Art Identified: Tara Nastoff

Photography by Jake Moran

As someone who can’t draw to save their life, I have always been intrigued by and envious of those who are able to put pencil to paper and create art with ease. With so many new art forms being birthed daily there is something about drawing that seems so primitive and nostalgic, so I knew when I came across Tara Nastoff’s art page Mean Mugginn Art,  I had to pick her brain.

As a Doctor of Occupational Therapy student, Nastoff found a lot of free time during quarantine last year to really dedicate time and effort to developing her line drawing art style that separates itself with cohesive color pallets and unique details. While Nastoff has been drawing and doodling since grade school, the past year has been instrumental in her artistic development, showing her just how truly talented she is. I had a great discussion with the artist on inspiration, challenges as a midwest artist and recent social media detox that resulted in some amazing art.

Without further ado, please welcome Tara Nastoff to Art Identified.

Jacob Moran: Excited to have you in! People struggle quite a bit finding a creative outlet. When did you find art as a viable and satisfying creative outlet?
Tara Nastoff:
I have always enjoyed art. I still have a sketch book of mine from when I was very young and early on I wanted to make really realistic drawings which is obviously different from what I am making now. I have always had a strong interest in drawing and painting and I was almost an art minor in college but decided against it. Outside of art classes in school I never really made a strong effort to consistently create art. It wasn’t until last year during lockdown when I really started to take it seriously. All of that free time really allowed me to dive in head first and really dedicate myself to making art. It was extremely rewarding and I am very grateful for that time.

JM: Your art is easily identifiable as a piece made by you. How have you been able to develop your voice and style?
TN:
I still feel like I have a long way to go in terms of really having a developed artistic voice but I was researching forms of art and I stumbled upon line drawings and I really like it. I took a painting I had sitting in my home and spray painted it white. I used that canvas to combine two pieces of art that I really enjoyed and people seemed to really respond to it. After that I just started expanding upon that. I would look up photographs that I thought would translate well into line drawings. For instance I would find a picture of a woman and try to extract some essence from that picture while still making the art my own but still in the line drawing style. I have a whole process I go through on my iPad before I translate it to canvas.

JM: I love the “intentional doodle” vibe of your art. I feel like when I see a new piece of yours my eyes have to play catch-up for a second to see the full picture. But once you do, it’s such a cohesive design with subtle intricacies. Is your intention for people to have to break down your art?
TN:
My art teacher always said you don’t want your work to be really self-explanatory. People want to see different techniques in different pieces of art. As you get closer to the pieces you want to see the subtle nuances that make up a bigger piece of art. I try to make it as detailed as possible while still remaining simple. So it’s great to hear that someone thinks my art is intricate yet simple because that is an objective of mine while I am creating it. I know that while I’m making it but you always think about what the viewer might take away from it. So that is great to hear.

JM: I’ve noticed most of your work has these two things in common; a color palette of about three different colors and one eye drawn as just a circle with no detail. Can you expand on that as a specific feature of your artistry?
TN:
Honestly, I don’t really know why I do that. I try to look at a piece and find what’s missing or do whatever I can to make a piece feel balanced. If I step back and one area is too detailed or I want the viewer to see a specific part of the piece that is when I would black out an eye or take something away from the initial picture. It also is partially subconscious. I know I did it once and then just sort of continued to make pieces with those aspects.

JM: Where does an idea start for you? Are you a paper and pencil person, or does the origins of a piece start on a digital median?
TN:
Most often it is from a picture that I really like. I find a portrait of someone I find intriguing like and bring it up on my iPad. I am on Pinterest quite a lot so I pull a lot of pictures that I enjoy from there to start my pieces. But it can really come from anywhere. People I see on the street, magazines, social media or just life in general.

JM: Are there any artists that have influenced your artistic expression that you’d like to name drop?
TN:
I have always really loved Anne Castro, Artbyfitz and this guy named Brandon who goes by Cloud Scholar on Instagram. Fitzgerald has always impressed me with his creativity and his ability to have a narrative in his works of art. He is so talented and precise. Brandon in particular has been very supportive during my art explorations. He always sends me different ideas to try and input on my current pieces. It was his idea to do the color blocking based on the shadows of the faces that I paint. My initial paintings were much more basic than that, so I am very thankful for him to be that support and critical eye. I have always been very open to suggestions and open to critical critique from artists and the art community here has always been very supportive of me early in my career.

JM: Indy is a relatively small city but is brimming with artists. Has being in a Midwest city had any influence on your paintings? 
TN: Great question. Maybe subliminally. I can’t really give a concrete answer on that because I don’t know how it might be different if I lived somewhere else. Who knows though, maybe if I lived in a state or city where the arts were more supported I would be further along in my career and doing art as my full time gig. It is definitely an interesting thought though.

JM: Being an artist in any form can be frustrating for a multitude of reasons. Do you have plans on making art your full time career anytime soon?
TN: I have always wanted to do something as a creative outlet, but I’ve never really considered it a viable option as a career because I never thought I would be successful and with it being so difficult to be successful that just adds another layer of doubt. My family always encouraged me to be creative. I have always had this strong passion for both art and science. When I was a child I wanted to be an interior designer, then a landscape architect and so on. I love design at its core and design is a big aspect of a lot of careers and a huge aspect of my work. I feel I am at the point where I just love creating art and If it becomes something more than that then I will definitely welcome that. 

JM: I know recently you took a hiatus from social media. Do you think this social media break will lead to new pieces by you?
TN: Oh definitely, and it’s been awesome to not be so attached to it and I think it is going to be very fruitful for my artistry. I made sure to leave my email up for commission inquiries. I have been working quite a bit lately and have been loving what I am creating.