2023 Goals – Recap

Regardless of my ponderings of 2023 being a year that seems to beg for futuristic technology, I feel like I spent the year fighting the most basic of battles. It was all I could do to keep my head above water in nearly every endeavor; the undercurrents were strong. This is reflected in my success on various goals. In some ways, it looks (and feels) like I didn’t do a darn thing this year. But I did. And some of those items are on this list.

Area 1: Health and Fitness

  • Weight Watchers (sometimes)
  • Eat breakfast (yes)
  • Prep food (yes)
  • Track (no)
  • Hit 10,000 daily (sometimes)

Area 2: Mental Health

  • Remember that alone time is an important part of my mental health. (yes)
  • Do NOT overextend yourself (be on boards, volunteer too much.) (yes)

Area 3: Painting

  • Convert to the “Amok at the Easel” marketing format – no. Went back to simple Tara Choate.
  • Art on the Edge Studio Tour (June 2023) – yes
  • Enter these shows:
    • WSO Spring – yes, not accepted
    • WSO Fall – yes, not accepted
    • Equine Art Show (Emerald Downs) –  no
    • AAEA – yes, not accepted
    • NWWS Spring – yes, not accepted
    • NWWS Fall – yes (signature status!)
    • Western Fed – no
    • ISEA – International – yes, not accepted
    • ISEA – member – yes (fourth place)
  • Bonus: The Keizer Cows went up
  • Blog: Write at least 52 posts – no (42 including this one)
  • Newslettter: Put out 12 newsletters in 2023 – no (not even one)

Area 4: Everything Else

  • Stay employed – yes (and this took everything I had)
  • Reading: Goodreads 2023 Book Challenge – 75 books – yes (86)
  • Nosework with Key
    • Practice once a week, outside of class – no
    • Work toward:
      • NW3 – 2 down, 1 to go
      • L2C – no (no show)
      • L3C – no (no show)
      • L3I – no (no show)
      • L3V – yes
  • Participate in the 2023 NaNoWriMo; consider doing some editing on past projects – no
  • Apply for Alaska AIR – no (due to Paris)
  • Go to Paris – yes (and this is my excuse for everything that wasn’t a work-related delay)
  • Unexpected thing: Took up bonsai as a hobby and started a YouTube channel about it.

Reading over this list, in spite of my preamble, I did reasonably well. In tomorrow’s post (2024 goal) I hope to talk about how I want to change things up in the new year.


When I was a kid, no one could get me to read a book or draw something unless it was about horses. I had a huge Breyer horse collection. My Little Ponies would do in a pinch. Barbie had a horse (Dallas) and I could be talked into a game if we were playing something with a ranch or other horse-related activity. But understand, that was a far second choice. Childhood, as it relates to painting, has been on my mind a lot over the last few weeks. I got a new printer cartridge, so I printed out some reference photos and spent the week playing with my love for all things equine.

This painting was developed from a squiggle that was the result of spilling some paint. I am attempting to play with lost and found edges, similar to Benedicte Gele.

For these paintings I was deliberately not trying to produce a “perfect” horse painting. I was trying to let myself sketch and work through draftsmanship. The painting below has good drawing on the horse, but the human needs some work. As I take it further, I will have to resolve that and the color issues.

“Did You Get My Good Side?” (unfinished)

On this work, the left front leg and head are out of scale. That may be fixable, though I’m not sure if I will push forward.

This was done with my watercolor markers on a previously colored piece of paper.

And then this piece. This piece was done either in 2014 or 2015 during an ice painting “window.” It has been sitting in a pile with masking fluid on it ever since. This week, I spent some time taking the masking off. The result is so pretty that I can hardly think about painting on it. But I think I might have an idea.

A start from my 2015 ice painting.

Don’t hold your breath to see it!

Three clues

I’ll give you three guesses to my state of mind. Here they are.

There’s a Cat on My Faberge

The Women

Karl, the Rugby Kelpie

There’s a Cat on My Faberge

I’m still in a bit of painting funk. I want to paint, but I don’t necessarily want to paint something. So, I was swirling things around and… a cat came and sat on my paper.

Emotion: Frustration

The Women

My sincere apologies, but this painting has a lot of references to Christianity. If that is something that triggers you, please feel free not to read.

