It’s 8:35pm, and Tara McPherson’s day is not nearly over. “I just finished a Dunny Series 4 box design,” she comments. “I’ll be working on a poster for a friend’s band later.”
Born in Los Angeles, based in New York and a graduate of The Art Center, McPherson has experiences all over the map. She’s interested in astronomy, has interned as production assistant on Matt Groening’s “Futurama” and freelanced as a respected concert poster artist. (A poster from a 2006 Beck tour recently won her an ESKY Award from Esquire magazine for Best Poster of 2006.)
McPherson’s hectic schedule is the well-earned result of a wide scope of creative energy that is nurtured by everything from life experience to music to The Medici.
“I’m a sucker for renaissance paintings,” she says. “My favorite is An Allegory With Venus And Cupid by Bronzino. I love the detail ... I see it and I just want to go paint.”
With an impressive portfolio of poster art, fine art paintings, illustration and an ever-increasing list of job offers, McPherson’s newest opus involves two of her earliest creations.
The Birth of the Buddies
Ace Kittyhawk and Ion Z are two space travelers who left their mark in many of McPherson’s works.
“I originally came up with them in college,” she said. “Ace came first but he needed a buddy, and then came Ion. They kept reoccurring in doodles and paintings. I had an idea for a sort-of adult children’s book, but it never came about.”
Ace and Ion kept to their cameo roles, sometimes taking center stage in screen prints and ink drawings. It wasn’t until 2006 that a new dimension in their saga would be suggested.
“I had been discussing toy designs with Kidrobot,” she recalls. “I wanted to develop something with (Ace and Ion). I submitted some ideas and they went for it!”
The Other Dimension
The venture into vinyl was nothing new for McPherson, who had already lent her talents to some of Kidrobot’s Dunny designs.
“Kidrobot is great to work with. I had approval on all the sculpts; I got to make changes and suggestions at every step.” In fact, the technical aspect of developing the Ace and Ion toys was something she almost expected.
“For me it was a logical evolution. I knew exactly what they should look like because I saw them in my head for so long,” she said. “But when I finally saw the sculpts I was soooo excited.”
To date, McPherson has only seen photos of the sculpted works which were produced in China.
“I can’t imagine what I’ll do when I finally have them in my hand," she said. "I might just start jumping around my studio.”
McPherson will have plenty more reasons to jump this year as her association with Kidrobot will yield two more toy projects based on her fine art creations.
The Girl With No Heart
Love, loss and loneliness are recurring themes in McPherson’s work. A manifestation of them is Orion, a female figure with a heart-shaped void in her torso.
“Developing her was cathartic,” she says of the character that was partially born from a bad breakup. “It made me feel better.”
For the artist, and the viewer, Orion’s glaring absence is what makes her a thing of beauty.
“People can relate to her, not like a victim but as a symbol of resilience and strength,” McPherson observed. “She’s a beacon of light in spite of this horrible thing that was done to her.”
Orion will be the next 3-D translation for McPherson but the design will be decidedly different from the playful figures Kidrobot is best known for.
“She will be elegant,” says McPherson as she describes her ideas for the project. “I envision her floating, maybe suspended on a base. Definitely a high-end figure. She should be at least eight inches tall.”
Just Say No
Yet another Kidrobot project is a 15-figure toy line due out later this year. Like the three-inch Dunny line, they will be a blind box assortment.
“I have all the designs,” McPherson said. “Some are variations on Ace and Ion. I envision all the characters living in the same world.”
Beyond the toy designing, McPherson’s 2007 schedule is quite full. She is illustrating a DC Vertigo graphic novel, “Donor,” which she hopes will be finished by the end of the year with a release date by late 2008. In late March, she’s scheduled for three signing events - one at each Kidrobot location - that will coincide with the Ace and Ion release. She will show one new painting at New York’s Jonathan Levine Gallery beginning March 31, with a full 15-piece exhibit coming early next year, and will make appearances at the Flatstock 12 Poster Convention at SXSW in Austin, TX., the Paradise Toronto ComicCon, and San Diego Comic Con. She’ll also hold various University speaking engagements and fit in some gigs as bassist in her band, The Night Time.
Though she makes it all seem easy, there is one thing she has trouble with.
“‘No’ is a very powerful word and it’s very difficult to say,” McPherson admits. “Especially as an artist, you just can’t say no to a job. There are so many cool projects, but I just don’t have time for them all.”
Her heart is in her fine art painting and gallery shows and her plan is to focus more on those projects - with maybe some time built-in for the occasional creative diversion.
“Frank Kozik told me about this project involving 100 Darth Vader masks that are being painted by different artists for a show,” she said. “Now who wouldn’t want to do that?!”
Photo credits: Tara's portrait - Deborah Samantha; Ace and Ion action figures courtesy of Kidrobot; all other art courtesy of Tara McPherson.