The Chatham Arts Council is investing in artists through our Meet This Artist series, introducing you to 12 Chatham County artists each year in a big way.
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Take a look. Meet your very inspiring neighbors. Meet This Artist.
For Tiana Brooks, creating art on the page or on the canvas is more than just a hobby. Creating art is her time to be at peace with herself and to create art that features those who are under-represented in the media. Tiana was recently named as one of 35 high school artists statewide chosen to exhibit work at The 2021 Emerging Artists Invitational, an annual exhibition for high school artists sponsored by the Sechrest Gallery of Art and the High Point University School of Art and Design.
Read more about this talented young artist who credits her art teacher at Jordan Matthews for helping her discover her love of painting and inspiring her to challenge herself at every opportunity.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I’m 18 years old and I’m a senior at Jordan Matthews High School. I have been doing art since I was about seven years old. I got into painting my sophomore year of high school. I’ve recently started doing oil paintings so I can make my art look more professional and so I can develop more painting skills.
What kind of art did you do when you were little?
I mainly focused on drawing. I’d use a pen or a pencil and just draw whatever came to mind. I just drew anything that I found when I was little. I used to love drawing cartoon characters like Clifford, Dora, and SpongeBob.
What inspired you to start drawing?
I think it just came to me one day. I just picked up a pencil and paper and started doodling. Ever since that day, I’ve been doing art to help myself. Sometimes I do it to help when I’m stressed but other times I do it just for fun. I just pick up a pencil and draw, or I get a canvas and paint.
Who inspires you?
I’d say just the world around me, like the things that happen in the world and the people in it. I find inspiration from any place where I see people who have a unique style to them or they have something unique about them. That’s usually what inspires me to paint, draw, or make an art piece.
Do you feel that it’s a connection with people that inspires you?
Yes, that will drive me to paint because I do a lot of painting of people — people of color, people who have unique things about them, like people with vitiligo or albinos. I do paintings of people like that because I want them to feel appreciated in the art world as they should be in a real world.
Do you feel like they’re under-represented in the media or art world?
I do. Most models or people you see on social media don’t really have a lot of things of that nature. I like to use my art as a way to show those people that they are beautiful and that they are appreciated not only in the art world, but also in the real world when people see them.
Are there any artists or people that you are personally inspired by?
There are many artists who I look up to, but the one person I would say inspires me the most is my art teacher, Ms Mateen-Mason. She really took me under her wing and taught me so many things about art. She’s the main reason why I got into painting. Seeing her paint and seeing what she does is amazing. She helped me develop my art style, my art skills, and has helped me grow as a person and as an artist.
What’s your favorite medium? What do you feel you have the most fun with?
Painting with acrylics is actually really fun but sometimes challenging because the paint does dry very fast. It’s very different from oil paints, which take a good few days to dry, allowing me to come back to it and edit it. Working with oils has helped me become a smooth painter. It makes my paintings look professional. The end product is just beautiful. I love it so much. I’m glad I got into it when I did.
How did you get into mixed media?
It was during my junior year — that’s when I started getting into using newspapers with my paintings because it was a new challenge. I also thought it would make my art seem maybe a little bit cooler than it already is, you know? So I started using newspapers, magazines, and stuff like that in order to make my art pop a little.
So what’s your process like for your paintings?
It’s usually a three-day process. The first day I’ll typically sketch in a notebook or find the model I want to use. Usually I go to a few different websites to find my models for my paintings. Then I start on the canvas. Sometimes I’ll get it done in one day, but other times I’ll go back to it and make changes.
Do you have a dedicated space at home to do your art?
My dedicated studio is my room. I have everything in here — my paint, my paintings, everything.
How do you feel when you do your art?
I suffer from anxiety, so sometimes you have to do things that help your mind. What helps me is painting. When I’m painting, I feel like I’m in my own little world where I can just sit, relax, listen to relaxing music, and just paint my day away. For me, that’s the best thing I can do to help me stay calm, focused, and happy.
Tell me about when you started getting your work shown in exhibitions. What was that like?
I started showing my art in art shows during my junior year. I like to see the reactions to my art and to see it put up in a different place other than school or in my home. And honestly, seeing people admire my work, and hearing people say how much they love my work is amazing. It’s just the best feeling in the world because I feel like my art is being brought into a place where people can appreciate it.
What kind of feedback have you gotten so far in your art?
I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback; I don’t think I’ve ever gotten negative feedback. The most feedback I probably had was like, “Make this a little bit smoother or maybe put this in it…” I always take that into context. I’m like, “Okay, he or she is right. Let me do that because that would probably make it look even better.” And usually they are right; it really does end up looking a lot better.
Tell me about the “Say Their Names” piece.
“Say Their Names” was created during the summer before my senior year, around the time of the Black Lives Matter movement to bring justice to George Floyd. I knew I wanted to make a painting for Black Lives Matter sooner or later, but I never had the time or the materials I thought I needed. I wanted to do something that was a little bit different, so I decided to portray all of the African-American women who had their lives taken from police brutality to bring awareness to their names and to remember the women who lost their lives sadly to this type of brutality.
What else have you been painting during the pandemic? How has your art changed while you’ve been at home a lot?
I’ve probably done more large paintings. Usually I work on smaller canvases; 24 x 30 used to be my biggest, but now I’ve done work on a 36 x 36 canvas, and on a 24 x 36 canvas. I started using bigger canvases for my paintings to give myself more of a challenge.
What do you think the future holds for you in terms of being an artist?
One day I’d like to show my art at a gallery for people to enjoy in-person and not virtually. I don’t see myself going to art school; I see my painting more as a hobby. I plan to go to school for nursing. Using art as my hobby really helps me a lot.
What would you say to a younger artist who comes to you for advice?
Never give up, and never let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. Give yourself a challenge. Do whatever you want to do with your art. It’s better to start now rather than start later — soon enough you’ll be an amazing artist and you can do amazing things with your art. You may become the next famous artist! You can do it as long as you believe in yourself and you keep challenging yourself.