Tag Archives: Anne McCaffrey

Interview: Tiffanie Gray

This week’s interview is with Tiffanie Gray, a renaissance woman in many ways, as you’ll see.

What is your quest?  To have fun, make beautiful things, to learn and grow, and hopefully to make a little money on the way.

I have never had formal lessons. But, I have had many mentors along the way, both personal and book/video. I love Boris Vallejo’s work, and it definitely has influenced me, as has old Bob Ross videos which a discovered a couple of years ago! I’ve read the Lord of the Rings 4 times (one time in a single weekend while I was babysitting!), Mercedes Lackey, the Dragon Riders of Pern, the Chronicles of Narnia and so many other stories and authors. I would say that my favorite story of all time, though is Jonathon Livingston Seagull. I guess it came at a good time in my life and has always stuck with me.

I’m creative it so many ways, it’s hard for me to stick with one. If you look up the book “Refuse to Choose”, I am a scanner by their definition, of the Serial Master/Sybil type. That means that I have several things that I want to master, and will come back to them over and over in a circle to increase the mastery level and as the Sybil, I keep finding new things to add to my list!

My creations have gone in cycles, and I’ve added more, as it went. As a child, I wrote stories from a very young age. I still have my first written story from second grade, about Pegasuses. My drawing came next, but it was, like my stories, very crude. Embroidery and crocheting were next, followed by sewing, then pattern design, wood carving and burning, and then macrame. All of that was by high school. Stories and drawing were still developing, but I was by no means a prodigy in them. I really wanted to do book cover design and so studied and read everything I could on it. After a year of community college I joined the US Army at 17 years old. I turned 18 during basic training.

What was I thinking?

Military life slowed some of the mastery levels down, though it added some new ones, and marriage and family took another chunk out of my creative time! But, once I was out of the military, I really started working on art again, and made a number of leaps and bounds as I learned how to manipulate colored pencils. I started really getting into portraits, mostly fantasy portraits of the characters we were playing in our weekly D&D/ShadowRun/GURPS/Battletech games.

As we played, my story telling abilities were growing, too. I kept being frustrated, though, by Hollywood stealing all my story ideas, and partials, and turning them into movies before I could get them finished and published…..

Then I found Project Dogwaffle…The funny little paint program with the funny little name. I had wanted to learn oil and water color, and this looked like the answer, especially since I couldn’t afford Corel, the giant at the time and had too many kids in the house and not enough money/space to try Pigment Media. I have worked with Dogwaffle, since free version 1.2, until it was renamed PD Pro. During that time I became a beta tester for the program, and then it was renamed PD Howler (It’s current name), and I’m still a beta tester for it. Now I also do tutorials and webinars on it. I specialize in Landscapes and graphic design, and 3D art and texturing using it.

At the same time I was teaching myself Web design, I designed and administered websites for 3 non-profit companies. I improved in sewing and added beadworking and wire jewelry making and creating Celtic knotwork, both in art and in cord and wire.

I was also sewing and designing Renaissance costumes, for our family and for sale and learning blackwork embroidery, homeschooling 5 kids, improving acting, singing and dance skills. I also edited 2 books, several short stories and designed covers for them, for my husband and my niece. I wrote some short stories and did the covers for them too. Published on Amazon. But, I wasn’t thrilled with my skills on that so, I knew I needed to find something else to improve it. So I started leaning how to create clothing and avatars for Second Life, mostly at the urging of my kids, so that they could get free stuff.

Once the kids were all out of the house, I started putting my mind to getting better at the art and the writing. I really started working on DAZ Studio and Poser, which I had owned for some time, but had never conquered. Now, I theoretically had the means to make covers! In a very short time. I was joining writing groups and working on things, and mostly percolating ideas and skills at this time. I also went to Beauty College, followed by Instructor’s College, so I have a Master Instructor of Cosmetology License and am licensed in Oklahoma, Colorado and working on North Dakota. I owned and managed my own shop in Colorado before we moved. And I was my husband’s legal assistant during that time. Now he is a high school teacher and we are living on a reservation, so I have a little more time again…

I still only have the 3 short stories and a coloring book published, but I have 3 novels that are more than ½ done. I took a side trip into texture design for 3D works, and have 3 stores with my products in them. So, another thing I’m working on mastering! I also really need to update my websites and get my galleries up and running. If I could work on one thing, or at least one thing at at a time, I might accomplish more, but there isn’t anything that I want to give up, so I’ll have to keep developing slowly.

(ed. note: Tiffanie does stuff… 🙂 )

What is your favorite color?  Blue is my favorite color. It’s hard for me NOT to have blue in a picture or even a story. (I have a lot of blue eyed characters!) Practice is my biggest ally, and curiosity…ie, how can I do this thing? What does this thing do? What happens if I do this? While it may cause a mistake, those mistakes help you to learn/grow.

If I’m doing portraits, I always start with the eyes, they are the windows of the soul, and the place that people notice likeness the most. I love contrast, but it took me a long time to be willing to have ENOUGH contrast in a picture to really create the atmosphere and mood.

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush? Pleasing judges is my biggest frustration. I have never won a prize, even though I was really proud of the image that I created. I have sold very few copies of my books, another marker of judging by the public, and I know that it is more a product of people’s taste/opinion than it is of my skills, but it is frustrating. And moreover, I also know that marketing is the death of me. I will eventually have to add that to my repertoire, if I am going to have more than lukewarm success.

