A speech language pathologist by day, and digital artist and oil painter by night, Griffin Tyler Parrott started her creative journey in the midst of the pandemic as a way to engage her young students during Zoom classes. Follow along to get her thoughts on the therapeutic benefits of art, her favorite Instagram art challenges, and how she balances work and art.
Before you did painting, you were doing digital art through Procreate. What inspired you to start your Instagram page?
So lockdown happened, and I work with preschool students, so we had to all go virtual. So it was kind of like, How are we gonna keep their attention? And I discovered teletherapists were putting out what are called Green Screen Activities, so it's like a PowerPoint on Zoom, and it looks like, you know, you're hopping in Santa's sleigh, or I dress up as a pirate. So I was like, Wait a minute, I could probably draw some of these backgrounds. So I just asked one of the creators, like, How are you doing this? I'm out of touch. And she was using Procreate and Apple Pencil. So I got it. And then I started drawing and my friends were like, You should just start an art page. So that's what happened. I started one in April 2021, I believe. And then it's just kind of evolved. I'll put up whatever my most recent painting is on my [Zoom] background. The teachers have noticed, it's become a thing, like, What's her background now?
That's such a cute art origin story. Did your students have any favorites of the ones that you put up?
Yeah, I made ice cream activities! So it was like a bunch of animals popped up in an ice cream truck, and we would scoop the ice cream and then we had to put toppings on it. I put a speech bubble out so it looked like they were ordering. And then we were practicing, like, goodbye, hello, and all that. They loved that one. I found that [the backgrounds] took a good 4 to 6 weeks to create because they're, like, 80 slides apiece. So I was like, wow, 'cause at first I thought I'd sell them, but then I realized I was only gonna crank out about four per year. So I'll still do little short ones that are maybe 5 slides. But yeah, there's a woman, Gogo Speech, that's doing the art project, and she has a subscription. I was like, You know what, I'm just gonna buy hers. I don't know what she's doing, but she's making a lot.
So what got you into painting?
Well, definitely quicker to crank out. I also, when I started the art page, was kind of stalking some artists and there were a lot of oil painters, and I was like, Wow, this stuff is amazing. And you can't really recreate the texture of oil digitally. So I was on summer break in June and I'd had my art page for two months, and I was like, I wonder if I could do this. So I just had nothing else to do so I was like, let me go get some tubes of paint.
As a speech language pathologist, do you find art to be therapeutic?
Yes, absolutely. I would consider myself to be a pretty strong introvert, so the concept of lockdown was great for me. After a lot of social interaction throughout the day—whether or not I'm interacting with kids back to back, and then jumping into meetings with parents and teachers—yeah, at the end of the day, I just do not want to talk to anybody and want to focus on something. The paintings really only take me about an hour, maybe like three hours tops for a bigger one. So that's an evening for me, with The Great British Baking Show in the background.
Did you always imagine once you started your Master of Education degree that you'd go into the career you're in?
I actually went into this field to work with traumatic brain injury patients. I liked cognitive science and neuroscience and all that. I interned at Shepherd Center in Atlanta, which is for brain and spinal cord injuries in Atlanta, and I was like, This is it, this is all I want to do. But it's really hard to get into the medical field. And then I noticed that you got all these breaks working at a school, and that really suits my introversion. So I just started working with the kids in the same way I worked with traumatic brain injury patients, and it kind of provoked my creativity.
When I was little, actually, I wanted to be an animator for Disney before I knew what that really entails. And I remember my parents were always like, You want to be realistic, think about it. But when I said I wanted to work for Disney, I remember my mom being like, You should totally do that.
You have a piece on Instagram from May 2021, of a set of hands and a pottery wheel, that mentions your mom taught you pottery. Is art something you grew up with?
Yeah, my mom's from California, and she is highly creative. And my brother is probably one of the most talented artists I've ever met. When I was a kid, I would go into his room and like, rifle through his drawings and his paintings and everything and try to recreate them. They were phenomenal. And then my mom is super creative. She can draw anything that you hand her, she did pottery, she decorates really well. She's always been ahead of her time with decorations and fashion. She's very good at cooking and baking.
I was always the art student of the year growing up, but I mainly did sketching, linocutting, printmaking, ceramics, never painting. I mean, it was like, I thought it was more permanent than it is. I thought when you put a brushstroke down that was it. I had commitment issues.
It looks like you do a lot of Instagram art challenges. How do you find them, and which has been your favorite?
When I first started doing digital, I was purchasing Procreate brushes from Bardot Brush, so I signed up for her Making Art Everyday prompts. She drops daily prompts every week on Sunday, and I'll just peruse and see which ones I want to do. And then there are specific ones, like the Candy Paint Challenge is hosted by two artists, Kate Birch and Leah Gardner, that I follow. I know Alai Ganuza does a Food Paint Challenge. I have a long list of things I want to paint in the Notes app on my phone, and as soon as something comes up in my brain, which can be literally at any point in the day, I put it in Notes. Then when I'm painting, I'll go through my notes and see if I do want to paint that, like, teapot today.
You definitely have a lot of food in your paintings.
Lately I've been inspired by photography and cookbooks. I do a lot of cooking, and I was flipping through my Cherry Bombe cookbook, and I was like, Oh my gosh, the photography in there is amazing. I've tagged all of them. A lot of times I find myself on cooking Instagram pages, and I'll just looking at, like, cocktails, and then I'll end up on a cooking blog, and then I'm seven layers deep on Instagram. Or I'll Google whatever they're making on The Great British Baking Show if it looks fun to paint. I'm really enjoying painting desserts right now. I think I could probably paint desserts for like the next year if I had to. Which is kinda funny because I'm not a dessert person. And I think I have everyone fooled on Instagram thinking I am.
What’s the best compliment you’ve received about your art?
Someone commented on one of my posts back in December and said, like, You always inspire me, and I thought that was pretty meaningful. I don't know them personally, they're someone I've kind of just become friends with on Instagram, but that was touching. I think I was actually going to skip painting that evening, but then I was like, Well, I gotta inspire, so let me get it together.
Any advice for fellow artists?
I would say you can be inspired by other people's styles, but don't try to replicate it. Obviously because it's copyright but also, art is like honing your handwriting—you shouldn't want to copy someone else's style. You should be excited to see yours flourish.
Griffin's work can be found on Instagram.