Artist Interview: Tara Tokarski

Continuing with my small series of artist interviews, this week it was a joy to talk with one of my former SCAD classmates, Tara Tokarski, about illustration, ideas, and of course, ghosts!   


1. What/who do you find to be your biggest source of inspiration?

I can be inspired by a fluffy cloud, the trick is to try to think of it in an unexpected or dramatic way. However when it comes to who inspires me, I head straight to the top: Tim Burton, Walt Disney, the artists of Disney like Eyvind Earle and Al Hirschfeld, Dr. Seuss, and Dream Works. These are the greats as far as I am concerned. I like to take a snip of Disney, a dash of Al, with a pinch of Burton and stir with a Seuss stick.

(A Fantasia snippet featuring artist Al Hirschfeld.)

2. What's your favorite medium to work in?

I am a mixed media artist and sometimes my work can be very diverse depending on what I am working on, it could be a fashion illustration or a portrait of Tom Hanks, which I would handle in two very different ways. If I had to choose an absolute favorite it would be my Koi Water Colors, which show up in everything I do. I use the little pocket Field Sketch Box, it’s so nice and compact. Plus watercolor is fast and more and more I seem to need speed.


3. Any new mediums you're itching to try?

I really want to try stained Glass, my father was a stained glass hobbyist, and he took his craft very seriously. The house was filled with the vibrant light. He made giant panels of flying ducks, amazing tiffany style lamps, and windows with all sorts of simple and sometimes complicated colored glass designs. I would like to expand on that and use it in my art somehow. I have started playing with it, we will say to be continued…


4. What would your dream project be?

That’s easy, character design for either Disney, Dream Works, or Tim Burton.



5. Describe your studio/workspace. What would you change, given the resources?

My work space has floor to ceiling shelves, and I still don’t seem to have enough space. It is, however very warm and cozy with lots of lovely wood and books. I have a large drawing table my husband made for me out of an old sewing machine base, above the drawing table is corkboard so I can hang inspirational images to keep me on track while I draw.

The other wall is the command center, with computer, printer, scanner, and more books. The wall with all the shelving has my bottles of magic fixative, gesso, and all the potions of an artist. A small closet sits off to the side where most of the finished drawings go, along with my matt cutter, light box, and torture devises.

If I had the extra resources I would have my regular computer for Photoshop and an Apple devoted to Maya and animation programs. Too many programs on one computer = big crashes. I would also change out my small Wacom tablet, for one a LOT bigger.


6. Do you like to warm up before drawing? If so, what fun exercises do you work on to get in the zone? (Ex. Noun generator, word games, etc.)

I have to admit I don’t…..but I should. If this was a class I would not be making eye contact with you.

However I do teach sketching and one of my favorite things to do is to have students draw their hands while not looking at the paper. You have to really look at what you are drawing and slow down. It’s a super fun thing to do with lots of giggles, but it proves a point. You should be looking more at what you are drawing than at your drawing.

7. What do you find to be the most difficult part of being a professional artist?

Employers tend to be a challenge in one way or the other. You really have to have a good sense of humor, patience, a firm hand, and great communication skills.


8. What's your favorite thing to draw/paint/create?

I love to draw ghosts. It’s a big challenge for me. Black Beard is a translucent ghost that you can see the ocean and sky through. I also made the ocean turbulent and created a piercing light breaking through the storming night while trying to subdue the colors enough to get his eyes to glow. Now that is what I call fun.


9. How do you prevent/combat artist's block? Do you have tried-and-true methods of nurturing your creativity?

I am a collector of Idea’s. I have tons of books, movies and articles that I think are fun or profound and when the artist block comes I surround myself with the things I like and then figure out a way to mash them up and transform the best things I have around me into a new idea to move forward with.

10. Just for fun: Dragons or unicorns?

Dragons!!!! Oh the places we could go.


11. Best advice you have for emerging artists?

Web presence, you need it. Do you need to build your own? Only if you want to drive yourself crazy! You can easily buy into a web page, for example mine is around $30.00 a month and my page is connected to a blog, newsletter, and all the social media links. Plus they promote me, but my favorite feature is if I need a change I just punch a few buttons and I can have a new web design in seconds.

Speaking of which, you can visit Tara's website here:

Or check her out on social media: