TIARA UNIQUE FRANCOIS
I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing Tiara recently during Lockdown. Full interview is via the link in the bio!
Francois has been creating art since she was 8 years old, and is now working on her BFA in Painting. Describing her work in 3 words she said ‘Playful, personal, kinetic’.
In our full interview we discuss studio space, music, Toni Morrison books, and personal identity.
My favourite aspect of Francois’s work are the figures. We discussed these at length. The womxn featured are often self portraits, or inspired by self, addressing aspects of life from her perspective. She also produces likenesses for strangers she passes, and small encounters. “Although the figures are abstracted in different ways, I want them to always feel real.”
Tell me about your artist story. How were you trained? Tell me about your journey to where you are now?
I’ve been drawing since I was about 8, just like every kid, it wasn’t very good. But I was consistent with it and started to take it more seriously as I got older. As a teenager I would spend an hour everyday sketching figures and hands and feet. When I started college, I took my first painting class and after that I was convinced that it was what I needed to be doing. Right now I’m working on earning my BFA in Painting.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a scene of children getting offered flowers and wishes in a park. As we think about childhood stories and the meaning we are to receive from them, things like being hoodwinked or a big, bad wolf in sheep’s clothing come up pretty often, I’m talking about that in a bit of a more obvious way I think.
Quick one, what 3 words would you use to describe your artwork?
Ah this one is kinda hard actually. But maybe playful, personal, energetic, I like to think that my art has a feeling of breath to it, a slight vibration that can be seen.
What would be your dream project?
My dream project? I’m dreaming of doing an artist residency for an extended period of time somewhere completely different from what I’m used to. When that comes, I’m really excited to see how my art changes from the experience of being somewhere completely new, solely to make art.
What is your studio like? Where do you like to create best? What are your artist necessities? What could you not live without?
Right now, my studio is my bedroom, this can make it really hard to work because my bed is right there, my phone and ipad are right there. My family is here, so there are always distractions. I also procrastinate a lot because there is always the feeling of “Oh, I can just start later. After this video, after I fold clothes, after I make dinner. Well, maybe tomorrow.”
I like having a designated place for creating, away from my home because it causes a switch in my mind like, “Ok, we’re here. Time to work.”
My art necessities are different materials, lately I’ve been using glitter glues. But I love using paint markers and watercolors and even rhinestones and stickers sometimes. In addition to acrylic paint, I enjoy using different materials in my work.
What do you listen to while you work?
I like listening to chill music, I have a few playlists I keep in rotation. I’ve been listening to alternative and bedroom pop lately though, and always, always r&b. If I have a new album I like, I’ll play it on repeat while I’m working on a piece. Sometimes, I’ll even put on beats from youtube and freestyle while I’m painting so I can get into the flow of painting easier.
What does an average working day look like to you?
It depends on where I’m at in the piece, if I’m having trouble with it, my work days will look like writing and reading and looking at the piece, wondering how to proceed. If I’m in the flow of it, I can wake up and start painting and I’ll keep going at it until I remember I should probably eat.
Who or what are your biggest influences, and how do you find them? How do these come out in your work?
Lately, I’ve been reading Toni Morrison’s books and I think it’s helped me look at the depictions of people, specifically black people in a different way. I try to look for genuineness in my influences, something that makes the art real. Jonathan Lyndon Chase is a painter and I appreciate the efficiency in his work, the simplicity helps his paintings feel approachable and in turn allows you to relate and connect with it easier, which is something I aim to do with my work. The photographer, Deana Lawson, is also an artist that I revisit, I’m completely enamored by the way she frames a scene, the objects placed just so, the people who pose and seem to breathe in the photo. I like the idea of my paintings being still images that breathe.
What do you want your work to say? What are the main themes and motifs running through your work? Is there a narrative that runs throughout?
I want my art to capture a moment. I have some moments that I can’t forget and sometimes I don’t have an image for it but I have the feelings that were attached to it, painting is me recreating the feeling of that moment visually.
I think the narrative that runs throughout is ,very plainly put, just my life. A lot, if not all of the women in the pictures are self portraits. I’m using myself as the main character and each painting tells a different part of this story. Some of the stories you can relate to and some you can’t, but that’s okay. I’m sharing my experiences and allowing the viewer to observe and sometimes immerse into another view of life, you don’t have to relate to appreciate it.
"...playful, personal, energetic,"
Who are the figures in your work?
The women are usually me, or inspired by me. I like addressing things from my point of perspective. I've painted my younger brothers, a past lover shows up in my work constantly, and I also imagine figures based on people I've encountered in passing. Although the figures are abstracted in different ways, I want them to always feel real.
Tell me about your artistic process?
When I first started painting, I would attack the canvas head on. No sketches or anything involved. I didn't plan, I thought it would be better for everything to come to me, if it did. Now, I have a few artists that I pull inspiration from and I've made a better habit of sketching to place objects and figures in the frame, thinking about composition and the flow of the work. I'll think about what I wanna say, how I wanna convey it and then try to sketch out positioning to see if it will even work as I intend it. After that I start prepping my canvas with watercolor washes and acrylic spray.
What role does colour play in your work?
I really like using color for its aesthetic and the feeling you get from it. The colors I use are vibrant and colorful and call for your attention. The colors are playful and fun, at a first glance it can feel carefree and whimsical, but as you look into the scene it is the complete opposite. These very loud colors are contrasted with quiet moments, a lover's last embrace, tears being shed, women being grabbed and groped. The colors are happy, but the subject matter makes it more complex than that.
What are you most proud of during your career?
This is a hard question, I have moments of pride when I do something new in my career. I recently opened my print shop, I've listed my paintings for sale, I've being applying for different art opportunities, I've sold a painting for the most I've ever sold! These are seemingly small steps but I take pride in being active in my art career, not taking a passive role but really trying to put my best foot forward. With all that being said, I think my proudest moment is completing a commission that will be seen and enjoyed by my community.
Do you ever feel nervous about parting with your work?
Yes, I didn't realize that this was a thing but I have small sad feelings when I ship off my work. I've sold a few pieces recently and after packing them up I just think, "Wow, I'm never going to see you again". It's kind of sad but then I get excited knowing that my work will be a part of someone's space and become a part of their life in a way. I also get nervous hoping that the painting makes it to its destination in one piece.
What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Hmm, I feel like people are surprised to find out I'm home-schooled when they first meet me! Or maybe that I can eat a whole watermelon by myself.
What is your greatest indulgence in life other than painting?
I really like ramen, like I love it. Ramen from a restaurant with fresh vegatables and in-house broth?? It boosts my mood every time. I also love seeing pictures that people take of me, I like seeing myself outside of self-portraits, from someone else's perspective. I think that's really cool.
Favourite historical female artist?
Right now I would have to say it's Helen Frankenthaler, I try to emulate a bit of what she does with color and washes in my under paintings.
Favourite current practicing female artists?
Deana Lawson, Kudzanai Violet Hwami, Jordan Casteel, and Mickalene Thomas!
Who should She Curates interview next (as many as you like!)?
A few people that I follow on instagram and enjoy their work are @sugarygarbage, the full figured femmes and the details she includes are my favorite. @blvckbobross, some of her pieces seem to have a glow, the colors she uses are very vibrant. @ayabrown.tiff has been highlighting essential workers. @xtrajumbo's work amplifies the size of everyday beauty items specific to the black community and focuses on the femininity of it. @RxdiXnce grants us a break from heavy topics with her digital work.
Is there anything else you wanted to say?
Thank you so much for interviewing me and thank you to everyone who came and stayed to read my thoughts.