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African American Civil Rights Culture Diversity Entrepreneurship Untold Stories We are Overcomers

The World Is His Canvas

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My father, Tim Giles — a Black man from Suffolk, VA, a “small” Hampton Roads town — did not have a small town mindset.

He wanted to be an artist. He wanted to travel the world.

And he did just that.

His mother gave him his first paint-by-number set as a snot-nosed and he hasn’t put down the paintbrush since.

After a three-year stint with the Marine Corps, he joined the State Department in the early ’90s and would serve as a diplomat for more than 15 years.

Through this opportunity, he was able to achieve his second dream — traveling the world. During his tenure, he visited more than 100 countries.

In fact, he kept both of his dreams alive, by continuing to paint during his travels. He pulled a lot of inspiration from what he saw, tasted and smelled.

Upon returning to the U.S. after retiring from the State Department, he decided to monetize his passion — thus birthing his business, Tim Giles Afro Arts and Crafts, LLC.

With the business came its ups and downs and frustrations — as all start-up businesses do. But through it all, his passion for art hasn’t wavered.

Hands Up, Don’t Shoot

Of the 2019 Commemoration’s themes, diversity resonates most with my father — understandably so as a black man in America — because it has provided him opportunities to survive and to provide for himself and his family.

Also, it has granted other black and brown families the opportunity to thrive in this country.

Particularly through entrepreneurship, my dad pointed out African Americans have been creative and innovative from the beginning.

Namely, Madam C.J. Walker and the prominent Black communities in Tulsa, OK during the early 20th century (my dad was able to meet and present one of his paintings to one of the last survivors of the Tulsa race riot, Dr. Olivia Hooker) are some of dad’s biggest inspirations.

Through his art and business, my dad wants people to have a chance to see America through his eyes as an African-American man.

Also, as an entrepreneur, he has shown my brother and I there are other ways to make money outside of a typical 9-5.

Malcolm X


One word that describes my dad’s artistic style and subject matter.

His material touches on the black experience — struggle, family and perception.

He said people who look at his work say it’s technically sound but it also speaks to them. They say “your work really tells a story.”

Daddy’s Little Boy

The average African American won’t have the opportunity to go to the “Motherland” — my dad has lived there for more than a decade.

While there, he discovered African artists were painting the same things as African-American artists — family, culture, struggle and dance. He admitted some of the best craftsmen he’s seen are from the continent.

Lil’ Jazzy

Ernie Barnes is one of my dad’s favorite artists due to his unique, vibrant and emotive portrayal of the black experience.

However, when it’s all said and done, my dad would like to be mentioned in the same conversation as Barnes and “Wak” (Kevin Williams), who both prolifically portray the black experience.

Also, in light of his battle with anxiety and depression, art has served as a source of therapy. He encourages all creatives to find mediums to release stress and anxiety and also to find ways to monetize their passions.

Editor’s note: Want to learn more about how the 2019 Commemoration is highlighting the diverse contributions of America’s three founding cultures? Don’t miss the 1619: Making of America Summit.


  1. AE Curator October 5, 2018

    Thank you so much for sharing this story! We are inspired both by your father’s journey and passion for art.

  2. Meredith Butts October 5, 2018

    Well written and so proud to be a part of you heritage.


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