My friend and inspiring artist Tam has featured me on her website for this month! Check it out – she asked some really good questions. 🙂


Featured Artist of the Month

– Tara Leaver –

June 2011

Hello everyone! 🙂 I hope June is sending you sunshine! The weather has been great over here so far! 🙂 This month I had the pleasure to interview the wonderful Tara Leaver, I love her art, it’s mixed media messy and really speaks to me, she is also a wonderful friend to me! 🙂 I hope you enjoy this interview with her and check out her hide out places on the net! xoxox

1. Who are you and how would you describe your work/ art?

I’m Tara, and I’m an artist living and working in Brighton, on the South coast of the UK. My work is largely mixed media acrylic paintings on canvas. I use lots of colour, texture and symbolic shapes, as well as text and many layers to make up each piece.


2. Who or what inspires you to create?

Living by the sea is very inspiring; there’s definitely something in the air! And Brighton is a very creative city. I am constantly inspired by other artists, whose work I usually come across online, and by patterns or colour combinations I might see in nature or when I’m out and about generally. I take my camera everywhere, I collect quotes, and I have lots of art and inspiring images displayed around the house. I always have my eyes open for new ideas.


3. What are your favourite art materials to create with?

Well there has to be canvas and acrylic paints involved! But I also love to use oil pastels, charcoal, pen, pencil, all sorts of papers and sometimes gouache too, as it gives a great matte contrast to the shinier acrylics. To actually get the paint on the canvas I’ll use brushes, my hands, and all sorts of found items for pattern and texture, like corks, bottle lids, bubble wrap, and I found some great mesh on the street the other day!


4. Your art is mostly abstract, yet you also do figurative art. What kind do you prefer more and what does each ‘style’ mean to you?

I’d say I prefer abstract, although often there will be recognisable shapes in there somewhere. I absolutely love figurative art, from classical statues to life drawing to something more abstracted, although usually more when it’s done by someone else! I’ve been through various phases of focusing on different styles and subjects, all of which inform the current work at any time. I like to try different things but don’t necessarily stick with them long term; any figures in my work now are likely to be much more abstract and ambiguous.


5. I really love your mixed media layering and ‘grunge’ on many of your paintings. Do you follow a process when you create your layers/ backgrounds?

I will usually start with some collage pieces picked at random from my ever growing pile of ‘interesting’ papers, which could be tissue paper, handmade paper, wallpaper or even fabric or lace sometimes. This gives a pleasing texture to the finished piece, whatever is laid on top. Then I will start to layer up the paint, either with some gesso if I want a thick, heavy look or acrylics in colours I like at that moment. I build up layers with paint mixed with glazing liquid or straight from the bottle/tube. I will often use a darker colour round the edges, or use stamping inks or Quinacridone Nickel Azo Gold paint by Golden blended with my finger to ‘age’ or dirty up a piece. My work is mostly intuitive, there is usually little to no planning and often it feels like the brush produces what it wants and just uses me to do it!


6. Out of everything you’ve ever painted/created what is your favourite painting/creation and why?

That’s always a hard question! I don’t have an all-time favourite; usually my favourite work is the one I’ve just completed. I try to practice non attachment with my paintings! Of course there are some I love more than others, or that have more personal significance, but holding onto them stagnates the energy. I am always happy to send one of my paintings out into the world to a home where it will be loved as much as if it stayed with me. My current favourite is one I created at the art retreat I’ve just been to. It doesn’t have a title yet but very much represents where my style is going these days.


7. Like me, you incorporate words into your artworks – why?

I love words! I love how they can be used and manipulated to play with meaning, and I love how the energy of a painting can be changed with different words or phrases. A lot of my paintings have words underneath that you will never see (unless you read my blog, as I tend to photograph each layer). Sometimes using only images isn’t enough. I’m also playing with ideas of incorporating healing energy into paintings, having recently achieved my Reiki master qualification. Art and healing are the two things that fascinate me most and that are the most interwoven into the fabric of my daily life; I’m working on a way to combine the two in a way that’s unique to me. I’ll keep you posted!



