long time, but having to finish in one day and put it aside, then come back to see it the next day was a real eye-opener. It dawned on me that while my first impression of a subject was full of small inaccuracies as compared with a camera’s, it was often an interesting and valid statement.
I do find that my most current work has slowed down a bit, where I spend 2-4 days on a small piece. By painting so many one day pieces, I’ve learned a lot about getting the most important elements down quickly, and to focus on what I am most moved by.
'November' by Taryn Day
7" x 6.5" oil on panel
You post new work regularly to your blog, which I think is very impressive. It’s not easy to be consistent about your work. What inspires you to create your art and how do you keep motivated when things get tough?
I love blogging. It is so great to finish a piece and get feedback within a couple hours. As far as being inspired, usually an idea will smack me in the face, so to speak. When I try too hard to find the perfect subject I come up with nothing. When I relax and become more open to my environment, often I feel that a great subject just hands itself to me. Case in point, recently I went to the Philadelphia Mummers Parade to take pictures to use in paintings. For the first hour I felt frustrated and impatient that people were not getting into poses that I thought they should, but finally relaxed and sat down on a curb and just waited. That’s when things started to come together. Once I spent two hours trying to pose a half a watermelon, gave up and sliced it into many small wedges for my family to eat and put them in a bowl, then realized I had exactly the composition I wanted. So I think inspiration is kind of accidental.
The times that I feel I need a kick in the pants to get going on a painting is first thing in the morning, when I have a big cup of coffee at the computer and am sifting through my favorite websites, or sending emails. I’ll say to myself that I must start painting by a certain time, and then I’ll stick to it. It’s easier for me to work than to not work and have to call myself bad names. Lol. :)
If I paint a painting I’m not happy with, I do get a little down and am not the best company, (me too! Just ask my husband :) but that makes it especially great to be able to start something new the next day. I love that positive spin. No use crying over painting disasters.
'Leah at Sea' by Taryn Day
6" x 6" oil on panel
Some of my favorite pieces of yours are your figure paintings and portraits. I think you have a real strength for conveying emotion through gesture and expression, something that isn’t easy to do in my opinion. What is it about figures and portraits that inspire you to paint them so frequently? And what is it that draws you to paint a specific scene?
Thank you Crystal, that is just what I want to try and achieve- to say something about what goes on inside a person by their face or gesture. I’ve spent much of my painting life concentrating on still life, interiors and landscape, but I’ve always wanted to paint the kinds of scenes I’m painting now. I did spend seven years working exclusively on portrait commissions of children, but usually from photographs. I didn’t enjoy working from photos, and thought the end result was stiff and unpainterly. Just this past year I began to paint from my computer monitor, and although at first I hated it as compared with painting from life, I have started to absolutely love it. The subject matter possibilities have just expanded for me to an amazing degree. I can avoid the stilted, photographic look by standing ten feet back from my monitor, as a way to focus on the essentials, and I can turn the image upside down and sideways to get a fresh view. I can lighten the shadow areas if I need to see what’s going on with the structure, then darken the image again for a highlighted area. I’m really having fun.
I grew up in a family with seven children. There was a certain amount of necessary discipline just to keep the crowd under control, and my parents, being mid-Westerners, preferred understatement to letting it all hang out. There was lots of stimulating talk, and my brothers were quite witty, but I would feel a little cut off from real feelings. I developed a habit of studying people closely to try and figure out what they were really thinking and feeling.
As for how I choose a specific scene, I like introspection and even a certain healthy amount of melancholy in a person or scene. Simple happiness doesn’t do it for me. I like to show a person with more ambiguous feelings, or if they are happy, it should be a deep sort of peaceful happiness, as if they were contemplating something outside of time. At least that’s my goal- not sure I’m there yet. Well I certainly get that feeling from viewing your work. I'd call that a success. :)
'Patience' by Taryn Day
6" x 6" oil on panel
I also love the way you are able to simplify the detail in your paintings, to focus on the essence of the subject. You really make every expressive brushstroke count! What tips do you have for other artists who may find themselves getting ‘lost in the details’ and forsaking the big picture?
I’d say to paint one painting a day for a few months. Use only large brushes, at least ½ an inch across. Think of the subject in the simplest possible way. If you are painting something that is round, just keep thinking about the roundness. Squinting can be good, but even better, as you paint a brushstroke, look at the entire subject. Never focus on just one thing. How a detail fits into the whole is what matters, not that detail by itself. Love your subject and know why you love it, and aim to get that into the painting. If you can trick yourself into seeing the subject as something, anything, other than itself, it will help. In other words, always look for the abstract pattern. Try and forget you are painting a face, a flower, a tree. Just see shapes, and see big shapes. The little shapes can be added later, they’ll have a lot more power if the big shapes are correct.
