Tara Barney started drawing her Shetland pony at the age of four and has college credits in art at the Colorado State University, but her talent as an artist is mostly self-taught.
Besides drawing and painting, Tara also knits and creates beautiful handcrafted jewelry in a variety of materials—including corn—a skill she learned in 1990.
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Alyice: Why did you choose sketching as your medium?
Tara: About the time that I found my art box from college with all my drawing supplies (barely used), I met Marian Henjum—an artist I greatly admire—and learned she was teaching drawing classes. I took a class from her and I have been drawing ever since. In fact, after the course was over, I wanted to make sure to keep my skills honed, so I formed a drawing group called “Prairie Palette” that meets once a week.
Alyice: What do you wish you knew about sketching before you got started?
Tara: I wish I would have had confidence in myself and my abilities at an earlier age. I look back on work I did twenty years ago and I think, “That was good, and I enjoyed it. Why didn’t I stay with it?”
Alyice: How do you choose the subject of your sketches?
Tara: I just drew a buffalo from a magazine for my postcard art series. I like to go to the zoo and take pictures of the animals. I drew a turtle and a swan from a recent visit, again for my postcard series. And right now, I am offering 8 x 10 black and white or colored pencil pet and people portraits for $100.
I am also busy making corn necklaces, bracelets, and barrettes for the “Artists of the Plains” show, and later I need to start on a commission portrait of a Golden Retriever cradling a barn cat for a client. The two animals bonded within an hour of knowing one another.
Alyice: What is your creative process like?
Tara: I have only taken three college level courses in drawing, so a lot of what I do is self-taught or learned through observation. I have a good habit of posting a new picture of my work on my Red Door Creations Facebook and Pinterest page. After I do that, I cruise through my news feeds and pay special attention to posts by art.com and a wide variety of artists I have become connected with through social networking.
The art I take in daily, through observation, teaches me valuable lessons I did not have to learn by taking a class or doing a special study. The same is true for my visits to art museums. I absorb the knowledge and techniques of other artists and it saves me countless hours of learning by trial and error. Since I dive right in to my commission pieces without any thumb nail sketches, I make mistakes and I am not afraid to use my eraser and start over on a particular part of a drawing.
Alyice: How has your style changed over the years?
Tara: I have always been inspired by nature and real life objects. . . like an old flower bin or a beat up watering can. That is still reliable after twenty years.
Alyice: What do you believe is the key element in creating art?
Tara: I focus on bringing out the spirit of the person or pet in a portrait. When I am drawing an object like an old spindle, I capture the character of the piece. If I’m doing a landscape, I focus on atmosphere
Alyice: I understand you had a serious injury awhile back, how as that affected your ability to work as an artist?
Tara: I have suffered from complications due to a car accident eleven years ago. The pain became debilitating six years ago. Last April, I had surgery on my hip and now I am rehabilitating the left side of my body which was effected by the injury.
My disabilities influence my art because I knit when I am in bed with too much pain to do anything else. I draw when I am feeling well-enough to stand at the easel for an hour or so at a time. And I make jewelry when I am able to sit for a half an hour or so, or stand at the drill making my own beads. It is essential for me to move around and change positions during the day to avoid a painful flare up.
Last year, I received a grant from the State of South Dakota Department of Rehabilitation so I could purchase ergonomic equipment and necessities to further my fine arts and crafts business.
Alyice: What’s been your greatest artistic success?
Tara: Being accepted into the “Artists of the Plains Show and Sale”—which is a juried show that features 26 artists from the region. This year the show is at the Downtown Holiday Inn in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The show features such excellent work that many people come back several times over the course of the show!