Oni Magazine

In conversation with Tiah: The Spooky Voice Behind The Iconic Paintings

Oni Magazine
In conversation with Tiah: The Spooky Voice Behind The Iconic Paintings

I first came across this young woman on social media. It was around Halloween and she posted a picture of herself in a bralette and a cowboy hat, covered in blood, a cigarette in her mouth, and a pink and gold gun in her hand. I fell in love with her look and followed her immediately. Through following her, I got to know her a bit; her interests in drag and gold. But what amazed me the most was her art of Angela Bassett as Marie Laveau in American Horror Story. It was then I came to find out that she was an immensely talented artist as well as a lover of all things dramatic and spooky. I knew from them I wanted to interview her. I think the world needs to know about her genius and her firecracker personality. Through a series of emails, I got to know her a little bit better. A self-described sparkly glam-goth weirdo who is passionate about her identity and representation for other little black weirdos. And she’s so young herself! In this interview, we talk about what art means, representation, living in the UK, and Grace Jones.


Introduce yourself?

My name's Tiah, I'm 19 and I'm from England

S: What inspires you to make art?

T: Everything inspires me to make art honestly I can get inspired by anything like the shape of a stain or the moody lighting of a bathroom when the sky's overcast etc I'm just like "wow that's art" and I'm driven to make my own. My main inspiration is black women! I'm quite vain

S: You say your focus is black women because you're vain. But I think it's more than that. Wanting representation or to provide representation I think speaks more about how you feel for black girls than simply being vain, or am I reading too much into it?

T: I was half joking, but yes, representation is very important, and it's just something I, and probably everyone else underrepresented yearns for, like I've always subconsciously looked for faces like mine in media, art, tv, film, etc since I was a child honestly; just looking for that one character who has the same skin or hair as you so you feel a part of something! It probably seems weird to people who can't empathize or relate because they've never felt the need to do that, but that's obviously because they're well represented and see themselves everywhere all the time so it's not something they'll notice

S: I remember coming across a video of someone saying that everyone is naturally a narcissist because we look to find ourselves in everything which is a very privileged way of looking at how we consume media. There's this expectancy of people of color to consume media where we are not represented when those who are white, cis, and/or straight don't have to in return because they are constantly represented. What was it like growing up black in the UK?

T: I don't really know how to describe growing up black in the UK for me, obviously, it's different for everyone in different areas but I grew up in a small town where it's rare to see other people of colour out and about but I know we're here. We are just more saturated in bigger cities like Liverpool or Manc (I live near both).

S: Do you think living in a majority white neighborhood affected your aesthetic?

T: I don't think anything really has an effect on what I like because it's always been the case where if I like something, I like something and there are things I'm just automatically drawn to whether it's considered cool/fashionable or not. I’d describe my aesthetic as eclectic because I really can’t confine myself into one sort of style. My taste is really broad. I enjoy and see beauty in so much it’s kind of annoying (lol), but it’s nice to be able to appreciate everything, I guess

S: I saw your posts on your blog about the 2010s not really having a distinct style because of social media and its tendency to overexposure. How would you say social media affects your personal style and art?

T: I could rant about social media for hours omg but mostly I'm thankful for the platform to connect with other like-minded people across the world and give and receive endless inspiration. Sharing bits of my art online and the overwhelmingly positive feedback I get is reassuring that what I'm doing isn't like completely corny and dumb (lol). I'm very insecure about painting #JustLittleArtistThings the whole internet validation thing and all that

S: I think this insecurity is present in all good artists and I think we're so hypercritical of work because we care so much. Would you agree?

T: Yeah absolutely, typical artist stereotypes like always striving for better and never being satisfied and being embarrassed by old work definitely apply to me, and people can interpret you're being self-critical as fishing for compliments and reassurance or whatever. However, 100% of the time, for me, I'm really just being honest with myself and my opinion matters more to me than anyone else's

S: I think it's interesting as artists how anything can inspire us no matter what our medium is, for example, I am a writer but I'm very much inspired by manga and films as I am a visual person, but I am able to translate that to words. What is your thought process when translating what inspires you to your work?

