Art of Creation

Carmichael psychologist learns about herself through painting

By Jessica Laskey
April 2022

Tracy Tayama Brady lives by a maxim from one of her favorite writers, Elizabeth Gilbert: “Art is not one magical thing—it’s the act of creating.”

Though Tayama (who uses her maiden name as an artist) has made art since she can remember, it’s only now with two kids and a career as a child psychologist that she’s in a place to understand what it means to be an artist.

“I’m revamping my relationship with my art,” says Tayama, who lives in her childhood home in Carmichael. “When I was younger, I’d look at something and replicate it pretty decently and people would say, ‘Wow, you’re a good artist.’ It was satisfying, so that became my process: I’d find a picture I liked and then I’d spend hours into the night replicating it.”

When Tayama enrolled at UC San Diego, she minored in studio art and majored in psychology after deciding she wanted to be a child psychologist.

The career path was mostly inspired by her relationship with her father, a Japanese American man 50 years her senior who, she says, “did everything for his kids but had a very difficult time with the emotional side and showing love in more conventional ways.”

Tayama felt her upbringing would provide the ability to connect with young children and their families through empathy and patience.

“That connection comes out in the way I construct, view and have a relationship with art,” she says. “There’s a lot of feeling behind it.”

After earning her bachelor’s degree, Tayama gave herself a year off to reconnect with her artistic side. She returned to her family’s roots—her father was born and raised on the Big Island of Hawaii—and got a job at a gallery on the north shore of Oahu while she made art.

It didn’t take long for Tayama to return to psychology. She found work in Honolulu as a school-based mental health practitioner for children with autism. “I loved the kids, figuring out how to connect with the teachers and helping families have more compassion for themselves and others,” she says.

Tayama returned to Sacramento to attend graduate school at Alliant International University and be near her ailing father. Art took a backseat until her father passed away in 2016. Painting then became a way to process grief and provide a link for her children to their grandfather.

“We’d talk a lot about Grandpa Ty and look at pictures,” Tayama says. “So I started constructing a storybook while Kaizen (her eldest son and only child at the time) was sleeping. I was working with watercolor for the first time—I had been doing oil and acrylic all my art life—so it was a huge undertaking. I’d go to my art space and spend hours working. The next day I’d be tired, but it’s such a glorious feeling when you’re in it.”

Now both boys are in elementary school and Tayama has rededicated herself to making art, with support from husband Stephen Brady, a musician and actuary she met in Hawaii. She’s giving herself permission to try new things, like watercolor, and working on new projects, such as portraits of houses and storefronts. There’s also a series of illustrated children’s books on mental health themes.

“I’m trying to approach my art now as a full-on novice,” she says. “It really crystallized for me in grad school: When you’re working with children, you don’t say, ‘You’re smart.’ You don’t place a defined title on them, like saying, ‘You’re good at art, so you’re an artist.’ Instead, we celebrate the action of them giving themselves into something.”

For information, visit @tracy_tayama on Instagram.

Jessica Laskey can be reached at Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: insidesacramento.

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