Phoenix Artist Tara Sharpe's 5 Creative Essentials

Meet Tara Sharpe, painter, director, and friend to many.

Sharpe started her creative career early. She entered art school at 12, attending and graduating from the Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach, Florida. Then, she was accepted to a summer residency for Fine Art at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

Sharpe is known in Phoenix for her work with Artelshow (formerly ARTELPHX) – a project that saw temporary art installations installed throughout the Clarendon Hotel and other environments while she was the hotel's director of arts, media, community, and culture. Her work has been seen in local spots like {9} The Gallery, the Icehouse, and, currently, DeSoto Central Market. Previous displays were found in galleries across Arizona, West Palm Beach, South Haven, Michigan, and New York.

Today, Sharpe is a full-time artist. She keeps a paint-speckled studio in her sunny, Melrose District home, surrounded by her work and the work of her fellow artists, her pups Portia and Ghillie, and, of course, her essentials.

Diversified Experience
Sharpe values her own diversified experience, although, she says, “I feel like when you describe yourself like that, it’s a little pretentious."

But Sharpe has quite the resume. Her first job was working with Dennis Oppenheim as a curatorial assistant at the Eaton Fine Art gallery in West Palm Beach. She has also operated a boutique, was a hair stylist, once designed clothes, worked in hospitality, and is now, as you know, a full-time painter.

She says her time at Eaton Fine Art has always stuck with her. “That’s when I realized you could create things in environments.”

In her career as an artist, and in life in general, Sharpe has taken many risks. That daring has led to moving to a city she loved, New York, and moving away from that city to the Valley. It’s also come in the form of starting her own projects, including Artelshow.  “I’ve taken the risks in the sense where I’ve always thought, ‘Well, what’s the worst that could happen?’” she says.

Risk can also act as inspiration for her. “As a painter, I’ve always been influenced by expressionistic painters," she says. "I appreciate hyper-realism, but the things that really drive and inspire me are things that were done with a lot of expression and passion … and usually with a lot of movement, and quickly."

That thinking has manifested itself into ideas like, "When you want to do something, go for it; don’t sit there and labor over every detail,” she says. “That’s never been my personality.”

Household Supplies
Sharpe doesn’t use a palette, or a palette knife for that matter, because she doesn’t use straight oil paints. She also creates the texture in her work solely with paint. “I build it up with speed,” she says. “I just keep doing coats of gesso, concentrating the layers in certain places.”

She mixes full cups of paint when getting to work, and all that paint has to be kept somewhere. In the past, Sharpe has used muffin containers to hold paint, and still does when using watercolors, but has moved on to two specific, well-loved containers: 5.3-ounce Chobani yogurt cups, and pint-size Talenti gelato containers.

“The funny thing with containers is, a lot of people save containers for me, but I’m like a container snob,” she says. “I like containers that can stack within themselves, and if they have a lid, that’s awesome.”

Sharpe also has somewhat of a signature, dripping or running look in her pieces. She mixes Liquin (she grew up using linseed oil, but it takes too long to dry) and a thinner in her paint to create this look. “If I didn’t have that kind of glide with the medium, I wouldn’t be able to paint like how I paint,” she says.

Finally, Sharpe uses Popsicle sticks to stir paint, and uses them to apply small amounts of color to a piece.

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Lauren Cusimano is Phoenix New Times' food and drink editor. She is a journalist and food waste writer based in Tempe. Joys include eating wings, riding bikes, knowing everyone at the bar, talking too much about The Simpsons, and falling asleep while reading.
Contact: Lauren Cusimano