Interview by Iman Abdul
Name: Tiffanie Brown
City you were born in: New Orleans, Louisiana
City you currently reside in: Nashville, Tennessee
Ethnicity: African American
// Tell me about your childhood and what it was like to be a woman in your childhood town. Have you been always painting since you were young?
Growing up in New Orleans, I had a great childhood. Girls my age were on the dance team and dance school, so I was involved as well. We would be a part of pageants, and as high schoolers, we were debutantes, which is a huge deal in New Orleans. I was very much a “girly-girl”. I was into Barbie; every doll and every outfit, I had to have it. I can recall as young as 4, caring for my baby dolls as if they were my own. If I wasn’t playing with dolls, I was drawing and coloring. Throughout elementary school and high school, I would sketch, draw, and color. One of my grandmothers was into painting and calligraphy –– so my dad hung up some of her paintings around our house.
// From what we’ve seen, you mainly draw black individuals and their culture, why? How did your background affect the way you create art?
About 2 years ago, I was looking for images of women of color, and I couldn’t find what I needed. As African-American women in the healthcare industry, we don’t have much representation, especially among physicians and dentists. So I figured it would be nice to have positive images of African-American women. As a woman who comes from a city rich in history and a graduate of a historically Black University –– a lot of my other images represent those things that people of other backgrounds may not know are a part of our culture and our history.
// Is there an ongoing theme that you are trying to convey through your work? If so, why do you want to convey that?
I’m still working on a concrete theme, but I believe my theme is positivity and unity within the African American community amongst the women who make it.
// Can you think of a time you felt particularly aware of your gender and how it led you to be treated? Do you think your gender influences your art?
My gender definitely influences my art. I illustrate images of women that I feel display the strength, ambition, community, and unity we share that people tend to either not see or ignore.
// Tell me about a time you empowered yourself. Does your art make you feel empowered?
One distinct time I can recall empowering myself was having a display in my first art show. I am introverted, and to make that leap of faith was an amazing experience for me. For people to come to my area and display joy and amazement in my work was one of the most powerful things I have experienced yet in my art journey.
// Do you have any advice for girls who are also trying to empower themselves?
Find women who symbolizes the type of woman you want to grow up to be. Look to your mothers, grandmothers, aunts, school teachers, local news reporters, and et cetera. Remember, no woman is perfect. We all have our flaws, so it is okay to embrace yours.
// Who taught you the importance of empowerment and how did it affect your life as an artist?
My mother. Even as an adult, there are still valuable lessons that she teaches me. As an artist, she pushed me from the beginning because she believed I could do more. Before I even opened my Etsy shop to sell my art, it was her idea. She saw something in me that I didn’t know was there –– for that I am thankful.
// Walk us through the typical process of producing a painting, from the idea to the finished piece.
The process of getting ideas is always a random one. I may be watching TV, sitting in class, on Instagram, and I may get inspired. But, for example, I draw a lot of Greek cultures, so the idea may be to draw two sorority sisters. I will then plan a color scheme, decide if there will be words or props. I will search for a muse online for an example to get the body anatomy and position right, and I will use Procreate to sketch and color the piece. All of my artwork is currently digital paintings.
// What is the most rewarding thing about being an artist? Why do you also enjoy and appreciate being a woman artist?
The most rewarding thing about being an artist is you have the control and power to produce whatever you want. There are no rules! I enjoy being a woman artist because I get to change the narrative on how women are viewed with my artwork.
// What has been your biggest creative achievement so far?
Participating in my first art show!
// Name one thing that you’ve learned from sharing your art with the world.
One thing I’ve learned is not to compare my journey or artwork to anyone else’s.
// How can the international community help you and your community in a legitimate way? Is there anything you’d like us to know so we can share it with our Global Girlhood community?
The international community can support me by simply following along in my journey and sharing pieces that they connect with. Also, giving my ideas on how to expand my art to include more international images –– some of the things they enjoy and love being things I want to create. One last thing I’d like the Global Girlhood community to know is I appreciate this opportunity to connect. I’ve visited about 13 countries and have met and interacted with women in those countries. I think there’s something unique and awesome we can all bring to the table to let the world know that as one we are powerful and can do more together to make a positive change. -GGH
CONNECTIVITY CONTRIBUTORS REACTIONS
I really enjoyed this piece on Tiffanie Brown. At face value, Tiffanie and I don’t share much in common. I’m from a small town, and while picking up a paintbrush can be relaxing for me, I’m nothing of an artist. That being said, I can relate to and appreciate her journey with artistry and her motive behind it. While I can’t paint, I do sing and write music. Like Tiffanie, what I love about music is that it has no boundaries, no parameters. Similar to her, I also tend to be very introverted. I struggle to put myself out there and am hesitant to perform publicly, but when I do, those things that might seem small and simple to others are huge wins for me–– and some of my proudest moments. I find it to be really inspiring how Tiffanie is using her passion and talent to actively restore the narrative of African American women in healthcare and women in general. Even through this virtual article, I can feel that so much of what she is doing is a
celebration of women.
As I mentioned, I write music. I just recently finished a song and released it but have been experiencing writer's block since. As any artist knows, it can feel really frustrating when you don’t know what to write, or paint next. I often compare myself to celebrities my age and think to myself, “Look at them. They can do it. Why can’t you?” It’s nice to remember that there are smaller creatives, like myself and like Tiffanie, out there trying to make it as well. It makes me feel less isolated in my frustration and craft–– and for that, I am very appreciative.
- Isabelle Feldman
Empowerment can mean many things to different people. For some, it can be a single experience, while for others, it can be more about something to strive toward, for themselves and others. Tiffanie’s story encapsulates both of these. As a Black artist, she uses her passion and talent to create a narrative around the lack of positive representation for women of color. Doctors. Dentists. Students. All of her works encompass joy and unity, which is something we do not see through the mainstream media.
We all know that art has the ability to change someone’s perspective or create a new one. There is so much power in the idea of creating something beautiful, as well as meaningful, about your own experiences and the people around you. I understand the importance of representation as a Jewish woman and admire her drive to build her community up by being a driving force behind that idea. It can be scary to put so much work into a project that is so close to you and represents who you are as a person, but in the end, there is no feeling quite as good as knowing that you did it. Tiffanie talked about her art display, which is an experience that definitely encompasses those same feelings, which I think lots of us can relate to.
I’m absolutely inspired by Tiffanie, and I hope to amplify work like hers that radiates joy, compassion, and love in different communities. Seeing the individual perspective that artists have when creating based on their experiences makes it that much more beautiful, and I hope to bring as much light into this world as she has.