BLOG*December 19, 2012

TLC stands for Tara Larsen Chang. I love the double meaning (Tender Loving Care) as it is so appropriate for her.

Tara is an illustrator and a lover of the art spirit who I met when she participated in my Artist As Brand Workshop in Kansas City during Spectrum Fantastic Art Live last May. I learned that she was passionate about Connecting, Creation and Authenticity. While manifesting an art career, she felt a strong desire to connect with other creators and was soon championing them with the TLC workshops that showcased artists skill sets and their techniques. To date she has featured Greg Manchess, Terese Nielson, Brom, Iain McCraig and Justin Gerard.  I am next in March with an Artist As Brand Workshop.

I interviewed Tara to get more perspective on her art, her passion to share the art spirit with the world and her thoughts on the Artist As Brand Workshop.

Greg:  You are an illustrator that has focused mainly on children’s media, stories and books. Tell me about this journey.

Tara: Some of my earliest memories are of images in picture books. I would stare at and study them for hours as a child. Especially illustrated fairy tales. I wanted to *live* in them. This love of narrative illustration, especially in children’s literature, has remained with me my entire life. After a number of ill-fated attempts at other possible vocations, I ended up getting a degree in illustration and don’t seem to be drawn to more ‘grown up’ art making.

© Tara Larsen Chang

What do you love most about the illustration business and what do you dislike about it?

I love being able to create for a living. I love creating things in many forms, but there is something about producing images that get printed, seen and enjoyed by many that is very fulfilling. Especially if I feel I’ve successfully created a piece of a world that I would like to live in, like those I was drawn to as a child.

Conversely I hugely dislike it when the creativity is severely limited in a given job. Some are so tightly art-directed that there is no leeway for personal vision, and I find those jobs really stifling and unsatisfying. They’re ‘work’ in the least positive sense of the word. The illustration market is also shifting dramatically in publishing, and in children’s books specifically. Work is seemingly harder to come-by for nearly every working children’s illustrator I know. Not so fun.

© Tara Larsen Chang

Yes the industry has become more challenging. So are you able to make a living solely as an illustrator?

Not in this genre. I’ve almost always augmented illustration with teaching or something more consistent.

What inspired you to create the TLC workshops?

There’s not a lot of ‘higher end’ ongoing education or training readily available out there for already working artists, especially in the children’s genre. I stumbled across Rebecca Guay’s Illustration Master Class ( the first year she ran it in 2008, and tentatively decided to go. The faculty were all top-tier fantasy illustrators (and I was the only children’s illustrator in attendance), but I learned so much from them – it improved my craft, transformed by business and led to an incredible network of professional art friends. It was literally life changing, and such an incredible ‘high’. I attended twice more, but hated that it was merely once a year, and clear across the country. The only apparent way to alleviate the withdrawals and frustration seemed to be to start something with the same caliber of people in my hometown. 🙂

Tell me more about these hands on workshops and some of the artists you have invited to share their wisdom.

The thing that impacted me most in my IMC experience was the one-on-one time spent with both faculty and students alike (so many of the student body are pretty incredible working professionals themselves). I wanted to recreate that aspect by inviting top-of-their-field faculty, and primarily professional students, with small enough classes that everyone gets individual attention and a chance to interact with each other. These workshops are aimed directly at working artists who want to up their game.

And what better way to up your game then being able to spend a long, intimate weekend with the likes of Greg Manchess, Terese Nielsen, Brom, Iain McCaig, Justin Gerard, Dan Dos Santos, Jean-Baptiste Monge, and of course, *you*? (and this is just the tip of the planned iceberg. Just wait til you see the line-up for the next couple of years that is already in process!)

Any favorites of the bunch?

How can one pick a favorite from this kind of group? I have favorite things about each of them – no one does more gorgeous thumbnails and comps than Greg Manchess, and boy, he can whip *yours* into shape in about two seconds flat. I don’t think anyone on the planet does a more beautiful, idealized likeness than Terese Nielsen. Watching Brom paint is a delight. Iain McCaig’s boundless energy and seemingly boundless talent and enthusiasm can probably power a small town for a month, and I could go on and on. These teachers are so spectacular – in talent, in experience, and especially in generosity of spirit.

Awesome! You recently took the Artist As Brand Workshop. What were some of the highlights for you?

The most potent thing for me was being able to clarify my ‘heart virtue’. It took some work getting there, but once I did, it was so obvious and spot on, and explained so much. Then being able to think about everything else you presented in the workshop through that lens was pretty transformative.

Did it shift your thinking in regards to how you can make a living from your talent and if so what are you doing now that was different from before?

Very much so.

My discovered heart virtue is “I am passionate about connection, creation and authenticity.”

I finally understood why my experience of attending Spectrum Live directly after your workshop (like when I attended the IMC) was so euphoric. It was a weekend spent connecting with authentic creators – my personal Nirvana. This re-confirmed why hosting these workshops is so important to me, and so congruent with my core – I get to continually recreate these types of experiences for myself, and for others.

It has also shifted how I think about the art I do. Since your workshop I have been exploring and making sure that the art I’m creating is something that I love and feel a connection to. It is an entirely different experience.

Have you thought about your own products?

Yes. This year the ‘product’ has primarily been workshops, but as I get the workshop thing down I hope to produce more heart-felt art, in whatever form I’m led to do that in.

Have you brought any AAB principles into how you promote the TLC Workshops?

Definitely! After your workshop, I did an overhaul of the website and expanded all the social networking. I keep thinking about your principles of ‘added value’ in all aspects of my workshop business, for both the faculty and the students attending. Optimally, I want it to be an incredibly positive and nurturing experience for all involved (I don’t use “TLC” just because they are my initials. 🙂

I love hearing that. As you know students are not taught artist entrepreneurial skill sets in school. How important do you feel this information is for art career sustainability?

They’re probably the *most* important skills needed!

Artistic ‘talent’ will only get you so far if you don’t know what to do with it, especially for the long haul.

It is unfortunate that so many of us spend years spinning our wheels for lack of direction, or only slowly learning from hit-and-miss experimentation. How fabulous to have a road map and seasoned experience to help guide you!

Why should artists take the Artist As Brand workshop?

So many reasons. It will help clarify why you make art, what kind you really want to be making and what to *do* with that in the most successful way possible. For me the most valuable reason was finding the connection between my inner essence and my outer artistic expression in both painting and in my business ventures. Months later, I’m still thinking about and applying various aspects of what we learned in your workshop as I push my professional life further than I ever have in the past.

Any final pearls of wisdom?

I am very excited for your students at TLCWorkshops. The class size is purposely small so that they can spend potentially life changing one-on-one time with you throughout the weekend. Their individual work combined with your personal insights on their specific situations is such a potent experience! One I wish every artist could have.

Thank you Tara, for your passion, insight and loving art spirit. See you soon!