Let’s Talk SHOP: Tara Will

Abby Leon, Paradigm Gallery Director

A photograph of the artist outside, smiling in a dark cardigan with her hair tied up in a bun.
Photo of the artist, Tara Will. Photo courtesy of the artist.

I first discovered Tara Will’s artwork while judging the Kekionga Plein Air Paint Out competition last summer when I presented her FWMoA’s top purchase award. She was also immediately invited to show in the Paradigm Gallery! I was mesmerized then and I still am now; her paintings instantly draw you in through their bold colors and strong markings, giving them their signature look of abstracted realism. Additionally, she paints with light, and, yes… that phrase is usually reserved for photographers; but this talented pastelist can own it, too! We are so lucky that Tara caught the plein air bug; since she has traveled all over, capturing our world’s amazing scenery in her own unique way. Continue reading to hear in Tara’s own words on how and why she creates!


I have always been so fascinated by art of all types. Many of the women in my family have their hands in lots of creative endeavors; so, I grew up watching all kinds of art and craft being done. There is something very moving about producing something from nothing. Taking a blank canvas or piece of paper and laying down suggestions of your soul for a viewer to participate in. There is something so unique about that relationship. Anyone can participate in viewing art and can bring their experiences to the conversation. I love to try to capture the essence of the subject; to catch the light; and to convey what it was that excited me to want to paint it in the first place. I hope my work brings joy to others, as it does to me when I paint it.


How I Create:

I love working on a dark surface. It helps to “fill in the gaps” so that I can really seek the light. I am a light and shadow painter, so I really seek those contrasts between objects that are lit or in shadow.

First, I do a very rough sketch to give me a “map” of what will happen in the painting. Keeping this loose helps me have the freedom to make choices as I proceed. 

Then I lay in the shadows. This helps me to see the light and shadow patterns, too. It is easier to lighten a dark area in pastel but often quite difficult to darken something that already has light laid down on the surface of the paper. This is Sennelier La Carte paper, which is very forgiving; but, it CANNOT get wet.

The initial rough sketch, or map. Photo courtesy of artist.

After looking for big shapes and laying the general information into my “map” I will go ahead and start laying in some light shapes through cross hatching type marks or broader marks where the pastel lays on its side. This helps add variety in mark making and breaks the big shapes down into refined detail.

I have this habit of laying in the sky last. I think in part I do this so that I can use the negative space around the objects that I have already laid in. Here, I can carve around the trees dotting these canyons and use the negative space to create interest.

Adding in the sky is the last step. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Lastly, I NEVER use fixative! Instead, I opt for a frame with frame space (a plastic spacer that attaches to the edge of the glass making a track of space between the work and glass). The fixative alters the colors, and since pastels are pure pigment, I prefer leaving them natural and unencumbered by additives.

The work in its finalized form. Photo courtesy of the artist.

You can also see how the painting evolved by checking out this time lapsed video!

Other finished works by Tara Will:

Last Days, 18”x18”, $1,300                              Feel Something, 18”x18”, $1,300

Light Dance, 15”x9”, $950                              Last Light, 15”x9”, $950

To check out Tara Will’s artwork in person, come visit us at the Paradigm Gallery: Tuesday-Saturday 10am-6pm; Thursday 10am-8pm; Sunday 12pm-5pm.

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