My name is Tianna Williams. I am an artist in every sense of the word and have been for as long as I can remember. I guess that’s what happens when a musician and a graphic designer get together.
As a little girl, I loved sketching and colouring and creating. Whether it was a cover page for a book report, a birthday card for my mom, or a drawing of a saint to share at the dinner table, I poured my heart into it.
When I was about 12 years old I received a set of pastels and acrylic paints for Christmas. For months I painted and drew numerous pieces. I used anything for reference—candles on the kitchen table, dancing figures, a quaint bridge spanning a trickling brook.
After a time I became discouraged with my lack of talent and opted to pursue other hobbies. When I was sixteen I began my career as a graphic designer, and I was fully enveloped by the digital medium. I developed a wide range of skills, from creating any kind of graphic, to website building, to digital image compilation. The significance of this would not be fully appreciated until a decade later.
One year my sister was gifted with a Wacom tablet—which I shamelessly helped myself to—and I began to explore the realm of digital painting. It was a fantastic launching board. Creation after creation spilled from my fingertips and appeared on the screen. Without realizing it, I learned the mechanics of colour and shape and shadow. Online art communities offered a safe place to share my work and receive constructive criticism. I even managed to sell some of my work through the help of my father’s online ministry.
Years later, I was still daunted by the idea of returning to a traditional medium. I liked Photoshop. I liked that I could so easily pick a colour or undo a mistake. But, shortly after I was married in 2015, I tentatively dipped my brush back into paint. Just like that, I was hooked.
When I discovered I was expecting just a short month later, I decided to make the announcement to my husband by painting a very pregnant Mary. This image, titled "Unexpected" was, in many ways, the literal conception of a new vocation. However, it wasn't until I painted Pope Saint John Paul II that winter that I realized that I might be called to continue making sacred art. In hindsight, it seems fitting that the pope who encouraged creatives of the New Evangelization so enthusiastically with his Letter to Artists should have been the one to nudge me forward.
In 2017 I went out on a limb and tried selling my artwork at a local Catholic conference. It was well-received, and I spent the next three years building a business that could support this pursuit. With the incredible generosity of several individuals, I was able to make another leap of faith in 2020 into making art full time.
I’ve discovered that there is something intensely spiritual about painting. Perhaps it is the abandonment necessary to pour oneself into a piece, or maybe it is recognizing that I myself am little more than a brush in the hand of the Artist. As I have painted the faces of Mary and the Saints, I feel as though I have developed a beautiful friendship with these holy souls. Each one has challenged me in a unique way—one may call me to perseverance, another to patience, yet another to simplicity. Time and again I have experienced a flood of grace that has allowed me to do what I know I am not capable of. I am deeply humbled to have been called to this and profoundly grateful.
As I forge ahead on this exciting journey, it is my prayer that these images will bless you and bring a little bit of beauty back into the world.