The Heroine’s Journey of Tiffany Miller Russell

What is the best thing that I love about my work?

Being able to bring something into the world that needs to exist. Being able to catch people’s wonder, and give them a new point of view through my artwork.

What is my idea of perfect happiness?

First off, I don’t believe in perfection of that kind. That probably sounds a little odd, coming from me being the perfectionist that I am. But I’d say… freedom to live in the moment, without regrets.

What is my greatest fear?

Being ineffective, unheard, misunderstood.

What is the trait that I most deplore in myself?

I’m pretty chickenshit. I’m non-confrontational and tend to avoid potential conflicts rather than working to solve them.

Which living persons in my profession do i most admire?

If Leonardo DaVinci were born in modern times, his name would be James Gurney. They are both mental tinkerers who explore daring ideas and test them out with working prototypes in real life.

Dan Chen is another Renaissance Man who excels expressively in many media. There is a quote by Robert Henri, “The object isn’t to make art, it’s to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable.” Dan and James are two artists I know of who really exemplify that quote.

Beth Cavener, whose work touches my soul on a deep, gut wrenching level. I’ve heard her speak and discovered our working philosophy and style is in line with the way I see myself. We’re weird in the same way.

What is my greatest extravagance?

Eating breakfast and lunch outside everyday (or as often as weather permits.) Going for walks in my neighborhood and nearby open space, especially before an oncoming storm, in quiet snowfall, or at twilight or midnight.

On what occasion would I lie?

I believe in multiple truths, which can make things difficult, because when everything’s a truth, everything’s a lie as well. I get myself into too much trouble trying to cover all my bases when presenting information or even offering my opinions. I’d probably be better off if I could learn to better ‘lie’ to myself… to pick and choose which facet of truth to hold to and de-weight others that are not serving to move me forward.

What is the thing that I dislike the most in my work?

I’m frustrated with how long the process takes. There is a lot of work in my head that needs to exist that I can’t get to because of other projects.

When and where was I the happiest, in my work?

I was pretty happy in high school, when I didn’t have any professional pressures. I could experiment with media, style, subject, or mood on a complete whim. Another time was when I was going out hiking and field sketching once or twice a week on a regular basis. I’ve never seen my art improve so rapidly with an all around basis before or since.

If I could, what would I change about myself?

I’ve lost a lot of self-confidence and self pride that I used to have in my college days. I’d like to be able to carry myself with that self-confidence again.

What is my greatest achievement in work?

I render wildlife in a hyperrealist way in the medium of bas-relief cut paper sculpture. As non-traditional as that is, I draw my influences from traditional two-dimensional art such as oil painting, pastel, and illustration. I’m delighted at how well my work has been received in the traditional fine art world. I’ve exhibited in the Coors Young Guns Western Art Exhibition, and received several awards from the

Society of Animal Artists. These venues are very hard to get into. I also had two pieces join the permanent collection of the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum this year in their contemporary western art collection.

Where would I most like to live?

In the mountains, surrounded by lots of wilderness.

What is my most treasured possession?

My collection of past sketchbooks.

What is my most marked characteristic?

I don’t know. I feel that’s the kind of question someone else should answer for you. Lots of people, even other artists tell me I’m very creative. Some people call me serious. My husband would tell you I’m stubborn. Personally, I like to think I have a good handle on the gestalt – I can see the details of a thing, while keeping an eye on the big picture and understanding the patterns of the whole.

What is my most inspirational location, in my city?

Castlewood Canyon State Park (ok, not technically in my city, but close enough) is a small canyon carved from where hills meet prairie. I feel an affinity towards places with rocks, the bones of the earth. You take a trail in and out of the canyon, hitting several ecosystems in close succession. Forests, scrublands, and riparian canyon bottom open up to a prairie pockmarked with pool filled rocks, and the wildlife there is intimate and incredible. I love it.

What is my favourite place to eat and drink, in my city?

One of the owners of the company my husband works for hosts an annual crawfish boil at his house. It’s fantastic. You eat jambalaya and spicy crawfish till you’re stuffed, drink with friends, and play outdoor games or in an indoor arcade. The food is great and never runs out, and the people are fun. You can’t beat it.

What books influenced my life and how?

