Meet the Artist - Tiffany Francis
Luke M Walker
by Peter Geraerts
by Peter Geraerts
Over the years I’m sure we’ve all heard people talk about what work and or career direction they don’t want to take but it takes confidence and courage to actually pursue the path you do want. Maybe arriving at the outcome is not always smooth but with a goal and perseverance and I’m sure an element of good fortune there should be the belief that much is possible.
Tiffany is an excellent example of what is possible.
I went down to meet her at her home nicely located in The South Downs National Park. As soon as i walked in the door I was warmly greeted by Pablo, her rescue dog, and a smiling Tiffany
It’s a big year for Tiffany - most importantly she is getting married, she has two books being released, one of which, with superb timing, coincides with the Wilderness Art Collective ‘Landlines’ exhibition in September and last, but by no means least, Pablo is being re-united with his sibling Tequila who Tiffany and her partner are adopting.
This latest book will be Tiffany’s third and are all quite different demonstrating her versatility and varied interests.
The first, ‘Food you can Forage’ was published in 2018. It started after she wrote a blog ‘ Gifts from the hedgerow’ for a nature conservation group. From this her publishers commissioned her to write the book which, to use a cliched term, does what it says on the tin.
Just to confuse matters her third book ‘Dark Skies’ was written next, Tiffany finished it in July 2018 but it won’t be released until September of this year.
Finally her second book which was written last ‘ British Goats’ - quite a specialist subject - and will be released in July of this year.
Whilst Tiffany is quite rightly proud of all of them it’s probably ‘Dark Skies’ that she is drawn to most. It’s a nature book, something that she wanted to write, and has been able to support with her own illustrations. I’m sure, for a publisher, having an author that can illustrate must be a dream.
You can tell from the way she speaks that she is very proud of it. It took a year to write and she sees it as a time capsule - it suited a time - which I’m sure in years to come would be good to look back at. Nature writing is something that she has always wanted to do and would like to do more of in the future.
As I alluded to in the introduction going freelance was the aim for Tiffany, now she is there we talk about how she now feels about it and how it has changed her life.
She stresses that it requires a very disciplined and focussed approach. She also is honest enough to admit that not every day is necessarily productive.
She goes on to say that it now provides is more thinking time to plan ahead and do the things she wants to do. Tiffany would classify herself as primarily a writer, she has a Masters in English, but she studied Art up to ‘A’ level. It was whilst she was studying for her Masters that she started her nature writing. She was living in London, which was a more urban lifestyle than she was used to. She ended up volunteering for The London Wildlife Trust which brought her back to nature and her more rural roots. It also represents the way she was brought up and the way she lives now. She hopes to inspire others in this way. That coincides with one of the many positive aims of the Wilderness Art Collective.
Her day starts early as she gets up at the same time as, her partner, Dave as he goes off to work. She begins with Yoga which helps her concentration and puts her in the right frame of mind for the day ahead.
What follows is the essential cup of coffee and to her desk to look at emails and to check on what the pending jobs and deadlines are.
If there is nothing particularly pressing then it provides her with the opportunity to draw, paint - she uses acrylics -and perhaps catch up with writing articles which she does for a few different magazines. The process is that she pitches the ideas which are hopefully accepted straight away or are then tweaked. Etsy is another outlet so there is always something to do there too.
She keeps her to do list on her phone and the framework of her day is still guided by deadlines.
She also admits that perhaps when there are deadlines a bit further out then she loses focus but I think most of us would agree is natural. However as there are mostly deadlines to be met then this is less of an issue.
In the few discussions I have had with Tiffany and the other artists in the Wilderness Art Collective i’ve increasingly come to realise one of the basic and elemental things they have in common is that what they do is a way of life. It’s not something that they want to involve themselves in when they’ve run out of other things to do. It’s always there and drives everything else.
Standing in Tiffany’s room the wall in front of me is covered with a beautiful painting of The South Downs National Park with all of the places in it that have meaning for her. It’s one thing to try and copy the detail and put it on an A4 piece of paper, something quite different to translate it onto a wall like that with such detail and beauty.
On one of the other walls is a drawing of the constellations and the various phases of the moon. To me both emphasise her love of what she does
Whilst all of this might be interspersed with an episode or two of Poirot, of which Tiffany is an avid fan, she’ll also take the opportunity later on most days to get out for a longer walk with Pablo which is then a sign that her working day is coming to and end and she can relax into the evening.
Something I didn’t include in the already full introduction, was that Tiffany applied to be a writer in residence for The Forestry Commission this year. There were roughly a thousand applicants with two writers chosen of which Tiffany was one. She is also rightly proud of, and excited, by this.
For this brief she has a few days during the spring and summer to get a sense of what is required and then by the autumn she will deliver what she hopes is a long form narrative poem with illustrations.
It’s interesting that Tiffany looks at this and her book from two different, yet equally important points of view. The Forestry Commission is external recognition of her abilities whilst writing Dark Skies is something that she did for herself.
Whilst there are many positives that look to lie ahead of Tiffany she stresses how important it is for her that she remains grounded and to remember how fortunate she is. She is by her own admission fairly stoic so tries to treat the highs and lows the same. I’m sure that’s easier said than done. She also goes on to say that she isn’t necessarily driven by individual achievements. Her life is driven by what she loves doing - she hopes that people will love what she does - but that isn’t the reason she does it.
She gets immense pleasure from giving talks ranging from the local Women’s Institute to literary festivals. It’s an opportunity of promoting her love of nature and to inspire others plus of course herself.
There was an instance recently at a bookshop in Peckham where a couple of young girls came in and wanted to buy one of her books. Apart from the pleasure of selling one of her books it also made her feel really good that she was appealing to a different demographic.
We went on to discuss the Wilderness Art Collective. One of her friends, Matt Williams, is a trustee of The Wilderness Foundation which has links it. He spoke with Sam about the synergies and emphasised how Tiffany was inspired with talking and collaborating with other artists.
I’m sure we’ll all be interested to see how the year progresses for Tiffany and we’ll look forward to the book launch on the 5th September at The Landlines Exhibition.