Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Art and Dogs: Meet Tamara Tsurkan

Here in Happy Dog Land, we are constantly searching the world and the world wide web to bring you fascinating dog information, introduce you to interesting dog people and make you laugh and think. Today, we are bringing you Tamara Tsurkan, an artist and photographer from Wisconsin by way of the Ukraine. Animals are often the subject of her artwork and photography. Plus, she has 3 cute Beagles and she uses her artwork and skills to help her community.

HDL: Why did you decide to become a professional artist?
TT: As a child, I liked to paint an animate cartoons. I attended an art school for several years, so I've had a formal background in painting. However, I didn't pursue a career as an artist. Instead, I opted for a college degree in math and computer science, and a teaching career after that. So, there was a rather long period of time when I wasn't painting at all.

I came to the United States from the Ukraine in 2001. For the first few years, I worked as a web and graphics designer. Though that brought me closer to my childhood dream of making cartoons, it didn't feel quite as satisfying and enjoyable as making art with my own hands. Then, I bought a house and I created a few pieces to hang on the walls. This transformed into a hobby, and in a few months, I found myself devoting most of my free time to creating and learning about art. That was almost four years ago. I feel like I am just at the beginning of a journey to becoming a full-time artist.

HDL: Why do you use animals in your art?
TT: I grew up in Ukraine where there were, and unfortunately still are, a lot of stray animals. When I was a child, in addition to having our own dogs and cats, I used to bring a lot of stray cats and dogs home, give them baths and treat them. I have been fascinated by the personalities of animals and by how frank and devoted they all are.

When I started creating my artwork, portraying animals was a natural choice since I believe that one can only create a worthy piece if it's dedicated to something that one really cares about, and animals are that "something" for me. Time spent with animals is always a joyous experience for me. I want my paintings to depict the emotions I've seen in animals -- all their frankness and devotion -- so other people can experience and share the same feelings.

HDL: Who are the dogs in your life?
TT: We have three Beagles: Lucky, Lady and Sunny. We adopted Lucky and she is five and a half years old now. She is actually the mom of the other two. Lady and Sunny are two and a half years old. They are all very happy together, playing a lot and also taking good care of each other (like cleaning each other's ears :)). Being Beagles, they are very active and vivacious dogs and require a lot of attention. It's a lot of fun (and also a lot of work) to tend to them.

HDL: Have you used your pets in your art?
TT: I've used my dogs in several of my art pieces. I've been using them in two ways. The dogs in several of my paintings look like my dogs to a certain extent although my paintings are not realistic paintings. More often, it's the situations that my dogs have been in or activities they've engaged in that give me ideas for new paintings.

HDL: Do you help animals with your art?
TT: Yes! I've donated art work to several fundraisers for Angel's Wish in Verona, WI. I've also done some logo and graphic design work for two local humane society shelters, as well as maintained websites for them (the latter is partially-paid and partially-volunteer position). Also, at a recent art show I met a very interesting disabled woman who is holding a fundraiser to help pay for training of her new service dog. I donated some artwork for the fundraiser.

HDL: How can people learn more about you and your artwork?
TT: The easiest and most reliable way is through my website. It contains photos most of my paintings and all the up-to-date information about my upcoming shows and exhibits.

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