“Self-taught artist and educator Tiffany B Chanel is driven by passion and purpose. Through her kaleidoscopic portraiture, she depicts pop icons and everyday people with unapologetic vibrancy and aims to illuminate the inner beauty within each of her subjects. She is inspired by faces and aims to make the subject come alive on canvas, conveying a degree of realism, forcing the viewer to be moved by feeling.
Initially, Tiffany began her artistic career in 2012 designing custom-painted sneakers, before shifting her focus toward fine art portraiture. After an Instagram repost by Tamara Mowry resulted in one of her works going viral, Tiffany garnered the attention of numerous collectors and immersed herself in New York’s gallery scene.
Based out of her Bedford Stuyvesant in-home studio (Studio 422), Tiffany leads monthly “Beyond the Layout” paint-and-sip sessions and is hired by local nonprofits, churches, and schools to facilitate professional development classes for children and adults.
Works have been commissioned for celebrities Aisha Hinds, DJ D-Nice, Ava DuVernay and Pam Oliver, as well as brand names such as ESPN, TBS, and cultural tastemakers including Carol’s Daughter CEO Lisa Price. Her artwork has been featured in The Guardian, Essence, Afropunk, News 12, The Epoch Times, CBS, and HBO.”
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Kwak: Your studio is in Brooklyn. Is this your hometown? If not, can you give us a little background on your birthplace and where you are from?
Yes, my studio is in Brooklyn. Bedstuy to be exact. I was born and raised in Bedstuy. Brooklyn has forever been my home.
Kwak: What does having your work-space in BK mean to you as well as how it affects or reflects on your art?
Yes, my studio is in Brooklyn. Bedstuy to be exact. I was born and raised in Bedstuy. Brooklyn has forever been my home. Having a work-space in Brooklyn affects me in many ways. Each year I realize that more and more. Brooklyn is the realist thing/place to me because each block has it’s own reminders. I have a terrible memory but home visually triggers memories of childhood, community, family, and most importantly it reminds me of who I use to be and who I am now. The same floor of my studio is the same floor my grandfather use to play his piano and keyboards every night when I was little. This floor was once filled with everything music and now it is filled with everything art! Everything around me makes it so easy for me to be my authentic self. Nothing makes you more comfortable than the comfort and feeling of home.
Kwak: As you know, Karlawithakay is a non-profit organization. We love to hear that you’ve been working hands-on with local organizations. Tell us a bit more about your community work and why working with non-profit organizations are important to you.
I have always been a person who loves to give back in any way that I could. When I became an artistI didn’t realize how art would make that more possible for me to do. When I started hosting paint and sip classes, I would get hired by organizations such as churches, school, and sororities that all were non-profits. All of them would be looking for a way to either fund-raise for a greater cause or provided a service that people can come out to for free to be inspired. I enjoyed being in those rooms and meeting all of those people. Those are the moments in which they share how happy they are they are involved in something that are impacted people for the good. Non-profits are important to me because I know that everything they are doing is for the greater good so it is always an honor to be part of or just add to the great things they are doing for people.
Kwak: Your Basquiat painting is FIERCE! I truly could not stop staring at it. Like most of the people your work displays (Slick Woods, Sade, etc.), he feels so alive…full of life. Is he someone that influenced you personally? If so, why?
Thank you so much for the compliment. I was not influenced by him until of recent when I watched his documentary. Seeing a person’s art is one thing but hearing their voice, getting a sense of their personality, seeing facial expressions, and understanding their story has a whole different affect. Watching him was a realization of things I already knew from my own experience, but I gained a deeper perspective from him. Seeing how emotional he was and how that came out in his work. How the more you create when you speak it’s way easier to be 100 percent your authentic self. Looking at his show how far passion will bring you it also shows you what it looks like to trust the process even when that journey may not look that bright.
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Kwak: How do you find inspiration daily or what inspires you to create? (Only asking b/c I get inspired by random things all the time so interested how this process works for others)
I find inspiration from everything! I find it in fashion mags, national geographic, sneakers, clothes, billboards on the train, listening to people talk about certain things, etc. I am literally inspired by everything that life has to offer. I just pick and choose what I may want to use out of the many things that move me. What I love is that I never have to look for inspiration, it’s never a forced feeling.
Kwak: What does being an “Empowered woman” mean to Tiffany?
An empowered woman to me means a woman with unlimited power and no limits. At least that’s how I view the term. This power that she has is all based on her mind state, will, and focus. They say what you believe about yourself determines who you become. I do believe that once women determine what they want and who they want to be they not only use that drive to help themselves but they build themselves up to be able to help others. These are the women that help people in their communities and society by raising awareness, creating opportunities, raising the status of women in education, and so much more. When you are an empowered woman you do not see fear or limits, you see opportunities to create and do more.
Kwak: I can imagine you must grow attached to an art piece after working so hard and pouring so much emotion into it. Each piece is unique and special. Finding a special home for each must be an incredible feeling. From all the pieces you’ve commissioned, which selling experience/interaction with the buyer stood out to you?
It’s funny that you say that. Believe or not, as much as I am connected to my power, I only struggled with letting go to a piece once. I was always told that I mastered the art of letting go and I didn’t fully understand what that meant until the day it was hard to see a art piece leave me. I remember it like it was yesterday. I created Lupita’s portrait and I remember staying on that piece longer because I was focused on making her hair texture look realistic. After she was complete, Lupita went to a few big shows with me that year. At each show people would fall in love with her say that they would buy it and just for some reason never did. In between shows, Lupita was on my wall in my studio and she was a face I saw every day while painting. Two years later I was invited to a small show in my neighborhood called “Juneteenth”. That day I showed about 6 paintings with Lupita being one of them. I honestly didn’t have the feeling that anything would sell that day. Next thing you know this couple walks and the guy asked me, “How would you feel if she left you today and went to a new home?” .. My response was well …everyone wants her but no one actually has taken her home. He said, “Well I am. What’s your cash app?” … That is when everything became real for me. He paid instantly and wanted it right then and there. I took it off the wall and wrapped it. The moment that I put it in his hands is when I felt it. As he walked away it was this deep feeling like a hole was being dug into my chest. It felt like he took a huge part of me with him and I didn’t know where it was going, I just knew it was gone. The feel felt crazy. I say all of this to say that sometimes you don’t realize how connected you are to a piece until the moment comes for it leave you.
Kwak: Are there any projects you are currently working on that our readers should be looking out for.
I just finished a piece for the Trap museum in ATL. Also I am working on beautifying a school in Brownsville
Kwak: What does “SUCCESS” mean to you?
To me, success is just simply doing/working no matter what. It is way easier to talk than it is to do. When following your passion you battle with fear, failure, negativity, and many obstacles that you may not foresee. To wake up every morning and continue to do and move with ambition despite all of those things you have to face daily, you have fully understood the meaning of success. Success is not easy. However, when you do succeed you do look back at everything you did go through just to get to this moment and that’s what makes it feel like a success. At least that’s my meaning of it.
Visit Tiffany and her amazing work @ Tiffany B Chanel