An Inside Conversation with Tarrah Aroonsakool


A friend of mine recently remarked something along the lines of, "I've been asked who my favorite artists are and it's funny how all that can come to mind are local San Diegan artists." Nothing can be more true about that then when I think of Tarrah Aroonsakool's work.

Both intensely intricate and visually austere, Aroonsakool's work gravitates in a level that examines the human body as almost painstakingly pure. With watercolor that leaks like blood onto the surface of her painted gentle bodies, her layers of crimson and yellow tones seep on the rested figures creating images of sickly creatures crept in cozy positions. In her own way, Aroonsakool has perfectly captured the human condition.

We recently got the honor of having a short Q&A with the artist herself, discussing her upbringing, her travels and the way routine has helped her manage the struggles of an artist work ethic. Read below.

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Can you recall your first experience with art? How did you know you wanted to take it seriously?
When I was younger, I was very aware of time. My dad, hah, typical asian helicopter parent -- would make me draw a grid and fill out my daily schedule every single damn day. And as crazy as I am now, I still carry a planner with me wherever I go. Its funny how habits are formed. I first realized that ‘whoa’ moment with art was when I was aware of how unaware I was. I would stop and lose focus of time. Art is really the only thing that can make me do that. That shit is precious. I knew that since I’ve found it, I don’t ever want to let art go. 

What I love most about your work is how raw and almost urgent it feels. The choice of surfaces you work on, your sparse watercolor strokes that practically bleed together instead of casually blend -- you can feel the work needing to come out. What do you think creates this style of expression?
I think it’s honestly just me, I approach my art how I would approach anything. Some people say that I have a ‘big personality’-- whatever that means haha. When I speak, I do it quickly and rather loudly. I think that’s why I use a lot of reds in my work. I also prefer to do my pieces in one sitting... for me, it’s like word vomit. Since I’m talking I might as well get it all out there!

You spent a few years living in New Orleans and you've mentioned taking a solo impromptu trip through India. With such an inclination towards the spontaneous, what is it about San Diego that drew you back?
Whether I like it admit it or not-- I’m a gemini. I get bored easily and love a challenge. Once I get too comfortable I get restless. I left New Orleans to experience something new. Growing up here, I honestly thought I knew San Diego in and out, but shit was I wrong. Being back five or something years later made me feel like a tourist in my own city. San Diego was supposed to a pit stop, but it became way more.

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The things that are happening in this city is amazing. I’ve barely been back for a year and I have met so many talented people who I feel so damn inspired by (and made me the artist I am today!). I was like, whoa, wait a minute... okay I see you San Diego. Since I’ve been back I’ve worked with so many dope people who strive to create a beautiful safe space and a community for artists not only here in San Diego, but in Tijuana too. That shit is important. It’s because of their vision and dedication that there is even an art scene. It is honestly really amazing to be apart of something that is growing day by day. I want to stick around and be apart of it. San Diego has more art and culture than meets the eye, we are more than beach paintings and Sublime coverbands!

As an artist, routine and order -- is it good shit or bad shit?
Damn, this one is a hard one. I would say, for me, good. People think that being an artist is always easy and cool. It’s not. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade it for the world but in order to get shit done you have to be able to provide some sort of routine for yourself. It’s not all art shows and free wine. It takes some serious work ethic for an artist to put something up on the wall they are actually proud of. No one is going to dictate when or what to paint but yourself. In order to do that you really have to understand how you work as an artist. Sometimes I don’t want to be inside painting all day, but then I think-- if  I’m not gonna make my art then who will? I’ll block out times in my week (no matter how uninspired and lazy I am) to create art. I know if this isn’t done then I start to lose touch with myself as an artist.


Pick one:
Lil Wayne or Boosie Badazz
You know its weeeezy baayhbee

Gaslamp or Bourbon Street
Yikes, both are dangerous for me.

Capturing the grotesque or the beautiful
Beautiful because it's relative. I find dead rats beautiful, but do you?