“Through many years of practice I learned to zone out and focus only on what I am feeling in the moment, and allowing those feelings and emotions to guide me.”
Name: Tiffany T.
Art Materials: Mixed media
Where does your inspiration come from?
My inspiration comes mostly from my emotions and the things that I have experienced in my life. Which is why my work comes across as ugly, hectic, or confusing to many. Feelings and emotions aren’t always pretty and they don’t always make sense. I think that’s what sets me apart from others. My intentions aren’t to create something nice looking, I’m not interested in beauty. My aim is to express myself and to leave people (as well as myself sometimes) wondering what it is I am trying to say.
How do you feel after you’re done creating a piece? And does it affect you at all emotionally/mentally to keep around the pieces of art that side more on the dark/heavy side or do you tend to just appreciate the piece for what it is?
Usually after I have completed a painting I feel high, for lack of a better word. I feel clean, revitalized, and ready to move on from whatever it was that was bothering me. Of course my problems don’t go away completely just because I paint about them, but painting about them makes me feel at peace with them at least for a little while. One would think that clinging onto such emotionally charged pieces would have a negative effect on my mental state, but I find that I have a hard time letting go of all of my work. Because it is all so incredibly personal. Each piece truly is a part of me. Also because when I sell my work it feels like the last step in finally letting go and moving on. Letting go isn’t always easy, at least it isn’t for me personally. The only reason I am able to part with my work at all is because I know it’s going to people who can either identify with what I was feeling when I created it, or to people who were moved in some other big way by it. Most times people don’t buy original art because it looks pretty, it’s because the art moved them, struck a chord with them emotionally. And that’s why I am able to part with my paintings. I enjoy making people feel.
Tell us about your creative process.
My whole life I have been too socially anxious and shy to talk. About almost anything with almost anyone. As a teenager the way I communicated with people, even my own mother was through letters. I still have a box full of letters from her in my attic. That worked for a while, but eventually even writing became difficult for me to do. After my mother learned that I was self harming, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety and medicated while I was still in high school, but once I turned 18 and was no longer on my mother’s insurance. I just couldn’t afford my meds and treatment anymore, so I stopped seeing my therapist and stopped taking my meds. Soon after, something incredibly traumatic happened causing me to fall into a deep depression that lasted for years. I was suicidal, I never left home, I lost every single one of my friends. It was a really ugly time in my life. One day I read an article somewhere online about art therapy. I have always been an artsy person, but hadn’t practiced since the major depressive episode hit, and I had no idea that art could be used as a tool to help treat mental disorders. One day I thought, “Oh what the hell?”, and I went out and purchased a few sketchbooks and some art supplies and started painting and writing in these sketchbooks, experimenting with various techniques, different mediums, trying to find my own style, and trying to say what I needed to say, but couldn’t. Through many years of practice I learned to zone out and focus only on what I am feeling in the moment, and allowing those feelings and emotions to guide me. To allow me to talk. Finally, I had a voice. With every completed journal entry, the fog lifted a little more. After some time I decided that there was no real reason why my journal entries had to be contained to dollar store sketchbooks, and moved onto canvas, still allowing my emotions to dictate my every move. And that’s where I am today. I still have depression and I still have anxiety, but with my canvas and my hoard art supplies surviving is a lot easier. I finally have a voice and I finally have a purpose, a reason to wake up every day.
What was your process like of trying to find your style/voice? What steps did you go through, and did you have to overcome any self doubt through that journey?
My journey to find my style was hell in the beginning, I was laden with self doubt. I hated everything I did at first. The process felt good and it was a nice distraction from life, which is why I carried on trying, but the end result was always terrible. I found that I was trying too hard, thinking too much and it showed. That’s why I didn’t like what I was creating. Once I realized that, I knew that the thing I needed to do was forget everything that I had learned about composition, complimentary colors, facial structure, and so on. Ya know, the “rules” of art that they teach you about in elementary school arts and crafts class. When you play by the rules you think too much, and I needed to get away from that. That’s when I started to experiment more. I started pushing around as many colors, mediums, and words as I felt like, that matched what I was feeling. Each color I pushed around, each scratch into the wet paint, each line, scribble, word… Everything I did corresponded with my emotions. And that’s how my underpaintings came to be. After that is when I started seeing things, mostly people and odd looking creatures in the brightly colored mess before me, like looking for shapes in the clouds. I started to just go with what I was seeing. The people/creatures that call out to me, they pull the whole thing together, allowing me to say exactly what I wanted to say. It was hell to start, but it was totally worth all of the frustration. I am quite proud of what my art has become, and of who I have become in the process.
What is the story behind your work, if any?
It depends on the day and my mood, really. Every piece means something different.
Do you have any advice for people who want to create artwork but aren’t sure where/how to start?
I start almost every painting with a word/sentence or some scribbles and lines using whatever writing utensil is nearby, just to get going. Otherwise I will just sit there, staring at the blank surface, feeling totally overwhelmed and lost. Once I’ve made those first few marks my intent is to get rid of all of the blank space. I don’t plan my paintings ahead of time, I simply go with the flow. Whatever happens, happens. Put on some old clothes that you don’t mind ruining, crank up some good music that matches your mood, tune into your emotions, as opposed to our natural desire to avoid them, and just make a mess and have fun while you’re doing it.