There were two major turning points in my life that pivoted around books. Raptor Red by Dr. Robert Bakker is one of them. My dad gave it to me as a Christmas present somewhere in my transition from middle school to high school. It reawakened a love of dinosaurs and Earth’s prehistory. I’ve been heavily involved in the paleontological community since shortly after college.

The second turning point in my life was represented, not caused, by a book. That book is Paper Sculpture: A Step-by-Step Guide by Kathleen Ziegler and Nick Greco. Let’s just say it was at the right place at the right time when I needed it, when I first started looking into paper sculpture after discovering the work of Leo Monahan. We know where it went from there.

Who are my favorite writers?

As previously mentioned, Robert Bakker. He’s a paleontologist and Raptor Red is his fiction book, but it’s about as far from a dry academic piece as you can get. He writes very viscerally, straight from the head of an animal, and switches narration seamlessly. He has a bright sense of humor. Clare Bell, author of Ratha’s Creature in The Named series is a big favorite. She manages to contemplate on some deep issues about society and its progress in a series which on its surface is a well-written animal fantasy. Diane Duane, Sara Douglass, Urulsa LeGuin, Robin McKinley, I could go on; I love books.

You Only Die Once. What music would I listen on my last day?

If I knew the exact moment, and it was to be peaceful, I’d go out with Pink Floyd’s The Great Gig in the Sky. I’d probably bookend that with Learning to Fly at the start of my day. No other Floyd songs, not appropriate. And unlike the speaker in The Great Gig in the Sky, I AM frightened of dying, so I’d make sure to fill my day with some of that music that really gets me up, that I can’t help moving to. Metal and hard rock… Godhead, Spineshank… I’d have to fit in Iron Maiden’s Die With Your Boots On somewhere in there too.

Who is my hero or heroine in fiction?

I like well-written and believable animals; shapeshifters; characters who are just beginning to discover their supernatural powers; supernatural characters who are grossly overpowered; and those stoic characters who are not supernatural, but might as well be, because they handle themselves with that much skill.

Who are my heroes and heroines in real life?

Explorers; survivors; volunteers; developers; pioneers.

Which movie would I recommend to see once in a lifetime?

Pink Floyd’s The Wall. It’s an important part of our cultural history that’s been tested through time. The music and story are powerful.

What role plays art in my life and work?

As an artist, I find it extremely difficult to differentiate between the three.

Who is my greatest fan, sponsor, partner in crime?

My family has been, especially my husband. I’m extremely lucky to be surrounded by people who believe in me.

Whom would I like to work with in 2017?

Andrew Denman. We are both winners of the Society of Animal Artists’ Don Eckelberry Award, which is a travel award that pays for artistic field study in the country of Trinidad and Tobago. He had brought up a project idea of his that I had also wondered about. I’d like to follow up with him on that.

Which people in my profession would i love to meet in 2017?

I’m very lucky to know many people who have been my heroes from early on. I’ve met James Gurney only very briefly. I’d like to get to know him better. He seems like the kind of person you really need to sit down and have coffee or beer with on a regular basis, so you can have those great, brain-churning conversations.

What project, in 2017, am I looking forward to work on?

In regards to my trip to Trinidad, I’m really looking forward to creating some finished work and projects from it this year. I’ll be giving a presentation on my trip at the GNSI conference, and I’ve finished one paper sculpture inspired by my time there. I’d like to create enough to have an exhibition.

Where can you see me or my work in 2017?

The Art Students League of Denver’s Summer Art Market; Loveland Sculpture in the Park; the Arvada Center’s Paper.Works invitational exhibition.

I have a piece in the national tour of SAA’s 56th Annual Art and the Animal exhibition; the last stop will be the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley.

I’ll be teaching a paper sculpting workshop at the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators’ Conference in June.

What do the words “Passion Never Retires” mean to me?

If you love something, it’s a part of you. Stopping is unthinkable.

Which creative heroines should Peter invite to tell their story?

Clare Bell, Beth Cavener, Christine Knopp, Ellen Woodbury, Kim Diment, Annette Coleman, Jennifer Blair-Cockrum, Sophia Rose, Linda Feltner, Julie Askew, Karen Burkwall Johnson, Lindsey Wohlman

How can you contact me?

On the web:

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On Instagram:

On Etsy:


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