T: I don't really know what my thought process is tbh, it's kind of just a hit or miss when I try to make something look good or capture a certain vibe or feeling, all experimenting and learning from my mistakes along the way

S: I think that's a natural and raw process to go head first and learn from mistakes. It is as well a very successful process because you're doing instead of waiting for the best. What is the long-term goal for work? An exhibition?

T: I don't really have any long-term goals at all, making art for me is mostly something to occupy myself and everything I make is just practice, I didn't go to school so I'm just in a really long process of teaching myself trying to get more polished for now

S: A recurring theme in your work is black women in horror. How important is the genre for you and how do you relate to it as a black woman?

T: I've always been drawn to the spooky satanic aesthetic. You're either born with Halloween in your heart or you're not in my opinion! So naturally that's the style of art I enjoy making, and being a black girl, and rarely seeing anyone who looks like me in that Queen of Darkness setting, I just wanna fill the void and make more #blackgothrepresentation. We exist!  You get the double whammy of being an outcast freak for being gothy and weird and being an outcast in the gothy weirdo circle for being black. So many people seriously think enjoying creepy things and listening to rock, for example, is a "White Thing" which is such a dumb and ignorant way to think and confining people to a box of things they're supposed to enjoy because of their fucking race like what the fuck, but it is definitely white dominated. It's not really that deep for me though I just love black women and I love horror and I'm combining the two because it's what I enjoy making the most!

S: I'm very much a spooky weirdo myself and I totally agree that it's something you're naturally inclined to. I've been into horror and darker-inclined things as far as I can remember. This is why Oni exists. Which spooky black women inspire you?

T: Can't even think of any spooky black women off the top of my head at all like really. In films, though, there's Grace Jones as Queen Katrina in Vamp (1986) a campy 80s vampire horror movie (which sums up my brand lol). I don't even think she had any lines in it but she looked amazing and Grace is an eccentric icon anyway. Aaliyah as Akasha in Queen of the Damned (2002) is classic too, it doesn’t matter to me whether it has bad reviews, or it being considered corny, I don't care because the imagery and soundtrack are cool and fun. I’m always inspired by icons like Morticia and Elvira and Lily Munster though, Nancy (and Rochelle!) from The Craft, Frank N Furter etc...

S: Vamp is one of my favorite horrors and Grace Jones is iconic in every sense of the word. You've actually painted her as well. What does she mean to you?

T: I have! I've done 2 paintings of her so far haha. I love everything about Grace Jones, her music, her artistry, her amazing and funny and bold personality, her attitude, her style, her immense beauty, literally everything! I really love disco and everything from the 80s and she's an icon of both so she's just the full package for me. LEGEND!!!

S: When did you first learn about Grace Jones and what was your first impression of her?

T: I can't remember when I first came across Grace Jones, I was probably about 12/13 and saw older artsy kids I looked up to from school posting about her or something and my first impression was probably something like" wow she's so weird I wanna know more about her"

S: What does being an artist mean to you? What does art mean to you?

T: I'm the worst person to ask what being an artist and what art means because I have absolutely no idea and I've been trying to figure out and understand for years. Plus I'm a Gemini so my answer will change every time you ask me. However, for now, I just enjoy creating pretty paintings!

S: I'm a Gemini moon so I totally understand. For me, art is an ever changing thing and I think it's why I'm so drawn to it because it grows along with me as a human. I think doing art is the most humane thing to do. Do you agree?

T: One of the reasons art is so interesting to me is that it's existed for so long, thousands of years way back to cave drawings, like even back in those primal ages humans were making pretty pictures! I'd probably really benefit from studying the history of art, to be honest


What would say about yourself and your art that people wouldn't know?

I've been drawing for years and years and recently picked up acrylics. So, now, I'm just a beginner self-taught painter. I'm trying to improve my skills and gain confidence in my work and technique so I can maybe one day in the future make a living off making art or in some artistic field. It's a frustrating journey for me and I feel like giving up every other week and I literally do but I always come crawling back to the paint. I think art is really just in my heart I just need to put in the work

Describe yourself in 3 words?

Eclectic, Extroverted Introvert