You often quote poetry on your blog, which I love, is poetry something that inspires your paintings? And is there a favorite poem that you turn to again and again?
I’m not sure why I’ve added poems to my blog. It just seemed a natural thing to do. Painting is about the meaning behind surfaces, isn’t it? And poetry is about meaning hiding behind this daily life we live, isn’t it? I go through phases of reading poetry, usually first thing in the morning. Finding out about a good and exciting poet can be quite inspiring for me. I don’t have one poem that is a favorite, but I sure do like Galway Kinnell, Robert Lowell and Robert Frost. I’m no poetry expert, but I like a poem where emotion and meaning trumps beauty. I love poets with deep originality and a sense of humor, like Billy Collins and Kenneth Koch.
Life as an artist is pretty awesome. But it’s not all glitter and rainbows. What do you think is the best part of being an artist? And the worst part?
The best part for me is loving what I do, to think I have something to say and to be sometimes be able to say it. The worst part? I think I get a little too intense sometimes, too focused on this one thing I do. And of course money is always an issue.
'Protected' by Taryn Day
6" x 6" oil on panel
What has been your biggest challenge as an artist so far?
Having to work full time for a while and still consider myself a painter. That drove me mad. My biggest challenge as a painter? Getting rejected by many galleries over the years really shook up my self-confidence. Starting a blog was a way to have people see and then buy my work, and now finally some galleries are expressing interest. I’m happy to have the independence to sell online, so I’m not sure what will happen.
What is one thing you want viewers of your paintings to walk away with?
Oh, to remember a time when they felt the same way as a person I’ve painted, and to realize the ordinary can have something to say. Beautifully said. I love that. :)
Let’s talk about artistic influences. Who has been your biggest source of inspiration? Dead or alive.
Oh, this is such a hard question. I tend to get personally inspired by female painters of my generation, but it would be too hard to choose one. I love Diana Horowitz’s work. She has a wonderful lofty way of seeing the world, with such great color and light, but there are so many others.
6" x 6" oil on panel
What do you like to do when you’re not painting?
I like all the normal things; I like to take long walks, read, watch movies, practice yoga. Of course I like spending time with friends and my large extended family. I like to travel, but money is usually too tight. I work part time at the library, where I enjoy staying in touch with people in my local community. I like to cook and I like being organized. I like to be organized too. . . I'm just not very good at it. Can you teach me? ;)
What are some of your goals for the future?
I’d like to continue in the direction I’m headed, meaning to gradually increase the size of my panels and paint more complex, involved subjects while keeping my brushwork loose. I’d love to eventually teach art more seriously. I’ve taught one or two classes at a time for years in small art centers, but it would be great to teach in a college.
Let’s say life as we know it is about to end and you’re in charge of creating an artistic time capsule for the aliens who recolonize Earth to find. What art - both classic and contemporary – would you insist on including?
Winslow Homer, Van Gogh, Vilhelm Hammershøi, Howard Hodgkins, Antonio López García, Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans, Robert Capa, Josef Sudek, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Pieter Jansz. Saenredam, Giotto, Michelangelo, Titian, Catherine Murphy, Alice Neel, Edwin Dickinson, Paul Matthews, Diana Horowitz, - it’s hard to know where to stop. You might mean music and literature too, but I think I’ll stop here.
And finally what tips or words of advice do you have for beginning artists?
Don’t look to others for validation. If you feel you have something to say, work on saying it, and look at lots of good art. I absolutely love that. Words of wisdome for sure. :)))
(Off the top of my head, and sometimes I couldn’t just pick one)
Dawn or dusk? Dawn.
Sweet or salty? Salty.
Winter or Summer? Summer
Zombies or Unicorns? Why yes this is an important question. Answer please. :) Unicorns.
Dine in or eat out? Dine in.
All-time favorite book? Huckleberry Finn or Pride and Prejudice.
All-time favorite movie? On the Waterfront, The Verdict or The Year of Living Dangerously.
All-time favorite food? Popcorn. Oh my mom would love you! That's her favorite too. :) It would be mine but only if the popcorn was chocolate covered and in the shape of a cupcake.
All-time favorite song? “I was made for you” by Rivers Cuomo or Beethoven’s 32nd piano sonata.
Thank you SO much Taryn! It was such a treat to have you on my blog today. I loved reading all of your answers and you've inspired me (and so many others I'm sure) so much. I wish you the best of luck with your art career and can't wait to see your next painting! Once again you can visit Taryn's blog Awake and Painting by clicking here.
And just in case you all were wondering what the score is for the Zombies vs. Unicorns in these artist interviews it is: Zombies: 2 and Unicorns: 3. Sparkly white horses FTW!