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Tara Appling – The Artist’s Interview

Jaw-droppingly detailed, mesmerizing and elegantly painted. Tara Kimiko Appling’s wildlife portraits are a joy to view.

Beautiful owls and other birds, stunningly recreated in the art form with textured feathers and eyes that look so real and vivid, they are hauntingly beautiful.

Some digitally painted, the tones, the brushstrokes and the sheer depth of detail, all come together creating unique artwork, that has ethereal, spellbinding qualities.

The face of the ‘Soft Tawny Owl’ artwork, looks so real, the eyes, beak and facial feathers seem to have a three dimensional, outstanding, quality to them.

You can view and purchase Tara’s beautiful bird portraits on her Fine Art America website:

Tara is also on Twitter

Please talk a bit about where you are from and where you live now…

I am from central California and Kaneohe, Hawaii— my immediate family is here on the mainland but all of my relatives are on the island. I live in Phoenix, Arizona today and I have been here for 10 years now!

How did you discover your passion for creating art?

It all started with a few lines of ink and a few sketches. I remember looking at beautiful things made by other people, realistic wildlife art in particular, and wondering very quietly if I could ever create something like that in my lifetime. Even despite that, I found art because I think I very much needed it. 20 years of piano and hundreds of books couldn’t quite do what art has done for me in the past few years. It was more than something I challenged myself to do— it was a way of healing the bits and pieces that all the “other stuff” simply couldn’t. I remember I wasn’t at all impressed with those lines of ink I made day after day, but I also remember I couldn’t put the pen down. Eventually, there was a kind of amazement I found with certain brushstrokes in pieces I’d work on. I can’t quite describe the feeling, but it’s as if a line or shading was meant to be made in that particular way. It’s the little things.

What education have you had as an artist?

I am self-taught. I did study different aspects of the visual arts as an undergrad, i.e. photography and bookmaking, but I honestly didn’t know where my painting was going to take me and I just let it pull me along. At one point I thought that science fiction pop art would be it for me, then video game sketches, but of course it was the owls that really pulled me in.

What is it about birds, owls, that you like to paint?

Owls are complex creatures, not just in the sense that they are both beautiful and predatory, but it’s everything that isn’t said about them as well. They’re mysterious birds and somewhat underrated. I think what brought me to them was that sense of mystery and the feeling that they provoke. Their eyes look on with an intensive focus. You could consider any number of things about yourself and attempt to project it to others but all in all, they seem both simple and intuitive enough to see through everything, and that honestly can’t really be ignored. Naturally, their features are unique and colorful, and alien enough to always be intriguing to me.

How do you find subjects to paint?

I often use references that are available to the public for commercial use and modification. Early on, I remember mailing a man in Japan, asking if I could paint his Rufus Legged Owl into a portrait. He graciously mailed me back and I ended up sending him a digital copy of the painting. Finding subjects to paint sometimes leads me to people I would never have met otherwise, and it’s always a great opportunity.

Please describe your digital painting process (programs used, specific adjustments made, etc)?

I use several different programs for my paintings: Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Sketch, and recently, Procreate. If I am working in photoshop, I will make alignment adjustments, but if I am working on my tablet I don’t edit that deeply. I don’t typically use any texture layers or lighting masks. In that sense, I’m a little more traditional.

Whose work inspires you?

Work from the art and photography community, and nature itself. It’s strange because I also find myself inspired by artists whose styles are drastically different from mine.

What strategies have been helpful to you in marketing your work online?

I tried to maintain a connection to my motivation for creating art, and that affected how I ended up marketing it to the world. I started painting because it was an investment into happiness. I network in the art community for the same reason— sharing my work and the work of others is a great way of pushing that happiness a little bit further. So If I had to name a specific strategy that has been helpful in my marketing, it would be the concept of “good karmic returns,” and that sharing the art and happiness of someone else encourages them to do the same.

As an artist, what are your long-term business goals?

To be completely honest, this is mostly a hobby of the heart for me. My biggest goal is to share my work with others whether it be a few glances of it here and there or a canvas print for a new home.

 Tara Kimiko Appling

Tara Kimiko Appling

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