Tired of twiring paint around aimlessly, I decided to work with a piece of pre-aimlessly-painted paper. As I was twirling the paper around on my desk, I kept seeing the figure on the lower right. As I kept developing, I saw more figures. And started to tell myself stories. There is Mary, mother of Jesus (i.e. unwed mother), the Woman at the Well (i.e. prostitute), and the sisters, Martha and Mary (Martha who does the spiritual and Mary who does the practical and they just can’t seem to work it out.) All of these figures have head coverings. Then there is… someone on the left. You can figure out who for yourself (not necessarily Jesus, but that is one interpretation.) In my view, it is someone who can listen and soothe and tell these women that they are valued.

Emotion: Discouraged.

Karl, the Rugby Kelpie

I am not sure where Karl came from. I was working to finish another aimless start and he emerged. Strong. Playful. Confident.

Emotion: Wishful.

Childish… and orange

When I was a kid, my dad would bring home tins of watercolor paint at the end of the school year (he was a middle school industrial arts teacher.) You know the type I’m talking about?

Initially, I would have a blast. I’d put down paint and that was so satisfying. And so, I’d put down another color. And another. Before long, I’d have a soggy mess of a muddy paper. It was SO frustrating! To have all your dreams and visions come crashing down because… well, because…

I am not sure I ever figured out “because.”

Applying paint is about as far as my emotional state is letting me go right now. As I mentioned last week, I have a bunch of colors in jars, and so applying color is a breeze. What to do about the paint, I’m not so sure.

Because orange has the least amount of color, I have been playing with orange pain this week. Two paintings emerged.

“Nigel” – 14″ 11″ – watercolor on paper

He is fun and bright.

And I painted a wash of orange over this painting.

It doesn’t matter how bright the spring if the winter is too long

Thus creating this painting.

“Fruit” – 14″ x 11″ – watercolor on paper

The color is a little off here. It’s brighter in person. But I think you get the idea.

I’m making mud. I’ll let you know when I’ve made it through the spectrum.

Re-learning play

In his book “Creativity“, John Cleese posits the importance of play as a creative element. I’ve heard other creatives express some version of the sentiment, usually coupled with a variation on inspiration has to find you working.

For whatever reason, play is proving elusive. I want to paint, but it feels like all my emotional space is filled up with other things. This long holiday weekend, I did quite a bit of painting. Almost none if it is worth looking at.

A challenge from the Northwest Watercolor Society‘s (NWWS) monthly critique tickled my fancy enough that I pumped out two paintings for critique from the reference photos that were to be used. The idea was to work on values, doing a small version, then a larger version.

Dale Laitinen will be critiquing the images of his selection on January 8, 2024.

In related news, I received a notification from NWWS that I was accepted for signature status. This is VERY exciting for me and, I feel, a goal attained with much hard work.

After these paintings, the most useful thing I did was clean out a variety of watercolor palettes, putting the gooey color residue into these jars.

Nothing I painted seemed to “sit right”, though some work is needed for any of these to be finished.

I may go back to the “apply paint” stage if this keeps up. At least that was fun.


This weekend I pulled out my sumi ink and pastels to do some exercises as learned by the fabulous Dawn Emerson. I have been thinking a lot about how representational I want to be and my future painting direction. This seemed to be a way to have a lot of options without a lot of planning.

The issue of planning and layers looms large in my life. As I sat down to craft this blog, I simultaneously realized how large these issues are… and how much I don’t want to commit those issues to “paper.”

Please forgive me for another short post. A lot is going on.

And for those who celebrate, happy Thanksgiving!

Random Interests

In the interest of getting a post out, this is going to be a random post.

  • How can it be November and just a week or so to Thanksgiving?
  • I think that means December and then January, which is a new year. I don’t remember doing a single goal this year.
  • Oh, good. I just looked at the list. I have done a few goal things.
  • My piece, “Leif, Lord of the Flickers” was accepted into the ISEA Member Only Juried Online Exhibition “Utterly Profound 2023”. It’s an online show. The link to this year’s show is scheduled to go live on November 15.
  • I painted more this week. I even broke out the pastels.



