Artist Spotlight: Tara O’Brien of The Sparrow and The Fox

7 Dec

Hello everyone! Sorry for the lack of updates; the holiday season has hit me like a sack of bricks (don’t worry; it’s not as awful as it sounds) and I’m really super busy!

I’ve decided that I would like to spotlight some of my fellow artists (especially illustrators) on my blog. In the art world, I feel like there is way too much of the competitive, back-stabbing, and “ME FIRST!” attitude, and I try my hardest to remain humble and stay connected and recognize the people who inspire me.

For me, art is a community. Art is about sharing ideas, discovering ideas, inspiring others, and being inspired. And when I find an artist I love, sometimes I want to just scream at the top of a mountain “hey look how awesomely talented this person is go check out their Facebook and reblog all of their stuff on Tumblr!!!”

But that seems somewhat counter productive, so I’ll stick with artist spotlights….for now.

So without further ado, I’d like to introduce my first artist spotlight, a lovely Irish illustrator by the name of Tara O’Brien, who also goes by the moniker of The Sparrow and the Fox! Tara is part illustrator, part fashionista, part activist, and all around magical.

I first discovered Tara through Tumblr, where I began to see her work popping up on my dashboard. What struck me about Tara’s illustrations is her delicate line work and use of color. There’s something so simplistic, yet very intricate, about the whimsical things she creates.

She’s becoming a big name in the body positive movement as well, what with her full-figured beauties that challenge the very definition of the word “beautiful”.

So naturally, it was love at first sight! Tara was gracious enough to answer a few questions for me:

Tell me a little bit about your background as an artist. How would you describe your art? Is there any meaning behind your moniker, The Sparrow and the Fox?

Well I have always loved art, lived for it really. It just was
something that always made me happy regardless of what else was going on around me. My favourite thing to draw is the human form, that started off as lots of fashion designs and that has basically led me to where I am today.

I would describe my art as being a continuous exploration of body image and an attempt to smash stigma. I don’t know if I have achieved that yet but that is the direction it is going.

I have no idea where sparrow and the fox came from! I was just doodling and the fox was drawn and a bunch of different birds. It just happened and I really liked it! I had it in the back of my mind that I needed something catchier than Tara O’Brien for my website I was working on at the time!

How do you get your inspiration for your art? Do you have any favorite artists that you look up to?

Inspiration usually comes from however I am feeling that day, if I am feeling very good about myself or positive I will usually draw something empowering and happy! If I am having an off day then I will usually turn to art as a form of therapy. I’ll try to draw something positive, whether that is successful or not I don’t know!

My favourite artists include Gustav Klimt and Mark Ryden, My favourite book in the world is The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupéry.  That book has probably been my biggest inspiration in life. The message it gives and the illustrations are just the most beautiful stuff.

But there are so many other inspirations for my art too, like the wonderful people I follow on Tumblr, fashion magazines, even fictional characters from books and TV, I will always mention Disney’s Ursala the sea witch under inspirations. I hate that she died in the end, she was only being sassy.

It’s very clear to see that body positivity is a recurring theme for you. What inspired you to join the body positive movement? What does the term “body positive” mean to you?

I just became fed up with not being happy with myself. I realised that the only reason I wasn’t happy in my skin was because everyone else wasn’t happy with my body. I grew up being surrounded by messages from family, friends,media and society telling me how I looked was wrong. Whether it was directly or indirectly nearly every person I ever came into contact with has had some effect on the way I felt about my body.

For me, body positivity is just allowing yourself to be in charge of how you feel about yourself and not being dictated by an external source. You know, if that cis straight man is happy being 350 pound, if that transgender POC is happy being 90 pound or if that queer lady loves her body hair, why the hell should you care? It is not affecting you so move on from it.

“Bearded Lovely” is probably my favorite piece of yours. How did you come up with this piece, and what were you trying to convey?

This piece was done this time last year for Novembeard or no shave November. It was something that was organised by the students in college where we all had to submit a piece for a Novembeard exhibition we put on. I didn’t want to go for a typical man with a big hairy beard. Everybody has body hair so I thought a bearded lady would be an interesting way to go.

What’s your favorite artwork you’ve created and why?

I think it might be the “Own Your Body” one, not because it is incredibly good or anything but because it sort of launched Sparrow and the Fox. It made its way around Tumblr and Facebook the most and I received the most feedback for it so that one is special.

What’s your main goal as an artist, and what are your plans for the future?

The goal is to make Sparrow and the Fox into a career. I don’t want to have another job and have that on the side, I would never be happy working with anything other than art.

I am currently in my final year working on a degree in Graphic Design and even though I am super appreciative of having a background in graphic design I cannot wait to finish and put 100% into my illustration career. Explore more styles, more people and possible write/illustrate a children’s book.

Do you have any other passions or hobbies besides art?

God I am so boring, no! Haha I mean I am hugely into books,music, film and fashion but nothing to the extent of my art. I am working on a music project at the moment but I’m not sure if that will go anywhere.
Oh and In the next year I want to learn how to knit and sew! So I will be able to add them to the list soon!

Do you have a message or any advice you’d like to send to my readers?

I don’t know, it might sound corny but just to say do whatever makes you happy. Whatever it is. I get really pissed off at people telling you to go out and live life to the full when their idea of that is a
certain lifestyle. You don’t have to do anything that is expected of you. Do what you want.

Oh and I just want to say a huge thanks to everyone who have supported me, everyone who has helped me get where I am at the moment. I really am so grateful for all my followers and the people who have bought a print from the store! Thank you so much! ♥

Wanna Keep in Touch with Tara O’Brien?

I don’t blame you! Check her out all over the web:





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