Tife Chris is a talented visual artist and writer who has been featured on The Guardian Nigeria. She is also a Geology student and CEO/founder of her art business. I came across her profile on Instagram and was very touched by the important messages and themes she addressed with her paintings and artwork. Read on to find out her journey to becoming an artist, what motivates her and much more.
When did you know you wanted to become an artist?
Initially, I didn’t want to be an artist. Haha.
As a child, all I wanted was to be a doctor. At that stage, I was fond of scribbling around the house, cutting out my notes to draw (which would later get me in trouble), and at the age of five, I had started using watercolours in my art.
My friends and family admired this talent of mine, and I would draw to impress them, but never for once did I ever think of learning about art at school.
Instead, I fell in love with science, and my parents wanted me to study medicine. No one bothered about telling me to study what I was good at, it was just a hobby to them, and they thought that art wouldn’t give me a stable income in the future.
At school, during primary to secondary level, I was very good at art. At some point, I started making money from assignments/projects related to art by helping other students out.
My interest in art only deepened when I was done with my secondary school education, and I couldn’t gain admission to the university on time.
During the period of three years, I developed my talent for art. After enrolling in an art studio as an apprentice, I began my journey to becoming an artist.
Okay. Were you able to switch from Learning Science at Secondary School to Art?
In my school days back then, we could only focus on one field of either science or art.
I picked science, therefore making all my subjects then pure Science subjects including maths. I could only focus on science (although, I still helped out art students with their projects /assignments).
However, in my final year of secondary school, I walked up to an art teacher and asked him to teach me how to draw during his spare time (mostly during break and closing time); he offered to do so at no cost. (I don’t vividly remember the drive for this request). I am thankful that he took his time to teach me some basics.
..in my final year of secondary school, I walked up to an art teacher and asked him to teach me how to draw during his spare time (mostly during break and closing time); he offered to do so at no cost. (I don’t vividly remember the drive for this request). I am thankful that he took his time to teach me some basics.
What motivates you to keep on developing as an artist?
My main motivation is my dream. I want to get to that stage where people can relate art to their daily lives, to tell their story on a piece of canvas and share positivity.
I recently liked and commented on one of your paintings. A painting of a girl who is hugging themself. What concept were you exploring for this painting?
The painting, which is titled ‘I Need Me’, is an expressive piece of art. The concept is to express how important we are. It revolves around mental health, self-love, loneliness, pain, strength and inner peace.
It’s a painting that reflects what most of us want and what we go through alone at some point in our lives.
The purpose of the painting was to create awareness about the importance of staying sane no matter what. It was also to highlight the need to care and to comfort ourselves.
My favourite part of the painting is that no one can feel our pains as much as we do. That is why I believe it is important to comfort and love ourselves and prioritise our mental health at all times so that we can be at peace.
When I created this piece, it calmed me down. Just looking at the completed painting gave me peace. I want that same energy to flow through to people who view this painting. For anyone who is going through a hard time, I want them to feel the warmth of self-love when they look at this painting. I want them to dry their tears and comfort themselves. With that being said, I also understand that anyone can view this painting and draw their own meaning from it.
The purpose of the painting was to create awareness about the importance of staying sane no matter what. It was also to highlight the need to care for and comfort ourselves.
When it comes to doing self portraits which I know you don’t shy away from. How do you approach this compared to other paintings?
One of my favourite female artists, Frida Khalo, said, ‘I paint myself because I am the subject I know best.’
Most of my self-portraits are based on personal experiences, and I feel the best way to communicate that message is to paint myself. I express my thoughts more because I feel like, ‘well, it’s my face anyway.’ It is easier for me to create a visual representation of my experiences in my art than to create someone else’s. I approach these self portaits in a vulnerable manner compared to other paintings.
When I paint myself, I tend to be very expressive, it made me know more about myself, and I wonder, ‘will people see beyond my face and see what I want them to see?’.
I often say that there is a huge difference between drawing and making art, and it is easier to bring out the art in me on a piece of canvas.
What is a typical day like for you?
A typical day is just school, research, rehearsals, meetings and work. I try to balance my academics with my art and business, and to be honest, almost every day is a busy day for me. I don’t have a set time range that I paint.
There are some days that I can paint for just a few hours, and other days, depending on the medium I’m using and the drive for that particular artwork, I can paint for an hour to over six hours at a stretch.
Can you walk me through your step-by-step process from the idea generation phase to completing a painting?
- The first thing I do is picture what I want in my head. I think about what kind of message/theme I want to capture.
- Then, I sketch it out in my journal or search for a reference (which is usually one of the hardest parts for me), after which I lay the first layer of paint, either with gloss paint or acrylic.
- I use oil paints for the main layering, and this paint takes days to dry, but after making the first layer, I wait ’til the next day to create another layer until I’m done with the piece.
I often struggle with when to stop, not knowing if the message is clear enough or looking good enough. Sometimes, I can also be at the same spot for days and be clueless about how to complete the painting.
How do you balance work and pleasure? Is it a struggle to switch off when you constantly have ideas during your downtime?
Creating a balance between work and pleasure can be a struggle for me. Sometimes, I overwork myself on a painting, either mentally or physically, and my downtime is barely enough for me.
As much as I’m an expressive artist, I’m also a commercial artist because art is my main hustle. Art is at the centre of my business so I have to meet my deadlines for commissions and mural paintings.
However, when I’m engrossed in a piece of art, it takes so much energy because pieces of me are being passed onto that canvas. I often write down ideas in my journal either when I’m working or during my downtime because my ideas for the next painting or art can come at any time.
I’m also a commercial artist because art is my main hustle. Art is at the centre of my business, so I have to meet my deadlines for commissions and mural paintings.
You also write some inspiring words to pair with your paintings. Someday, do you see yourself publishing a book that features your art and words?
Writing has always been a part of me. I’ve written two books so far (yet to be published) and I’m currently working on another one.
I definitely see myself publishing a book that features my art and words. It would be a wonderful opportunity for people to read about a painting piece and learn about the story behind it.
The write-ups I add to my paintings help to explain the meaning behind them. I want my audience to understand more about each piece and what inspired it.
Tife Chris can be found on Instagram.