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Photograph of artist Tamarrah Long in front of one of her artworks

Tamarah with one of her

by Lynn S. Schwebach

Artist, architect, and actress, Tamarah Long calls herself “observer of the world.”

That’s the name she gave herself in 1996, traveling around Costa Rica, writing in her journal. Having just finished graduate school with a master’s degree in architecture, she realized that she should be sketching as well.

She had completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in Design and the Environment from the University of Pennsylvania, and went on to complete her master’s degree  at the University of Florida in 1994. Although unknown to her at the time, the sketches she completed in Costa Rica would start her on a journey toward becoming an artist.

One wintry afternoon in Boulder, Colo., she explained to bravelycreative.com that she always had hints of creativity, which led her into architecture. But she wasn’t great at drawing, and had to work hard to learn those skills.

Not a Natural at Drawing

In fact, during her first year at Penn she was drawing outside, and one of her teachers commented on her drawing difficulties, asking her what she planned to declare as her major.

But that didn’t deter Long. After talking for any length of time with her, one recognizes the artistic temperament that drives almost all creative individuals to create, despite – or maybe in spite of – others’ negativity.

“Everyone perceives things differently, so even though I wasn’t highly skilled at drawing, I could, over time, learn by observing.”

It wasn’t until she was out of school, journaling, and traveling that she found the perfect opportunity to hone her skills.

In 1997, while traveling through India she added about 30 sketches to her journal, finding her love in architecturally influenced drawings. Long’s eyes widened as she described the experience of creating one of her most popular sketches  –  an Indian woman walking with a basket on her head – in Goa, India. Long’s facial expression personified the “aha” moment many artists talk of when unexpectedly landing on an original concept or idea.

“She was moving fast, so I just sketched it in about 15 minutes.” At that point, Long realized the importance – and value – of capturing the essence of things quickly, and now limits the time she spends on all of her drawings, allowing herself no more than 30 to 40 minutes. And she doesn’t permit herself to erase, which, she said, makes her images a lot more interesting.

“Ambiguity is much more interesting to many people than perfectly rendered images.”

Goa, India

Goa is in Western India, on the Arabian Sea, and it’s a place that remains vivid in Long’s memory. It’s settings like this that she loves drawing, and they are usually “places with or around water.” So even though she lives in Boulder, Long doesn’t create many of her iconic drawings there – it’s too dry and arid and she doesn’t care for the colors.

She reproduces her sketches digitally, and refuses to ever sell the originals. The journals containing her sketches and writing mean too much to her, personally, to ever sell. But that hasn’t stopped her sales.

During December 2011, Long showed her art in Folsom Street Coffee shop in Boulder – her fourth coffee shop show since she began framing and selling reproductions of her sketches. At one of her previous shows, a couple came in and identified with her drawing style of foreign locales. This resulted in a commission of  three pictures drawn from photographs of trips the couple had taken to places they had fallen in love with – such as Collioure, France, a town on the border between France and Spain.

Collioure, France

Collioure was a place that Long knew from having visited there only a year prior to meeting the couple; a place that over the years became known for inspiring many artists.

Another one of the drawings that the couple asked her to complete was from Spain – a place she had never visited. And they asked her to “add” a café to place in the picture where there were only pots sitting in front of a building.

The three pictures challenged her to move beyond her small format of  4” by 6” and to use more than just pen and ink, adding conte crayon and watercolor pencils – and to work from photographs, imaginatively adding elements.

But like any challenge, Long’s proclivity to solve the problem, using her creativity and drive, resulted in three 22” x 33” images of trips the couple had taken with their children. They loaned her the pictures for the Folsom Street show.

Long’s current “day” job is working as Instructor of Architecture and Environmental Design at the University of Colorado in Boulder, which gives her time off on the holidays and during the summers to travel. When we talked for this article, Long was preparing to leave for Budapest, Hungary and then Israel for semester break.

Another important part of Long’s creative life involves acting. In addition to her drawing, she has also lived the life of an actress in New York City, and written three one-act plays. Two of the plays have been produced – and she performed in each play.

One would say that “bravely creative” is term that perfectly describes this  artist, actor, and oh yes – architect.

You can find more of Tamarah’s art on her website at: TamarahLong.zenfolio.com.