Tiff McGinnis, aka Grande Dame, is a self-taught visual maverick and professional free spirit from the United Kingdom's south coast. A polymathic artist, she started as a musician, creating visual work to accompany herself, but her bright, graphic characters attracted a lot of attention on their own, including the likes of MTV, who asked her to create animations; Terry de Havilland, who released a couture line in 2014 featuring her expansive, psychedelic landscapes as fabric and shoes; and most recently Apple, who featured some of her more recent sticker animations in their current campaign. McGinnis spoke to us about art nouveau, 1990s animation, and where she's headed.
When did you first start working with digital art and animation?
I started drawing caricatures with the mouse when I got my first Mac back in 1994. In 1999, I downloaded a kids 8-bit program called Animation Maker and started teaching myself animation with that. In 2001 I taught myself Flash when I made a video for a spoken word track I did called High Tide Hell, about a girl taking LSD for the first time. I was completely hooked on the process. It totally sucked me in like a visual vortex!
How does your location and your environment influence your work?
I would say location has influenced my work greatly. Before I moved to the UK in 2001 I was living in New York City. I moved to London after I got a record deal with Tummy Touch Records under my old moniker Crazy Girl. I didn't really have a budget for film, so taught myself to animate and made videos for my tracks. Then I started incorporating it into live performance. Over the years, the music has slipped to the back burner and the art side has taken over. I feel being separated from familiarity gave me the push to go into new mediums.
What draws you to these psychedelic themes? Has that always been a major focus of your work?
My dad was a hifi dealer in the Deep South when I was a kid. He also sold Bruce Lee blacklight posters and other stuff like that. They hung in the music room of our house. I looked at them every day from birth. That was massive for me. That whole psychedelic Art Nouveau revival. I'm also blind in my right eye. My eye doctor said my color spectrum is off the chart because of this. My brain overcompensates for what it is lacking.
What are some of your favorite GIFs, do you have any that you're particularly proud of?
As far as my GIF "library," as I mentioned, most are from previous jobs. I directed Alabama 3's last video for their track "I'll Never Be Satisfied", so I'm pretty partial to those. Kind of a psychedelic/deco/occult style with deceased iconic rock stars.
What are you working on now?
At the moment I am just beginning production on an animated short on the life and works of Southern gothic author Carson McCullers. I'm doing the music, vox and animating it. It premieres this July in Rome at John Cabot University for a conference called Carson McCullers in the World: a Centenary Conference.
You can find Grande Dame's sticker animations in the iMessage store, or follow her on Instagram and Twitter. Follow GIPHY Arts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Interested in becoming an artist on GIPHY? Read this!