Meet Odell…

Art is essential to me; it’s a part of me. Even when I was working seven days a week, I did art. Even when I was working in a garage with cars, I did pin-striping.

Odell, 57
Incarcerated: 24 years
Housed: San Quentin State Prison

When I was a child in private school, I would draw when we  would have free time after lessons. I had just seen some old horror movies, like Frankenstein and Dracula. I couldn’t explain it in words to the other students and teachers, so I started drawing the characters.  They loved what I drew! I thought, wow! It was an “Angels singing, Aha” moment.  I think they saw me in a new light and I was able to open up and express myself.  It was the first time I saw how to get positive attention for myself. I started drawing everything around me, all I wanted to do was draw! In prison, when I’m having a hard time, I volunteer my artwork or let my art be seen. It softens hardened hearts. Even if they don’t like the art, they realize I’m not just the jerk they were thinking I was. Art is essential to me; it’s a part of me. Even when I was working seven days a week, I did art. Even when I was working in a garage with cars, I did pin-striping.  It has always been positive in my life.

My artwork is tattoo or “low brow” style.  I don’t tattoo, despite my artwork. However, I do design tattoo patterns to be used by others to cover over tattoos they no longer want. It’s hard, laborious work and time consuming, designing pieces that fit their body while using design basics. I put rice paper over the old tattoo and create something new.  I also make it meaningful to them by learning who they are and what they want.  I’ve now evolved to painting and sculpture. I’m trying to bridge graphic art with “low-brow” art.  I just did a painting for my mom. I asked her what she wanted and she said the Lady of Guadalupe looking down as if she was watching over San Quentin.  I worked on it for a year.  When I sent it to her, she said it was f***ing awesome! I think it was the first time she ever liked my artwork.  It was another “angels singing” moment and brought tears to my eyes. My step-dad wants to put it on t-shirts and sell them, both a black and white and color version.  He already put one of my drawings of Marilyn Monroe as the Lady of Guadalupe in high heels on a t-shirt!  

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