Like Bob Ross says, there are no mistakes, just happy accidents. I have gotten very down on myself at times, before I learned and REALLY accepted that saying. And I still have problems with it, as I am a first born perfectionist. Children help you to learn that. I have had several colored pencil pieces that children have “helped” on. Then I had to figure out how to incorporate it into the image. With digital, I can usually just “undo” something that I really love about it! For writing, Losing several pages of work, everyone has had that pain. You just write again, and it’s often better, because it’s like self-editing! For Sewing? Sewing a pleated skirt to a lined bodice and having part inside and part outside, making a lovely mobius strip…we laughed, took pictures, and then slowly seam-ripped it apart.

Prior to following along with Bob Ross

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?  When I was in my local chapter of the CPSA, there was a guy, Don Pearson, who was quite famous for his landscapes. I felt that I could never achieve anything like that. When I started working on PD Howler, I made some tries, but still didn’t feel like it was up to the level that he did, or frankly even that I wanted to get to. But, when I started practicing along with the Bob Ross videos, I suddenly started making huge leaps of skill, because I was gaining information that I didn’t have before. Now, I have my tablet, and continue to build on those beginnings, and I’m very proud of my landscapes and have sold several packs of background images and am getting ready to set up stores at Fine Art America.com and Zazzle.com so that other folks can enjoy my art too!

After following along with Bob Ross

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Grover…And I can mimic him, too, and Yoda. Though if you are including ALL muppets, then Fizzgig from the Dark Crystal.
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Potatoes- Crunchy, Whip Cream– Creamy
  • Favorite Sports Team? Rutgar’s Jugger Team, which I don’t think had an actual name for the team.
  • Cake or Pie? Cookies is best. Pie, with ice cream, though Spice Cake and Black Forest and Cheesecake with fruit toppings are up there. The more important part is icing…only buttercream will do unless it’s on the aforementioned cakes.
  • Lime or Lemon? Lemon. Always.
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Guacomole. But my way is smashed avacado mixed with about an equal part of sour cream or greek yogurt if I’m out of sour cream, nothing else. Ranch dip would be next, but I prefer that with vegis.
  • Wet or Dry? Water I prefer wet, sodas too. Chips I prefer dry, and towels. Dog and Horses – Dry, Fish-wet
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of?  Tim Gray, Jon Reneau, Tullamore, Serafem or Boru’s Ghost. (Though the last two are groups, though, not individuals) For commercial successes Mercedes Lackey, Heather Alexander, Alexander James Adams, Leslie Fish, Silly Wizard, Nightwish and Within Temptation you’ve probably heard of.
  • Whisky or Whiskey? I’m allergic to alcohol, and have issues with American spelling, but I work on it.
  • Favorite Superhero? Original Luke Skywalker
  • Steak Temperature? Medium Rare.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Mork and Mindy, Chips, World of Disney (Sunday movie), Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Spring- the flowers are blooming, the weather is still cool, everything is bright and renewing!
  • Favorite Pet? Gray’s Jackie Mo Kida Toy (aka Jackie) – Pomeranian. He is about 13 years old now, and weights about 3 lbs. He thinks he is a human or a cat (is there a difference?). He loves to travel, and will bark and pout if he doesn’t get to go with us. We have 3 cats; Fuzzbot-a siamese look-alike, Yuriel Storm Tiger (aka Tiny Tiger) a strange grey tabby that we think was part wild cat, and October (aka Little Cat) a black, ½ Russian Blue. But they are my hubby’s favorites, and you said I could only have one favorite!
  • Best Game Ever? GURPS!!!! Because you can play in any universe with it!
  • Coffee or Tea? Bengal Spice Tea, Postum or Pero. Never coffee!
    Sci-Fi or Fantasy?  Yes, though with a slight bias towards Fantasy.

What would you like to ask me: While walking around Wales, did you encounter any Good Folk?

My answer: I don’t know that I encountered any Fae during my walk through Wales. I did have magical moments, though. There’s a Bronze Age hillfort that I rested in as I climbed the Black Mountains. Then, from the top, looking over the valley to the east was amazing.

There’s an age to Wales. The hills are rounded. The land has that comfortable lived in feeling of your favorite chair. Is that the doing of the Tylwyth Teg or Sidhe? I don’t know but I do know that history sinks into in that place if you let it. When you’re on the path and you literally are the only person around, it’s hard not to let it.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

Final question for you: What should I have asked but did not?

Have I every been in a beauty pageant? Yes, Miss Teen Arizona, I was in the top 100, but didn’t make it past there.

Do you play an instrument? Yes, I play Piano, Flute, Penny Whistle, Guitar, all badly. I sing well.

Have you ever been Soldier of the Year? Yes, at Ft. Meade, MD (I also competed in the Eastern CONUS Soldier of the Year, but came in second…which counts for nothing, as it is neither a horseshoe or a hand grenade.)

Dark Chocolate, Milk Chocolate or White Chocolate? Dark Chocolate, followed closely by White Chocolate.


Thanks Tiffanie, for the interview. You are definitely a creator with almost no media unturned. Now, I’ll just crawl back to my keyboard and do my one, little creative thing 😉

If you are a creator, especially an independent creator, and you want to be spotlighted in a future interview, email me at rob@robhowell.org.

Also, if you want to join my mailing list, where I’ll announce every interview, as well as what’s going on in my life, go to www.robhowell.org and fill out the form (Name and Email Address) or drop me an email and I’ll add you.