We’ve been lucky enough to get responses from many well established artists to feature on this site, and Tara McPherson is no exception. Even if you are not familiar with her, you probably have seen her work at some point. I was actually one of those people who have been admiring her work at different stages of my life without realizing they were all done by the same artist. It’s because of this that I wanted to write about an aspect of Tara that I most respect and aspire to which is her ability to mix art and business.
Making a living through art is a very difficult thing to do and to make things even harder, most artists are not very good or can care less about the business side of things. I don’t know if Tara consciously thinks about this or has just made smart decisions throughout her career, but she is definitely a prime example of an artist who maximizes her brand.
It is crucial for an artist to get exposure which usually happens via press and I think that a feature in a publication like Juxtapoz or Hi-Fructose is a major milestone for most artists. I first saw Tara’s work in an issue of Hi-Fructose Magazine I was subscribed to but I was more into just looking at great work rather than learning about the artist at the time. Of course she didn’t get featured in these major art magazine right away, she had been building a name for herself through perhaps smaller but credible publications. She was especially becoming popular in the music scene because of all the gig posters she designed for bands.
Many artists showcase their work and make money by selling their art through galleries and exhibitions. Tara does these things as well, but gets a lot of extra business designing gig posters and even album cover art. This is a great way to get your work seen by a different audience and it happens to be the second time I saw her work. I was big into music and discovered Gig Posters which is a great site to see and buy tons of cool artwork designed for shows and tours. They release a collection of posters as a book from time to time. I had purchased one of these books and Tara’s posters were featured inside. This doesn’t mean she will take on every job though as she only accepts work from bands she likes or at least can appreciate.
Tara has also done comic book covers, even some comics herself which again exposes her to a new audience while still doing something fun and genuine that fits her style. You can also purchase her art in various merchandise form whether it be art prints, t-shirts, phone cases or sculpture toys from popular sites like Nuvango and This Is A Limited Edition. These are both sites I visit often and yet another place where I saw her work. Tara has taken this concept to another level by opening her own store Cotton Candy Machine in Brooklyn, NY where you can buy all types of art merchandise based off of her work as well as other artists. This bit I didn’t know about till I started writing this article, but you can bet I will stop by the store very soon.
By allowing her work to be seen in all these outlets, she naturally gains great opportunities like having her art on a limited edition bottle for a major tequila company 1800 and requests for advertising illustrations from big corporations. Tara has also taught illustration and held lectures in prestigious art schools such as Parsons and School of Visual Arts. She has many published books with her art and you can easily see that there are actually plenty of possibilities for artists to thrive financially while maintaing artistic integrity.
My most memorable moment involving Tara’s art was her gig poster for a tour that Alkaline Trio, New Found Glory and H2O did few years back. I was heavily into these bands in high school and it brought me back lots of great memories seeing them live again years later. The artwork was not only a poster but a huge backdrop for the stage. I remember loving that poster and feeling bummed it was sold out. When I got home I googled to try and see who the artist was and learned that it was Tara. Now few years later I emailed Tara to see if I can use her images for this feature because I saw her work browsing through This Is A Limited Edition. Only then did I finally make the connections of her work which I have seen throughout my life and realizing I’ve been a fan of hers all this time.