If a toy could talk, what do you think it’d say? Realist artist Tanya Harsch uses a relic from her childhood and puts him in environments all his own, telling his own stories through the artist. See what she has to say about her process below!
My Art Education
I studied classical realism at the Florence Academy of Art in Italy as well as the Ravenswood Atelier in Chicago.
I started with very traditional subject matter, but shifted to still life featuring toys as my inner child took over. I’m currently working on getting into the children’s book field as a writer and illustrator.
A Toy Story
The piece One Windy Morning (above) is one of a series of paintings starring Sebbie, my childhood marionette, on his various adventures. For this particular painting, I was intrigued by the problem of the Japanese paper umbrellas.
I’d found the umbrellas at a second-hand store months before, and just found them to be such lovely things. I knew I wanted to paint them, but struggled with how to include them in a painting in such a way that allowed their full glory to shine, but also allowed a narrative to happen within the still life?
Removing the table top from the still life and making the scene “fly” became the solution. I started with the umbrellas, but soon found them intensely frustrating to actually paint: so much specific detail and so many subtleties of value. But the original inspiration and concept kept me going. I rarely abandon a painting, no matter how frustrating.
I work using the sight size method — among other things, it means I set up a still life as you see it in the painting (with the exception of various strings and supports holding the pieces in place which I deliberately left out).
My studio is full of toys and props just for the purpose of creating fabulous scenes for Sebbie. For the background of One Windy Morning, I used a plein air painting from Cape Cod.
My palette shifts around a bit as I experiment with different colors and fall in and out of love with them. For this piece I used: Titanium white, naples yellow (a warm and a cool version), mars yellow, transparent red oxide, vermillion, alizarin, kings blue, cobalt blue, Prussian blue, raw umber and ivory black.
Chocolate and Music
The best advice I’ve gotten: Eat chocolate and listen to good music. And, my advice to other artists is to paint what you love. You have to be excited about what you’re doing, or the struggle won’t be worth it.
Do you have a piece from your childhood that you come back to for inspiration? Tell us in the comments!
Want more great artist profiles as well as art techniques, demonstrations and insights? Peruse through past issues of the Artists Magazine here.
This Artist of the Month comes from the list of finalists from our Annual Art Competition.