  • My gooddness. It’s really raining here.
  • I agreed to do a break-out session at the Spring WSO Convention. Working title: “Paris Tricks to Get Unstuck.”
  • I’m already tired from “the holidays.”
  • A favorite artist, Kate Dardine of Painted Wind Studio, is putting out a 20 days of Gratitude newsletter right now. In day 8, she put in this beautiful quote: “A stranger is a person in whom we have not yet found a part of ourselves.” – Luigina Sgarro, il confine di ghiaccio
  • I need to get a move on and enter Western Fed. November 27. Lots of time…
  • Maybe a goal for next year will be less procrastinating.

Art Withdrawal Therapy – Phase 1: Apply Paint

Coming back to real life after my exciting PARIS! trip took a couple of weeks. Last weekend I finished up my planned blog posts and looked around. “I guess I should paint?” I thought, rather weakly. So, I sketched out my favorite Paris photos. And then I froze. “I can’t paint this,” I thought. “I’m not good enough.” Regardless of whether or not I am “good enough”, I will certainly never get any better unless I actually apply paint. But I couldn’t get past the idea that spreading paint was too complicated. So, I dithered last weekend. It’s a great tool if you want to get nothing done.

If you have ever looked for anything vaguely art-related on YouTube, I am sure a video about neurographic art has come up for you. Basically, it’s where you make squiggles, then make them ovals, then apply paint. Or some variation of things in some order. The key words: apply paint. I sometimes do the same thing and “paint dragons”. I will say the exercise of neurographic art is oddly addictive. I’d do a painting (or two) then go to bed and pass right out.

A gray neurographic art start.

When I got up this morning, a strong weather system with masses of wind and rain was passing through. I was also wearing my worst shirt, so I decided to break out the acrylic paints and see what I could do with these starts. There have been oodles of mushrooms coming up with the increasing rain.

Inspiration solved.

Just like riding a bike, it started coming back to me.

Asian Pears

The “gray” start at the start of this had a lot of paint on it. So, while I was waiting for that to dry, I pressed another piece of paper to it, soaking up some of the extra paint. As I looked at it, I saw this emerge.


I don’t think it’s finished yet, but it’s close.

Another item that emerged was this imaginary landscape. I’m still trying to figure out a finish plan.

After fooling around with a bunch of projects, I finally got the courage to apply paint to some of my “real” paintings.

Finally, I applied a wash to this drawing. This wash is still VERY wet when the photo was taken. I’m hoping it will dry a little more evenly. If it doesn’t, I’ll have to decide if I want to continue or start over.

And so, eight paintings have begun. Not bad for someone who was agonizing seven days ago about “not being able to paint.”

(Not) Paris! (Part 5)

In addition to being a working member of society (stop laughing), I am also a pet owner. A trip like Paris! doesn’t just happen. Time off needs to be requested, money saved, money spent, animal care found, etc. I also needed some encouragement from friends to take the plunge. Thank you for listening to me dither, “A” and “L.” I was so incredibly lucky to have three friends volunteer to take care of my animal crew, staying at the house so routines changed as little as possible. Thank you “S”, “D”, and “P”.

* * *

Upon returning to real life, I was amused to discover a batch of notes covering the unusual items my house sitters discovered while sitting the crew. I knew these things, and had even mentioned a few, but the entertainment value of these notes (which were marked “Toss”) struck my funny bone.

Pets not allowed in Tara’s room while she is away. Only Anouk is allowed in Tara’s room while she is away. She enjoys the window.

Cats do not go outside. Garage okay but block the doggie door.

Cats walk on the counter. I use a cutting board for food prep.

Sometimes an ice cube lands on the floor when freezer opened and melts. I turned off the ice maker to prevent ice cube overflow. Turn back on if you need more ice.

Key barks at big vehicles. Run water in the sink to distract him if necessary.

He won’t go outside in the back until you go on the steps and wait. He’s funny.

He appears to save poops for walks. That’s a talent or a skill.

I hold him back while filing his dish. Spread around, it takes him longer to eat.

I just find it fascinating the things that seem ordinary to me, but worth mentioning to other people.

* * *

As usual when I travel, I fight homesickness for the pets. “P” is also a pet lover, and her texts and pics kept me going for the last few days of the trip.

