Mary Tanana

Introducing Mary Tanana, featured artist from Christmas Special (29).

Mary Tanana is a designer inspired by art, gardening, landscapes and nature and approaches her work with a boho attitude. Mary has had a life-long love affair with anything patterned, and studied fashion illustration in Boston, US. After having a long and successful career as an award-winning jewellery designer, Mary is once again embracing her first love of surface pattern design.

How long have you been illustrating and what made you start?
At a very early age, I was doing all kinds of crafts. I did embroidery, needlepoint, counted cross-stitch, quilling and crochet, starting at age 6. My parents were so wonderful, they gave into my every craft whim! After going to University, where I studied Fashion Illustration, I landed a job as a jewellery designer.  I was so excited to have any kind of design job, and the bonus was that it was all about creating patterns that were pierced/etched in the metal.  I was trained on the job to design gem, diamond, and bridal jewellery, and that’s what I’ve been doing for most of my career up until about five years ago. After I moved cross-country, I decided to go back to the illustration and textile design world. It took a bit of time to educate myself regarding using a few different computer programs, but it’s totally been worth it!

Where do you get your inspiration?
I’m fascinated with henna designs from India and folk art from the Ukraine, Russia and Poland. I’ve recently been collecting vintage embroidery books from around the world for inspiration.  I’m also obsessed with gardening. I have a huge variety of wildflowers scattered around my yard.

Where is your favourite place to illustrate?
I have a home office, and I’ve recently just reorganised my space. I now have a dedicated “painting desk”, as well as another desk with my computer and tablet. I also love sitting outside on my front porch to sketch.

What are your illustrating/colouring material essentials?
I do a lot of digital design. For that I use a Wacom tablet and Mac computer. Everything that I design starts out old school, simple pencil on paper. I love Pigma Micron pens! I also love using white gel pens on dark paper to come with new ideas. I’ve recently discovered Turner Acryl-gouache, which I adore for painting! I also love Tombow’s brush markers.

What’s the piece of work that you’re most proud of or enjoyed doing the most?
A few years ago I illustrated a few quotes that my Dad always said. I listed them in my Etsy shop, and they’ve become my best sellers! My Dad passed away years ago, so it makes me happy that I can honour him a little in this way.

Artist's tip

Experiment with colour! Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, it might lead to a new discovery.

See more from Mary Tanana

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