With the invigorating waves of artistic talent being washed up in St. Kilda of late, there is one conspicuous artist that is making a splash. Name: Tigerlily Universe. Yes, that’s the name. Now to be clear, there is no relation to J. M. Barrie’s fictional character in ‘Peter Pan’, or Michael Hutchence’s and Paula Yates’daughter nor the famed orange-spotted lily flower – this Tigerlily is a walking, talking artwork in herself and like her art, she is highly visible. You can’t miss her. In the world of Tigerlily Universe, with her zodiac curations, her bucket of artwork is overflowing with feminine dark pop surrealism, heavy Japanese anime, and American cartoon influence – a colourful and fascinating feast for the discerning eye.
Robert Chuter, surfacing from a bout of ennui, managed to snare the catch of the day…
Can you tell us a little about yourself Tigerlily?
I am of Australian/American/African-American heritage and my upbringing was abrasive: raising my sibling since birth, my younger sister and I grew up fast. With a severe lack of family support, I was quick to build my own.
My brilliant husband, firecracker sister, blazing youngest, the three cats (Blueberry, Strawberry, Blackberry) and I are the Universes’. We work together tirelessly to give each other unconditional support, to learn and heal from our past, and make a better future. We question and challenge traditional societal and family structures to make room for everyone to feel accepted, supported, and loved.
How did you become an artist?
The same way everyone does: practice. I was fortunate to get the creative bug early so my hours have accrued. I am self-taught and take pride in my original style. Comparing my art to others made me eternally insecure and constantly questioning if my art was ‘good enough’. Spoiler alert: it never is! Once I realised I could never do someone else’s art as well as they do; that everyone’s journey and circumstance are truly incomparable; that only I can express myself the best, only I can make art by Tigerlily Universe. That was when I called myself an artist.
Why do you do the art?
Self-expression is one of my most vital virtues. It is a journey in itself and one I cannot live without. Being authentically and unapologetically myself and fitting the universe around that, brings me the most comfort and joy. The very same I was deprived of every second someone else, or even myself, made me think that being authentic and serving my own needs is wrong in some way. I am an artist in the way that I am to express and communicate what my insides feel like: my thoughts, feelings, worries, struggles, and imperfections – I am an artist to express and to be understood. I am an artist to inspire everyone to love themselves, to have faith in their uniqueness, to put themselves before the expectations forced onto them: To be authentically and unapologetically themselves and express how they deem fit. P.S. – Also my art is wicked, lovingly wicked. The dopamine I get from experiencing my art is very motivating in itself.
What are some of the difficulties of being an artist for you?
The creative process can be a pain. Like baking, my art has prerequisites and ingredients in order to get anything worthwhile: time, physical ability, and proper inspiration and motivation. As someone who struggles with lifelong chronic fatigue, it can sometimes be months before the stars align for me to create to my standard. My ADHD is my best asset and my biggest liability to my art. My creativity is through the roof, I can hyper-fixate for 12+ hours despite fatigue, and I can thrive in loose and flexible structures. However, consistency and patience are far from guaranteed. A main difficulty is a lack of security of income. Pursuing passions as a full-time small artist can resemble more of a gamble than a career path.
What’s been some of the positives Tigerlily?
Aesthetics. Aesthetics. Aesthetics. Formulating, honing, and mastering a unique style creates the most satisfying visual sense of self. The endless possibilities of a blank canvas leaves room for everyone’s interpretation of colour, shapes, ideas, feelings, skills, circumstances, and inspirations. A top positive of being an artist is the freedom to tailor art to you. Personally, I have a strong belief in the importance of authenticity. Therefore, I utilize the ‘freedom of the blank canvas’ to genuinely express my emotions and struggles in an inspired, alternative, whimsical fashion. The visual representation of my insides is vital to understanding myself and its presence directly correlates to my quality of life.
If you couldn’t do this anymore, what would you do?
Only recently was I convinced I could be a successful artist. In the past, I wracked my brain trying to select any other viable career path that would not suck the life out of me. My journey has taught me that my art is the most valuable thing I have to offer and as a career, is the best suited to me. I truly believe it would be a waste to not create. Luckily, for me, art and expression of self have unlimited forms. Therefore if I couldn’t paint or do digital illustration; maybe I could pick up sewing or sculpting! Perhaps I would go back to tattooing or crocheting. Maybe I would write poetry, learn an instrument, baking even. In any case, I would never stop being an artist.
Here is a fun fact about Tigerlily Universe’s art style: feminine dark pop surrealism. ‘Feminine’ is key here. Growing up and through my entire artistic journey, I have always been drawn to specifically feminine presenting portraiture and illustration. So many hours of practice and visual study on feminine form and that which compliments. Years passed and I realise one day: I am incapable of anything else. Artists are encouraged to have a wide range but the second my subject has more masculine features, it is like drawing with my left hand. I am always trying to challenge myself as an artist and grow. When it comes to more masculine representation in my art, I just let it go.