She calls it ‘her diary’—a space where she can let all of her thoughts, dreams and emotions come to life. Tai Roberts, a local Atlanta artist, tells her story through her art. Growing up, Roberts moved around a lot due to her parents being in the Army. While in Germany, she was involved in ballet, Girl Scouts and joined an art club. This was when she learned she had a talent and interest in making art.
“I used to always sketch in my notes and draw little things,” says Roberts. “And my teachers would leave comments on the side of my work.”
Roberts loved what art did for her, it gave her an escape.
Finding Her Style
With her art, she loves how her followers can tell her style just by looking at some of her pieces, and she loves how her art resonates with many people. Roberts recalls a time when she was showing a piece of hers at an art show called ‘The Divine Feminine’. A guest looked over her piece with tears in her eyes because she saw herself in that piece. Roberts is still in the process of understanding what exactly her style is, but she’s enjoying the journey so far.
Attending Georgia State University has opened up a different perspective of how she can use her interests and make it into a career she’d enjoy. Her parents always kept her on track with her art, but coming to Georgia State opened her eyes. The amount of possibilities and support she’s been exposed to has inspired her, even more, to pursue a career in art and become an art teacher.
“It’s so cool having that [starving artist] stereotype out there and when you get into it, you realize that there are so many different career paths,” says Roberts. “And that’s what drove me to be an art teacher.”
As an art teacher, Roberts wants to emphasize the number of possibilities young artists can get involved in. As the “starving artist” and other stereotypes hinder young artists from art careers, Roberts wants to be for children what her art teachers were for her. A shining example, mentor, and safe space for children to act on their artistic talents.
Where She Gets Inspired the Most
With the endless possibilities she’s seen while attending Georgia State, she’s met some like-minded people and organizations. She describes the art community as having “so many pockets” of people to network with, talk to and bounce ideas off of.
One of those communities being The Primary Movement, an Atlanta based organization dedicated to providing a safe space for Black creatives and artists. Organizations like this helped Roberts gain inspiration and support from others in the creative community, as well as help her open up more. Although she describes herself as eccentric, she also feels that in public spaces she can be shy. This is where coming to the Sip Museum came in. A Black-owned public creative space where she learned to be comfortable with being involved in the social scene.
Marketing Herself as the Artist She Aspires to be
Throughout school, social learning and spending time at the Sip Museum, Roberts says the biggest component when selling her art is marketing herself, especially in physical settings.
Roberts explains that setting prices for art is different for every artist. With artists finding different ways to sell their art through printing and merchandising, a buyer can spend anywhere from 20 to thousands of dollars. Original work is going to be more on the expensive side because “you’re investing in what that art could become.”
“I think artists definitely should price their work at what they feel that it’s worth,” says Roberts.
One of her favorite and well-known pieces is “The Function”. When she posted the piece on social media, it gained a lot of attention and it still hasn’t been sold because of it being her most expensive —and special— piece. “The Function” is a modern take on Ernie Barnes’ “The Sugar Shack” and displays the essence of young Black culture. Roberts explains that by paying homage to an artist before her, it will make people do their research and find other pieces that may relate to each other.
“I wanted people to see my piece and go back and look at his pieces [the “Sugar Shack”],” says Roberts. “And compare to see the duality of them. Look at them an appreciate how much time has changed through art.”
Much of her artwork reflects pure and raw emotions, further showing why she refers her style to “her diary”. Her bold and vivid pieces revolve around the insecurities and embracements of the female body and speak to the culture she’s grown in.
Speaking Out and What We Can Look Forward To
During the surge of #BlackLivesMatter protests, many artists showed solidarity and awareness through their art. Roberts, on the other hand, didn’t feel the need to make a piece specifically for that reason. She went to the protests and signed the petitions, but these are issues she —and other Black people— have witnessed for years and it’s reflected in her art.
“As far as trying to speak on ‘Black Lives Matter’, I feel like I’ve been doing that,” says Roberts. “It’s just a part of my story, as a Black woman in America.”
Roberts says the pieces she has worked on during this time are reflecting more of the beauty and representation we need to see more of. In the near future, Roberts plans to make and sell more merchandise. With complications from COVID-19, she has to look into third-party companies to help push her work. However, she is staying on top of it and ensuring her consumers only get the best when it’s time. In the meantime, you can follow her on Instagram @taitheartist and browse her work at www.dopeartbytai.com.