For more than 30 years, Tara Funk Grim has been refining her artistic technique. In that time she had not only relocated to become a permanent resident of the Eastern Shore but also emerged as one of that same region’s most prominent and sought-after artists. She uses different techniques and paints in different settings, never allowing any routine to become stale before she shifts artistic gears. We recently spent some time with Grim in order to get a closer, better look not only at her stirring work but also at the mind and soul that lie beneath it.
CSM: Where did you grow up?
TFG: I was raised in Longport, New Jersey, then moved to Boyertown, Pennsylvania before ultimately winding up in Sussex County about 15 years ago.
CSM: So you’ve basically lived in bucolic settings your entire life.
TFG: Yes, that’s true, and I don’t think I’d thrive in any other kind of environment. I like cities and love visiting them, but I’d never want to live in one, no matter how exciting it may be. I need space and nature in order to feel whole and at peace.
CSM: The love of space and nature certainly show up prominently in your art, which is overwhelmingly of landscapes and other outdoor milieus, with a definite dearth of human subjects.
TFG: (Laughs) I certainly can’t deny that. I love people and can certainly be very social, but there is also a solitary dimension to me that has an inextricably intimate relationship with my artistic side. What I mean is, when I want to make art, I prefer to be alone, and when I want to be alone, I often want to make art.
CSM: You are neither exclusively a studio artist nor a plein-air painter; you are both. Why is that?
TFG: I deliberately paint indoors and outside on a regular basis because of certain disciplinary factors that I feel I need to be the best painter I can be.
CSM: What do you mean?
TFG: When I paint plein air, I make a conscious study of my subject. It’s there right in front of me, in all its detail, so that work is often more representational, in that it looks more like what it is or at least how the typical person might see it. That situation places certain technical demands on me to render a faithful depiction of what I’m studying, yet I also try to capture the pure essence of the subject as I see it, which obviously includes more subjective characteristics. Also, plein-air work is supposed to be completed in a single session, which imposes another kind of discipline on me.
In the studio, however, I am left to recreate something entirely from my memory and/or imagination, which is not only more presentational but also a more liberating experience artistically. My main concern in that situation is getting my eyes, hand and brush to accurately present what I’m seeing in my mind and feeling in my heart. It also has the creative advantage of keeping my mental visualization and imagination sharp and muscular, which of course is essential for an artist. Ultimately, the studio work is the more expressive and even daring of the two.
CSM: Would you say that dichotomy explains why some of your work exhibits the characteristics of classic Impressionism while others seem to have been created in a more post-Impressionist vein?
TFG: It would indeed! The setting or motif absolutely influences the stylistic approach, but at the same time there is an element of spontaneity based on what the subject inspires me to feel.
CSM: It’s interesting that as a rule you don’t depict human subjects in your art, yet one of your most hauntingly beautiful paintings of late, "Soulmates on the Boardwalk," features two humanlike figures in silhouette. What inspired that departure from the norm?
TFG: First of all, thank you for liking it. Creating that was a rather odd experience. The funny thing about that one is, and I almost feel embarrassed saying this, but the human images represented in the painting weren’t actually physically there at the time — yet I didn’t go in with the intention of creating them. They just sort of materialized out of nowhere and became the focal point of the piece. Kinda strange, actually.
CSM: There is a certain richness and depth to your work. What is or are your preferred media?
TFG: Ha! That was something of an evolution. I basically started out in watercolor but eventually wanted a medium that could express color more vividly, so I started using inks. Then, I wanted more opacity, so I began using water-soluble crayons. After that it was on to liquid acrylics, because they move like watercolor but are more layerable, then soft-body acrylics and ultimately heavy-body acrylics, which move more like oil paint.
CSM: Do you have a preferred type of brush?
TFG: As a matter of fact, I do. It’s a Princeton 6300 series flat brush. Much easier to control than the round brushes, which sometimes seem to have minds of their own.
CSM: Where can your work be seen currently?
TFG: In this area, at The American Art Gallery in Snow Hill, Gallery One in Ocean View and Philip Morton Gallery in Rehoboth Beach.
CSM: What are you working on currently?
TFG: At the moment I’m doing studies, three in fact, of Funland in Rehoboth Beach, and I’m getting ready for the Rehoboth Outdoor Show, which takes place on the second and third weekends in August.
CSM: Thank you very much for your time and for sharing your process with us.
TFG: The pleasure was mine, and thank you for your interest. It means a lot.
Following this interview, Tara Funk Grim was named featured artist for the 2013 Children's Beach House Art Show in Lewes this December.
TARA FUNK GRIM
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