Survivor Star Creates Art for Brands Like Nike, N.Y. Rangers

Self-taught, Tiffany Nicole Ervin infuses her work with joy and light

Tiffany Nicole Ervin is getting a lot of attention for competing on the most recent season of the CBS' Survivor. But the New Jersey native is also an accomplished artist known for creating colorful acrylic paintings and digital artwork as well as apparel.

"I like to consider myself an all-around creative," Ervin tells Muse. "It's whatever the spirit moves me to do in that moment—that's what I go for."

Here, the self-taught artist discusses how her positive personality drives her work. She also highlights projects for brands like the New York Rangers and Knicks, Jordan and Nike.

MUSE: How did you get on Survivor 46?

Tiffany Nicole Ervin: I started watching in high school. I applied when I was in my early twenties, and I never heard back. I kind of went, "Okay, I guess that's that." And somewhere along the line, 10 years later, I decided I was going to go for it again. After watching some of the new-era seasons, I was like, "You know what? I feel like I'm in a difference place in my life because 33-year-old Tiffany and 23-year-old Tiffany have lived two different lives. I've been through a lot more. Maybe I'm a little more prepared to go on the show now." I submitted the audition tape, and got a call right back. I think the universe was just waiting for me to be ready before it put me on the show. Because now, knowing what I had to go through, I know 23-year-old me would have been chewed up and spit out. 

Your fellow competitors included rocker Ben Katzman. And lots of other creative people, including writer/actor Mike White, who developed the HBO series White Lotus, have competed on Survivor over the years. Do you think there is a special place on the show for creative types?

Absolutely. You have to have some element of a free spirit. You have to be able to move, have a certain fluidity about you. And people who are artists and creatives tend to fit into those categories. I feel like it's something that any person with an adventurous spirit would want to try to accomplish. And artists, by nature, we have adventurous spirits. We're curious. We want to explore. And Survivor is the ultimate adventure.

When you got home from Survivor in Fiji, did you get back to making art right away?

I wasn't in a rush to create. It took me about a week-and-a-half to decompress. I came home, got my phone back, I didn't even use it. I texted my parents and siblings like, "Hey, I made it home safe, but give me a week to learn how to be human again." And it wasn't until I had the chance to digest what the experience that I was able to make some doodles. And then I did a really cool painting. But it took me a while to jump back in.

Did you know from a young age that you were going to be an artist?

In school, I was into the ceramics, the painting, the drawing classes. I took it all. But career-wise, I never thought I'd be an artist because everybody always scared me when I was growing up, saying things like, "Oh, artists are poor. Artists don't make any money. It's such a hard field to break into."

So, when I went to college, I was a political science major, and I was quickly humbled by that because I did not enjoy it at all. Then I got into the entertainment industry doing video production. It wasn't until about 2016 that I started doing artwork for fun again. I started showing my paintings to my friends, and they were like, "Tiffany, we had no idea that you were this good." And I started sharing [my work] on social media. And people started reaching out, and it kind of took off. 

Your paintings and prints are vibrant and joyful. Where does that come from?

The joy is heavily influenced by my personality. I would also say it's influenced by my perspective on the world, and I think that's a good and a bad thing at times, because I'm a person who is really optimistic about everything, about people, about situations. My friends kind of warn me, "You're so nice. You always see the best in people. You always see the good in every situation. Sometimes, you've got to learn to see the bad a little bit." They describe me as a unicorn, or somebody who walks around with her head in the clouds. But those are just the things that I gravitate towards—color, liveliness, brightness. That's what makes me feel the most alive.

Your work has been exhibited in group and solo exhibitions, and you've created art for major brands, including the Rangers. Tell me about that project.

That project was amazing and echoes a lot of the reality of how I have worked with a lot of brands. Most of the time they just find me on Instagram [Ervin's handle is @tiffycrazycool]. They'll reach out, and they'll give me a prompt or a project, and I'll get started from there.

It was actually Madison Square Garden that reached out to me, and for the Rangers I designed a custom hockey jersey and a puck for a Black History Month game. They were reaching out to Black artists, and they wanted our perspective on what we would want the players to wear and do and feel in that moment, in that celebration.

I also did some work with the Knicks. I was able to make some digital work they put on the Jumbotron during the game.

After I saw your work for the Knicks, I was thinking I would love to see you work with the N.Y. Liberty.

I would love to, because I used to play basketball. That would be the perfect alignment of the stars.

You've also done some cool projects with the Jordan Brand.

Jordan had me design 50 custom art pieces. I designed them digitally. They were art prints. I designed the art prints, and I signed and numbered them 1 through 50, and each print was placed in a box that was sent out to some of their influencers to promote the new Jordan's women’s line that was coming out.

And you've created art for Nike.

I've done a ton of digital work for them across different brands like Jimmy Jazz and the proper Nike account. What I do is usually digital imagery that they'll put on their website and in stores.

Every year, Nike has Air Max Day. They celebrate the Air Max sneaker, one of the most popular Nike sneakers. They sent me a couple of sneakers, and I was able to create artwork inspired by the sneakers. They put that on their social channel, and they put some of the branding in Jimmy Jazz stores. They sent it out to a few influencers and celebrities. 

I have seen and admired your sneaker collection on your Instagram account. Do you have dream clients that you would love to work with?

Yes! Two of my biggest dream clients are Apple and Target. Apple specifically because I use all of their technology to create my art. And Target because I absolutely adore the collaborations that they do with independent artists and women, whether it be custom prints or merchandise or clothes.

Now that you've been on Survivor, have you heard from any new brands that want to work with you?

I did a speaking engagement for Adobe, which is another dream client of mine. It was amazing. They had me come in and speak to some of their college ambassadors. I ran them through my artistic journey, and then I held a contest where each of the college ambassadors used Adobe Express to create their own Survivor tribe flag. I was able to pick a couple of winners, and they won prizes through Adobe. That was just one of the beautiful opportunities I've had so far.

Christine Champagne
Muse contributor Christine Champagne is a writer based in NYC.

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