Tia O'Donnell | Spotlight
Spotlights are a 12 part series documenting emerging creatives in London. Our next Spotlight focuses on Tia O’Donnell. Tia is a painter, illustrator and model from North London, currently studying at Central St Martins. Tia’s work looks to portray events and emotions she experiences in her personal life. She’s also a prominent figure in London’s young fashion scene, modelling for Goodhood and Puma. We sat down with Tia to find out a bit more about her and her work…
Where do you find inspiration?
Most of my work is a story of my own life. It’s more personal to me than it would be to anyone else. I know when people look at my work, they’re not reading what I’m trying to portray because it’s personal to me. You could say it has a double meaning because it’ll mean one thing to me and to the viewer it will mean something completely different. It’s beautiful in a way because it’s still personal to me, but it’s also personal to the viewer. That’s what art is, it’s all down to you - what you view and what you think of it.
What’s your favourite thing you’ve worked on?
I was recently going through a bad relationship with my phone, as every person in our generation does sometimes. To me, this painting was an expression of the anger this made me feel. It’s ridiculous the amount of stress that phones cause us.
Do you tend to collaborate with other creators?
Definitely. I love working with other people at University. It’s so important, especially being a creative, because our generation is all about working together and being a team. When you are working with other people, especially with other people’s different styles, you come out with something so absurd and you’re like “wow I didn’t even know I could do that.”
All of your work seems to come from self expression. As an artist, why do you think self expression is important and how does it help you as an individual?
Because all of my work relates to me and what I’ve been experiencing in that moment, I think it’s free therapy, to put it easily. I’m not going to pay £50 an hour to talk to somebody about my problems when I can pick up a paintbrush, get out what I’m feeling on paper and have something to look at to reflect on afterwards. I struggle with expressing my emotions verbally, so it helps to know that I have this outlet where I can spill it all out on paper. I think everyone should do it because it’s good for your mental health.
Can you talk us through your work process?
The process normally starts off with some form of emotion. From that I will write either a poem or a short paragraph and pick out a few words that encompass what I’m trying to express. I start drawing with a pen and pencil and just go for it when I’m in the moment. I really struggle with not finishing things. If I don’t finish a painting in one go, I feel like I’ve lost the idea because I’ve let it fester.
How do you know when a piece is finished?
My work is never finished. I’ll look at a painting and think “oh god I wish I could change one thing” or “I wish I could have taken that away” and “why did I put too much on there.” I don’t believe anything’s ever really finished.
Where does the imagery you create come from?
It’s hard to explain to those without a creative mind what you’re experiencing. I think people who aren’t wired in that way won’t see things in a way that I do. They’ll still have an appreciation for it, it’s just a case of different minds seeing things in different ways. That’s what’s nice about art - you don’t have to have an arty brain, but you can still interpret it. It’s very individual to you.
Have you got any interesting projects coming up?
I’m making a book about my grandma. After she died, a lot of secrets came up about her that I’d never known. I’ve used these teddy bears and turned them inside out to show how you can think you know someone, but until you actually turn them inside out, you don’t.
Where do you see yourself in the future?
In the future I’d love to have my own exhibition, not just of my own work, but funded by me as well. I’ve always had this mindset where I don’t like getting help from other people, I like doing things on my own. Since I turned 18, I decided to become really independent because I didn’t want anyone to be like “I made you” and “the reason why you’re here is because of me.” That would be a nice goal, to save up and afford to do it all on my own. As further into the future goes, I don’t really know where I’ll be but I know I’ll still be creating.
Any words of advice for other young creatives?
Life is too short to doubt. Life is too short to not do the things you want to do.