8. What is your favourite piece of art by another painter/artist?

Another difficult question! I have so many favourites. Again it tends to change according to my current tastes and mood, although my favourites tend to be vibrant and full of movement and colour and energy. At the moment I’m really loving Robert Burridge, ( Mary Ann Wakeley ( and I always love Flora Bowley’s work. ( If I have to pick one, today it would be ‘White House’ by Robert Burridge; I love the representation of the figure and all that red!


9. What is the worst bit of art advice anyone has ever given you?

That you can’t make a living from your art; the ‘starving artist’ myth. I may not have proved otherwise yet but there are plenty out there who have and do, and not necessarily in conventional ways. As much as I feel uncomfortable around business jargon, ‘income streams’ seem to be the way forward for creative people who don’t feel comfortable being tied to one thing, and have the talent and ability to diversify. It can be really hard in the face of the people who want to know why you don’t have a ‘proper’ job, but I see people following their hearts all the time and making a living from it, so it’s totally possible!


10. What is the best bit of art advice anyone has ever given you?

I just took a three day class with the artist Flora Bowley, who is an enormous inspiration to me. Her philosophy on both life and painting makes so much sense to me. Some of her advice that really resonates with me includes ‘being’ the way you want your painting to look and feel (joyful, peaceful etc), remembering to stay loose both physically and mentally (movement breaks for dancing around and shaking off any build up of tension are essential!), and focusing on the process rather than the outcome (this gives you so much freedom to cover up what’s not working and take your painting in directions you never could have imagined when you started it). She talks about spiralling in and out of the painting, rather than starting loose and getting tighter and more restricted the closer to the ‘end’ you get.


11. What is lying on your art desk today?

Quite a lot of mess, as usual! I don’t tend to tidy up, mainly because I have a room in my house dedicated as my studio, and also because it interrupts the flow and is frankly a tedious chore! So there is always paint, paper scraps, jars of water, brushes and various other bits and bobs in my workspace. Also I usually paint with my canvases hanging on the wall so I don’t need too much clear desk space luckily!

(photo credit: Kat Sloma)

12. What hopes and dreams do you have for your art & future?

I dream of making a living painting and selling my work, in whatever form that may take, although I imagine it will involve both on and offline selling. I will of course do this from my house by the sea in a country where it’s always sunny. I would like to continue to develop my own personal style – I am often influenced by the colour combinations, techniques or subject matter of other artists but aim to keep my work my own – and would love to have a solo exhibition at some point, even though the thought of it scares me quite a lot!


13. If you couldn’t be an artist in this life, what other job or hobby would you really want to give a go?

I went to New Zealand last year and tried hang gliding; I was convinced when I got back that my life’s work was to be in the air. I’d love to do it again, but for now I’m finding other ways to get high!


14. Other than what are your favourite 5 art related websites or blogs?

  • I recently discovered Artonomy, ( a UK based art site run by Helen Aldous. She often makes me laugh, and the site contains lots of useful resources for artists wanting to sell their work. She also features artists (I was lucky enough to be one of them!).
  • I like taking part in Creative Every Day (, Leah Piken Colidas’ site; there are optional themes every month and it’s very popular so there’s always lots of other lovely work to see. I adore Leah’s work too.
  • I love Sarah Ahearn’s work – she is a US artist whose colours and imagery really inspire me, and she has just published a gorgeous book. (
  • Also Mae Chevrette, a US artist who uses text to fantastic effect in her work. (
  • Finally, I’m a big fan of Sabrina Ward Harrison (, who uses text and colour in a way that really appeals to me.


15. Give a shout out to a fellow artist whose work and/or person & energy you really love!

I recently discovered Rex Ray (, who makes collages that look like paintings with colours and compositions to die for.

16. If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring artists, what would it be?

To persevere. If this is what you love, keep at it, baby step by baby step. Sometimes it feels like nothing is happening and you can feel frustrated and wonder what on earth possessed you to think you could do it; I try to think of these times as incubation periods. Everything happens in cycles, with busy periods and quiet periods, and it does take time to establish yourself and generate a regular income. I’m not even there yet myself but I can see it starting to unfold – patience is key! And not worrying about what others think of your work; it won’t be for everyone and that’s totally fine, it’s not a reflection on you as a person! Sorry I think that might be two things – it’s very good for me to remind myself of these things too!

You can find the wonderful Tara in these other places: