When did you first develop an interest in art?
“I started painting in third grade, but I didn’t start doing it professionally until 7th or 8th grade. In 7th and 8th grade I started getting paid for it. I had some of my art displayed downtown in some galleries and someone bought it. Now, I’ve been doing more commissions and stuff like that.”
What interests you about portrait painting?
“That’s all I’ve ever done, portraits. I never really did animals or landscape because I thought they were kind of boring. I mostly do portraits of black people instead of white people. I feel like there’s a lack of representation of black people in portrait painting.”
How does your interest in race and representation in art affect your style?
“My pieces are very beautifully powerful looking, and some of my work is about police brutality and negative things against black people. My interest in these issues started in 8th grade when Michael Brown was shot, actually.”
Do you feel representation is an issue throughout the art world?
“Yes, it’s very present. There are artists like Kehinde Wiley and Kerry James Marshall who paint black people, but that’s very few considering there’s so many people who only paint white people. One thing I’m always asked is why I always paint black people, and no one would ever ask a white artist why do you always paint white people.”
What can art say about these issues?
“Sometimes art is really political, whether it’s visual art or music. I think it’s cool that I’m able to paint something that could change a conversation or start a conversation.”
Would you like to continue painting in the future with the same interest in race and representation?
“I want to do this as a career focusing on portraits, fine art, if that’s possible. I’ll still be interested in social issues.”
You mentioned some other artists who also do portraits of black people. Where else do you draw your inspiration from?
“I do my portraits of people from City High. I take pictures and then draw and paint them. When someone sees a portrait I painted of them, they love it. It makes them very happy. I like that experience and the connection.”