Savannah artist and business owner Tiffani Taylor was talking about her work.
Surrounded by brilliantly colored oil paintings at her Tiffany Taylor Gallery, she said she didn’t have a favorite.
“I call all of them my children,” she said matter-of-factly.
Still, she pointed to a 36-inch-by-36-inch, $4,200 painting of the Flower Market in Paris. There were her memories of wildflowers in the foreground and behind them, twigs and berries.
“It’s one of my favorites. The flowers are glowing with beauty,” she said.
Interwoven with the wild flowers was the stream-of-consciousness poetry she likes to include in her art.
“Praise God. Praise God. Praise God. The struggle is over,” she wrote.
The struggle? The struggle she endured in a childhood of poverty and food stamps. And her struggle to make a living from her art.
“This painting celebrates the loveliness and peace that I’ve created,” said Taylor who will turn 34 in September.
“You know, the wisdom you gain as you age. I feel the happiest and most peaceful I’ve ever been,” said Taylor.
Taylor has been making art ever since she can remember.
“I did my first drawings when I was 18 months old,” she said.
Born and raised in Ogden, Utah, she really got serious about art in ninth grade. She joined the Western Art Guild as its youngest member and won a first place prize for a realistic, Prisma pencil drawing of Indian corn.
And she established a goal: “I would try to live the American dream with my art.”
At 17, she left home with a presidential scholarship to attend the Savannah College of Art and Design. The scholarship paid tuition but not food, housing and other expenses.
So to pay those costs, “I started making murals.”
Also, she made and sold pottery through a Savannah firm, Midnight Star Pottery.
Living was hand-to-mouth.
“I lived on $2 a day. I ate a lot of Cup ‘O Noodles,” she said with a laugh.
But by her third year at SCAD, her mural and pottery businesses were doing well. She had painted a mural of “lush trees” for the home of Mary Ann Bowen Beil and Frederic Beil who have since become “dear friends,” as well as advocates for her work.
“We’ve watched her progress since she was 18,” Mary Ann Bowman Beil said. “The mural looks like a Rousseau with all manner of foliage, palm fronds, butterflies, all manners of creatures. And (in the mural) there’s a portrait of our cat” (that had watched Taylor paint).
The Beils knew the president of the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Fla., Taylor said. Because of that connection, Taylor sent him a large pottery bowl based on Dali’s painting “Fish with Red Bowl.”
He liked it — and soon Taylor made a collection of pieces for the museum — about 12 in all, all inspired by Dali’s work.
The Dali job exemplified her philosophy.
“I’m a painter. But I believe in saying ‘yes.’ When opportunities present themselves to you, it’s important to grow.”
While attending SCAD, Taylor worked full time, making paintings, murals and pottery.
“I worked really hard in school. I only went to one party,” she said.
She also exhibited her work at two galleries in Utah, at Midnight Star and at Shop SCAD, the SCAD store for faculty and student art.
Taylor graduated from SCAD in 2002 as valedictorian, with a major in painting. The next year, while still painting, she earned a master’s degree from SCAD in art history.
After that, “I worked 18 hours day, continuing doing murals and painting,” she said.
In July 2006, she painted and lectured on art and business at SCAD’s campus in Lacoste, France, and exhibited her work at a gallery there, Galerie Pfreimm where she still shows work.
Back in Savannah, she continued painting and by 2012 was showing her work at 15 galleries here and abroad. In March 2012, she decided to go it alone.
“I opened my own space,” she said.
Her gallery featured her work in mixed media — oil and watercolor paintings and pottery. The gallery also featured work by SCAD students and other Savannah artists.
Why a gallery?
“I struggled with the idea for three years. Everybody was encouraging me to do it for so long. It changes everything to have a physical space like a store,” she said. “You have to be open certain hours. But in the end, I wanted to do it.
“I can exhibit my art that tells the story of my journey. Also, it honors my vision and energy.”
Her gallery shows off a number of Taylor’s themes — a wild horse series, a series on Southeast Georgia marshes, landmarks in Savannah such as the fountain in Forsyth Park and a favorite topic, poppies.
The poppies that burst from her paintings in an explosion of reds and pinks reflect her childhood.
“My mom always had pink, paper-thin poppies in the front yard. And the neighbors had pink and red poppies. I always admired these fiery, delicate blooms,” Taylor said.
A large painting of poppies “with my original poetry streaming throughout” netted her $7,000 and paid for Taylor’s trip to Paris in 2003.
Also in the gallery — and a new online store — is Taylor’s Lifestyle Collection, affordable art that includes coffee cups, iPad covers and journals — “things you use in everyday life” — covered with blooms, cardinals and other birds.
As summer ends, Taylor is busy as usual. She is working out of a small studio in Atlanta, painting a new series, the Atlanta skyline as storms roll in. She is also creating a mural for supporter and friend Paula Wallace, the founder and president of SCAD.
“Tiffani Taylor has perfected the art of living fully, joyfully and expectantly,” Wallace said. “She is an artist of beauty and grace and the benefactor of deserving SCAD students whom she mentors and supports through the Tiffani Taylor Scholarship Fund.”
Taylor has established a scholarship that gives one recipient a year $900 for art supplies. “And I exhibit their art.”
Taylor said she is grateful to SCAD for her education — not only honing her skills as an artist but giving her the tools to become a successful entrepreneur. In “Professional Practices,” a course she took as an undergraduate, “I learned I needed business cards and a website. And an attorney and an accountant.”
She is also grateful her business and painting are going so well.
“I think I’m successful because, truthfully, I have sacrificed and worked very, very hard,” she said. “I feel I’m successful because, as much as possible, I give back. I give to Safe Shelter, Habitat for Humanity and the Rape Crisis Center.
“And I’m successful in my art. I felt very, very humble, how blessed I am to make a living as an artist ... The reason I’m successful with my art? It’s a gift from God of my talent.”
TIFFANI TAYLOR GALLERY
11 Whitaker St., Savannah, GA 31401
The company is on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/tiffanigallery/boards) and YouTube (Tiffany Taylor Gallery-YouTube).