Oct 8

Tara: As with other things, tech is not cooperating with me and I’m not able to get my texts to send. How’d the first day with the Fuzz and crew go?

P: Anouk is the most lovable cat and very talkative. She finally fell asleep on me for a while last night at about midnight, then spent some time in the window of the guest room. Chitza is still a bit skittish but is eating well. Anouk is eating well. Key eats so fast that “my dog” hardly gets started before he’s done. They are all behaving and adjusting to “my dog”. Key likes being a lap dog. “My dog” is a bit jealous, but she is adjusting. Everyone misses you!


Oct 9

Tara: I am soooooooooooo glad to hear this!!!!! I miss all of you so much! I’m doing okay. I’m having fun and finding interesting things, but I have no stamina. I hate to admit this, but I am counting hours!

P: Well rest easy. The kids are great. Key isn’t even barking at the garbage truck, though he was doing circles and barking when I was preparing his breakfast 😀 Ah food. . . Don’t push yourself too much, do only those things that will bring you the most joy. ❤️❤️❤️

Tara: Key is food motivated to an insane degree. As discussed.

P: Yes he is, yes he is. He really is a good boy and knows how to use his beautiful eyes to get what he wants. 🥹 I thought I would send this picture along. Anouk likes “my dog”. 🙂

Anouk and “P’s dog”

Tara: So cute! Love it!!!

Oct 10

P: Good morning Tara.  I hope you are doing well. You are missing a beautiful rain storm with gale force winds. Anouk let me sleep last night, I think she finally ran out of things to tell me. 🙃 I kind of feel bad for Key, though. He wants to sleep on the bed, but between “my dog” and I and Anouk wandering around the bed, he ends up getting down and sleeping on the rug on the floor next to the bed. “My dog” and I take up most of the space. All is well here. I’m trying to keep up with the muddy paw prints. Your floors may be a bit dirty when you return. Enjoy your last couple days!

Tara: Don’t worry about the floors. They are currently unnaturally clean. Put some dirt in them so I know I’m home. I’d love rain. It’s dry, warm, and muggy here for day 13 of 14. And don’t worry about Key. That rug thing is his patented “I’m an abused dog” trick. He uses it on my when the cats are in his space. Or something…. He will survive. Chitza hasn’t come out? Anouk is an attention sponge.

Oct 11

P: Chitza comes out to eat and I love her up for a bit, but she seems to prefer to stay in the pantry area during the day. She is still pretty timid around “my dog”, though she doesn’t run away from her. I give her love several times a day in her little bed and she walks the shelves when I’m in there cleaning the boxes rubbing up against me. She is quite loving, but the exact opposite of Anouk. I don’t know what she does during the night, she doesn’t wander into my room.

T: She’s the cautious one. She does love Key, though. I hope they are talking.

P:  Pictures of your babies to help you get through the rest of your trip.


Let me know if these go through okay. I can send them as attachments instead.

Key and his “curl up on the rug guilt trip”

Tara :  Got them, thanks! And I needed them!! Key is really putting on a guilt trip for you!!!!

P: Yes, Key is on his best behavior. Treats are helpful. 😁

Oct 12

P: I assume you are getting ready to return to our wonderful, wet state. Looking forward to seeing you. All the kids are as well. How many hours before you start your return trip? When you get into PDX send me a quick text to let me know you have arrived. Key and I will be excited to meet you. Take care and have a great trip. See you on the other side. Rest easy. All is well. 😊Oh, I wanted to tell you that Chitza has come out of the pantry and joined us in the main rooms. She sat on my lap a while, but Anouk kind of pushed her off. A little jealousy there. She is now asking for and getting attention and as far as I can tell, she is using the litter box regularly. Anouk is really playful and makes me laugh. Take care and enjoy your trip home. ❤️

* * *

I didn’t take anything except my phone on vacation, as far as communication, but it allowed me to email and check Facebook. Below are a series of email between me and “L”.

Sept 27

Je pense á toi, chère amie!

Sept 28

What a lovely view from your hotel window!

How was your trip there? What have you been up to?

October 7

Bonjour encore une fois

How are you feeling? Have the antibiotics made a difference?

“L” is the best.

* * *

Thank you, everyone, for a great trip! It was a team effort!