Art on the Trail, our celebration of artwork inspired by the LHT, continues with Flora and Fauna. We are thrilled to present inspiring contributions from local artists – professional and amateur, across various media, each creator taken with different scenes along our 22 miles of trail. Currently, we are accepting new art featuring LHT Waterways. Keep creating, we can’t wait to see your work. And, be sure to check out previously featured artists in our gallery for inspiration.

LHT Art on the Trail Tara McGowan

Tara McGowan, courtesy of the artist

Meet Tara McGowan – a Montgomery resident and illustrator who has been creating since she was a child in Vermont. An illustrator and practitioner of a Japanese artform called kamishibai – or paper theater, Tara has published two books on the subject. When she isn’t doing illustration work in pen and ink, she enjoys experimenting with oils, acrylics, and pastels.

LHT: Can you share a biography or Artist’s Statement?
Tara: I live in Montgomery Township and I am a freelance artist and storyteller and executive director of the nonprofit organization NCC Japan. I illustrate and perform stories in a format called kamishibai (Japanese paper theater). I have written two books about the medium: “The Kamishibai Classroom: Engaging Multiple Literacies through the Art of ‘Paper Theater’” (2010) and “Performing Kamishibai: An Emerging New Literacy for a Global Audience” (2015).

LHT: How long have you been creating? What inspired you to start or restart creating art?
Tara: I have been creating art as long as I can remember. My father is an artist and was a one-man art department at a Vermont state college for many years. I grew up in Vermont, where my brothers and sister and I had to keep ourselves entertained, so we did a lot of painting and sketching. I particularly loved helping my dad paint the sets for the college theater productions.

LHT: What is your preferred medium or media?
Tara: I work with various forms of visual storytelling and have written a couple of books about a Japanese storytelling medium called “kamishibai” (paper theater). When I illustrate stories, I tend to use watercolor and pen and ink, so, when I’m not illustrating, I like to try out other media, like oil, acrylic, and pastels. I also practice Japanese brush calligraphy.

LHT: Is all your artwork inspired by nature?
Tara: I paint and draw a lot of different kinds of subjects, depending on the story I am working on, but when I paint for fun, I am often drawn to the natural world.

LHT Art on the Trail Tara McGowan Leopard Frog
Close-up of a leopard frog, well camouflaged by the soil and grasses, along the LHT in Mercer Meadows-Rosedale, oil on canvas, courtesy of the artist
LHT Art on the Trail Tara McGowan ETS
Inspired by the ETS segment of the LHT: “I call this painting, ‘There is a light beyond these woods,’ from an album by Nanci Griffith. When I first started painting it on site, my focus was on the cool shade of the trees, but as I continued working on it in isolation at home because of the pandemic, I began to fix my attention on the open fields and sunlight around the bend in the path. As an illustrator and storyteller, I have been missing the in-person interactions between teller and audience and welcome this opportunity to share visual stories and pathways online,” oil on canvas, courtesy of the artist

LHT: What about the LHT inspires you? What are your favorite segments?
Tara: I have spent a lot of time around the Watershed Institute. My son volunteered there over the summers when he was a teenager, and we bought a share with friends each summer at the Honey Brook organic farm nearby. Having grown up in Vermont, I am always longing for familiar scenes of farmland and woods.

LHT: How did you discover the LHT?
Tara: I have discovered different parts of the trail over the years with my son Kai, and hiking with friends. It is only recently that I’ve had more time to enjoy it as an inspiration for art.

LHT: Do you have advice or messages for other artists (adults, kids, novices, pros) encouraging them to get outside and create art inspired by the LHT?
Tara: I have been painting for many years with local artist Heather Barros and a group of friends, who all started out as her students decades back. We inspire and challenge each other, and everyone in the group is really supportive. People often assume that art is a solitary task, but I would recommend finding a community of like-minded people to paint with when possible.

LHT Art on the Trail Tara McGowan Paulownia
Paulownia branch after blossoming. The seed still looks like a flower, and it struck me as a beautiful flower arrangement like ikebana, directing me along the path at Mercer Meadows-Rosedale, oil on canvas, courtesy of the artist
LHT Art on the Trail Tara McGowan Terhune Orchard
Terhune Orchard, oil on canvas, courtesy of the artist
LHT Art on the Trail Tara McGowan Iris Garden

Heather’s Iris Garden, oil on canvas, courtesy of the artist

LHT Art on the Trail Tara McGowan Vermont Brook

Babbling Brook—Vermont, oil on canvas, courtesy of the artist

LHT Art on the Trail Tara McGowan Princeton Seminary
Princeton Theological Seminary, oil on canvas, courtesy of the artist