20 Questions with Tara Burnley

Putting an Art Degree to Work, Among Other Reflections

The artist and her mural in 2007 at Brophy Bros. restaurant in Ventura | Credit: Courtesy

After she earned an art degree and a minor in art history from UCSB, Tara Burnley’s paintings caught the eye of an older woman who specialized in restoring authentic finish details to remodeled mansions in Montecito. Burnley took the job offer and put her college degree to work painting ceiling murals, faux-finishing original stucco walls and antiquing and distressing cabinets and furniture, among other highly specialized skills. 

More recently, she’s shifted off the construction job sites into another lifelong interest — psychology and psychotherapy. 

In the following questionnaire, we learn more about Burnley’s fear of a certain sea monster and her winged perspective on dear life itself. 

What has been your favorite work-related field trip or vacation?  Down to Hollywood to do a kitchen and living room with gloss black splatter paint on white ceilings. I did a Jackson Pollock splatter technique with Dexter-style plastic prepping on all the walls and cabinets. I had to wear a painter’s spray suit to protect myself. And I was alone in the house, so I got to jam my tunes loud — very freeing; I recommend it!

What is your favorite public art in Santa Barbara?  The Chumash sundial mosaics down on the Waterfront. 

Where do you find artistic inspiration outside of work?  In nature.

What do you like most about your job?  Projects are continuously changing.

What do you dislike most about your job?  Having to sometimes work above my head on ceiling murals — not great for the neck.

If you had to go back to pick another profession, what would it be? I’m in it now — psychotherapy. 

What is your current state of mind?  Peaceful.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?  Out on the water with my friends.

What is your greatest fear?  Great white sharks — Ha! I have a history with them.

What is your greatest extravagance?  Sleeping in.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?  Obedience. 

Which talent would you most like to have?  Musical talent.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?  Silence my highly critical internal voice.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?  Learning true empathy.

What is your most treasured possession?  My past.

Which living person do you most admire?  Gloria Steinem.

What do you most value in your friends?  Their eternal and unwavering support.

Who is your favorite fictional character?  Yoda.

Who are your heroes in real life?  Anyone who takes their suffering and turns it into wisdom. 

What is your most marked characteristic?  Authenticity. 

What word or phase do you most overuse?  “All good!” 

What is your motto?  Take the hawk’s perspective.


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