Friday, September 2, 2016

Artist Spotlight - Mary Tanana

Tell us a bit about yourself: Did you go to school for art? Are you self taught?  
I went to Syracuse University and majored in Fashion Illustration. After college, I ended up getting a job at a jewelry manufacturer. They trained me on the job to design jewelry, and that’s what I’ve been doing up until 5 years ago. I decided to completely switch careers and become an illustrator and surface designer.  I took a few classes online and at The Rhode Island School of Design so I could learn more about creating digital art. It’s been a tedious journey, but I’m loving every minute of it!

Do you work in just one medium? Several?
I usually work digitally, either in Photoshop or Illustrator to finalize my designs, but I always start out simply drawing with pencil and paper. I am starting to experiment a bit more with watercolor and gouache. I love doing very complicated designs loaded with detail. The more intricate the design, the more it makes my brain happy. Every element or motif that I use is initially hand drawn. I absolutely love to draw, pencil on paper. It’s an essential part of my process.

What inspires you / where do you get inspiration from?
I have always been an avid gardener. I love looking at nature and the outdoors for inspiration. I love to photograph my flowers and get lost in sketching them for hours. I also love folk art from all around the world, especially from Eastern Europe and Russia. Lately I’ve been collecting antique embroidery books from Europe for inspiration.

How did you start licensing your art?
My first few experiences licensing my art were epic failures! I quickly figured out what types of companies to avoid and which to pursue. I now have an agent, Jan Draheim from Painted Planet Licensing Group, and I’m starting to see some of my artwork come to life in a number of different product categories. So exciting!

What are you working on now?
I’m just finishing up a few coloring calendars. Then I’ve been asked to create some ceramic collections, which is something really new and challenging for me. I’m really excited to work on some fabric collections in the near future. I love creating patterns. And I love seeing what people sew with my fabric designs.

Any great advice for our readers?
Try to not compare your work or achievements to other artist’s accomplishments. This is one of the hardest lessons that I’ve learned. We are all on different paths, are at different levels, and have unique styles. Comparing your work to others makes the journey even harder. Also, try to find your “art tribe”. Find a group of artists that are like-minded, and that you can trust to give you advice. I found a fantastic group of women through an online course that I took a few years ago. We have a Facebook group, where we regularly talk about our work, post photos, and bounce ideas off of each other. We also have Skype calls every now and then. This has been an immense help, considering most artists work alone from home.

Anything else you would like to share with us?
A lot of the work that I’ve done in the past year has been for the coloring book industry. Last year my coloring book, Christmas to Color, was published by Harper Collins and was a big success. This year they’ve put together a set of coloring holiday post cards, due to be released this Fall. I’ve also licensed more holiday coloring ornaments and art with Primitives by Kathy.

Are you an early riser? or night owl?
I always have been a night owl. I think I started this habit in college, I loved to work at night because it was so quiet. Still do!

What is your favorite food?
I have way too many favorite foods! I think I’ll answer with my favorite cuisines: Mexican and Thai.

Quirky information about me
I have my childhood stuffed animals in nooks around my office as good luck charms.

See more of Mary's work on Painted Planet Licensing Groups site here.

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  1. thanks so much for featuring me, Ann!

  2. Hi Mary! My pleasure :-) Thank you for sharing some of your work and wisdom with everyone!

  3. Great interview Annie, and great work Mary :-)

  4. Wonderful interview Annie! I wish you continued success Mary, your designs are beautiful!

  5. Lovely work! Thank you Mary for sharing your journey with us. :)

    1. Hi Barbara! Thanks for stopping by the blog <3


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