The Cluster Collection

I didn’t mean for this to be a collection at first. It started as an impulse to paint, probably in response to my anxiety over recent world events, and enticed by the unopened palette of gouache paint that had been calling to me from a shelf in my studio since Christmas. I sat at the dining room table surrounded by 3 children with their public-school-from-home assignments and listening to my own homework modules from The Making Art Work Course with Emily Jeffords. The chaos around me faded as I painted the black linework for two floral paintings on some new 9x12 mixed media paper I bought with the paints.

I let the ink dry for a while and then opened my gouache pans. I was immediately pleased with the creamy consistency of the paints, which was very different from the tube gouache I had tried in the past. The kind in a tube came out as a thick paste and required a lot of patient mixing and finesse with water application–not really my strong suits. In contrast, I was smitten almost instantly with these gooey pots of cheerful color that required only minor mixing and occasional misting with water.

Once the ink was dry, I set to work blocking in the color in gouache. The silky glide of the gouache on the mix media paper was enchanting. I finished the first painting and went on to the second. I loved them so much and thought if I make a few more I could release them as a small mini collection. That way I could practice launching a small collection of work before the large collection of cake paintings I was originally planning to release in June (which will be bumped back now).

Well, 3 paintings turned into 5 paintings, and then I made a greeting card set out of them. I was going to be done at that point. Then, I thought how it might be nice to offer some smaller paintings, so I added in 8 more 5x7 paintings at this point I realized this was no longer a mini collection, this was a FULL ON COLLECTION. So, kind of last minute, I thought, heck, maybe a few 4x4 ones would be nice to round this out. I mean, why not right?


I looked at the paintings and tried to determine what this collection was about. I asked myself why I felt the need to paint them. The word Cluster came to mind as I stared at the literal clusters of flowers. That got my mind spinning on all the intricacies of how human interaction has shifted over the past few months; the way we cluster. The things that are different, missing, similar or unchanging. What good might have come from a seemingly horrible global situation. Ultimately this is what I distilled…

CLUSTER: to be or come close, a number of similar things or people, growing or held together, a close group.

In the middle of uncertainty, despite our distance, we have found greater unity in deeper things. The shrouds of proximity, class and nationality have been lifted and we see what we see clearly the things we have in common: love, kindness, connection, ingenuity, graciousness, care, peace, unity, positivity, creativity, gratitude, joy, understanding, whimsy, beauty, community.

Each cluster of florals in the series is named after a different attribute or virtue of humanity that I saw demonstrated in new or interesting ways over the past weeks. I hope these flowers communicate a sense of belonging, of reassurance and hope that beauty is and will continue to rise. I hope we all look back at this deeply awkward time and see that we took more good than bad from the experience. I say this, not to diminish anyone’s pain or loss, because that is also a valid response to these times, but to bring light into a dark and trying time for many.

This collection has been a labor of love. It was loving myself through my anxiety that got me painting in the first place. It was loving all of you that got me to be brave enough to put this work out there. It was love for people all over the world that brought the theme of this collection together for me. I hope that one of these paintings speaks to you in a special way and that it might bring its beauty and positivity all the way from my home to yours!


Meet the Author

Tamara Arcilla is a US based artist, founder and namesake of the Tamara Arcilla brand. She currently lives and works in Northern Texas with her Husband, their three children, two dogs and one cat. Her boldly-soft style has emerged over the years into her signature style. She works both digitally and traditionally, painting heart-filled and impactful artwork, illustrations and repeat patterns.

Reina Zip-Top Tote

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