Design for a Difference

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Tara Hogan divides her time between two studios in New York state. One is near Syracuse, where she runs her thriving illustration business, Ink+Wit, creating commissioned work for magazines and businesses as well as a line of spirited graphic designs printed with soy inks on recycled paper. The other is CNY Yoga Center in Liverpool, where she teaches Dharma Mittra Yoga.

Yoga and art were each part of Hogan's childhood. Her mother had a dedicated yoga practice at the Ananda Ashram in Monroe, New York, and both parents encouraged her early interest in art and design. But years later, while working at a commercial design agency, Hogan found herself struggling with her identity as an artist.

Instinctively, she was drawn to the yoga she had known as a child. She began a regular yoga practice, studying with Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, Shiva Rea, and Seane Corn on their visits to the East Coast, and eventually left her job at the design agency in order to study yoga and clarify her creative goals. The effect on her art was striking.

"Through yoga, I found myself in more of a meditative state—a sattvic, balanced state of mind—where I could fully concentrate and see what I wanted to create," she says. Increasingly, Hogan wanted to create art that reinterpreted the concept of ahimsa, or nonharming, and drew attention to the environment and animal rights.

"Once I was taking yoga again, I felt more connected to nature, and animals started appearing in my work. It felt right to help tell a story about the dialogue between animals and nature."

One of Hogan's illustrations, titled Battle of Extinction, which was chosen for the 50th annual exhibition of the Society of Illustrators, depicts a polar bear and a black bear standing together on a floating glacier. "Rather than illustrate one or two polar bears in their disappearing habitat, I found that adding a black bear, which faces its own battle to survive, illustrated how connected we are to each other."

Today, Hogan maintains a daily physical and spiritual practice that includes meditation and a vegan diet, and she studies with master teacher Dharma Mittra at least twice a year. Her practice continues to inspire her art, which is filled with creatures of all kinds.

One of Hogan's latest projects benefits the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, a nonprofit shelter for animals rescued from abuse. Founded by Doug Abel and fellow yogini Jenny Brown, the Woodstock Sanctuary sells a letterpress print designed and donated by Hogan to raise money for a new animal hospice. Upcoming projects on Hogan's wish list include raising money for an elephant sanctuary with her popular pachyderm designs and working with the Humane Society to illustrate a children's book about animals and the environment.

"[Yoga] focuses on how we all have a dialogue with the earth," she says. "The art I make reflects the nature in all of us, that we are all one."