Kenneth’s Gallery

Kenneth’s Gallery


Artist Kenneth, 69

Incarcerated: 23 years 
Housed: Stateville Correctional Center, Joliet, Illinois

I express my reality through art and poetry. My biggest regret is failing my son. I take responsibility for him sitting in the cell right above me. Despite all the things that challenge us as black men, I fail him as a father.

My art is born out of the many social injustice issues that we face day to day; such as the school to prison pipeline, protests and to black lives matter. There are proud moments, to man’s call and dependence on something higher than himself.  I paint and write with the purpose and intent to provoke thought and conversation. I ask you for your feedback and suggestions and if it motivates you to get involved in helping the marginalization of the black and brown. We are often forgotten.

Thomas’s Gallery

Thomas’s Gallery


Artist Thomas, 52

Incarcerated: 27 years

Tell us when you first became interested in art?

It’s a really funny story, how I fell in love with art. When I was nine, my father had a friend who was a painter. At the time my family had just moved into a new house and the friend gave my father a painting. It was so amazing to me. The painting had such lifelike characteristics. I was hooked. It’s so funny to think about it now, I would get up close to it and look at it from the side to see if somehow it bulged out to trick the eye into seeing that. I had to figure it out. I guess in one sense I have been chasing that image ever since. Since then art has been a refuge, a companion and more importantly a connection to others. The ability to bring others together is the most satisfying part for me. Most of the affection my work has gotten has come recently. Because of you, my art has received more attention and the feedback from others has been so positive. I’m falling in love with it all over again. I thank you from my heart, God bless you. Finally, for another time, there is another aspect to my art: this story is the very essence of irony and fate. Again God bless you all.

Sean’s Gallery

Sean’s Gallery

Artist Sean, 34

At 17, I was transferred from juvenile hall to the county jail and held in isolation. The day after my 18th birthday I was moved into a dorm full of adult men. I was young and scared. I met two men who I would eventually be sentenced to more time than the two of them combined, life without the possibility of parole (LWOP), plus ten years for an enhancement; all for a crime I did not commit. During this time, I met an older Hispanic man covered in prison tattoos. His tattoos and prison experience made me nervous as he sat in the dayroom drawing. I was captivated by his effortless skill. After I got up the nerve to approach him, he was pleased to share his artistic knowledge. Using blank white paper and hair grease bought from the commissary, he taught me how to make tracing paper, then shade with graphite pencils, rolled up toilet paper, and elementary blending of colored pencils. My artistic journey began slowly and mostly consisted of simple cartoon images, but I was hooked. I enjoyed drawing and the peace it gave me.

Over the next several years, each new artist I met, I would ask for tips and advice. I found my passion in colors. I ordered books on colored pencils and studied them intently. I practiced their techniques, pushed beyond my comfort zone and began adapting my own techniques utilizing my accumulated knowledge.

Nearly two decades later I am sharing my artistic knowledge with others. Colors are still my passion and I see them in a way that allows me to blend them into vivid colors. I have always loved creating my art and sending it home to share with my family. I never thought I would be able to share my art on a platform such as Humans of San Quentin and I am honored to do so. There is very little beauty or color in prison, but even the concrete and steel cannot stop me from creating the colorful art I love to share.

Raul’s Gallery

Raul’s Gallery


Artist Raul, 63

Paper Coffee Painting

How do I paint with coffee? Instead of paint with brushes, I use a paperclip to paint. Using the tip and slanting the paper clip sideways paint larger spaces.

It is tedious work and requires patience and a steady hand.

The first step, I use a small plastic medicine bottle cap to place the coffee into. I use Folgers Freeze-dried roasted coffee. I scoop a small amount of coffee into the cap flush and even. It’s a very small portion next, I use only a couple of drops of water into the coffee.

Making the coffee thick, and dark. Stir evenly to smooth out the syrupy coffee. It’s ready to go! I use a large paperclip and bend it to a semi-straight point. I do draw with a pencil first if it is a detailed painting, but I do paint freehand.

Can’t remember if you’ve read my “Thank God it’s Friday” story but it’s about a gift of giving and serving, back in the midst of my past pediatric phlebotomy days. That helped me develop a steady hand back then too!

What does paperclip coffee painting do for me? It gives me a peaceful and calming in the midst of our incarcerated/quarantined life away from our family (no contact visits). Limited access to showers, yard, cold food, and impossible social distancing. I miss all of you, followers, free-staff, and my family. I haven’t seen my family (regular visits) in over 2 years.

I hope you like the story and paintings. Thank you, Diane, Juan, and the awesome loving Humans of San Quentin team. I totally miss you guys.



Anthony R’s Gallery

Anthony R’s Gallery


Artist Anthony, 32

My story is similar to a lot of people who know what it’s like to want more out of life, while struggling to become the best version of themselves. However, the road I traveled wasn’t paved with blue skies and flowers. I grew up alongside three brothers during the ‘90s, raised by a single father who thought the central valley of California would be safer than the cold, southside of Chicago. It soon became obvious that the ugliness of poverty was anywhere we called home, yet my father still managed to give his best. Throughout my early childhood, I learned to busy myself in order to blur out the bad things. I picked up books and read until I was no longer in my reality, but immersed in the story and world created by the author. This began my curiosity with creative writing and anything to do with the arts.

As humans, we all have the ability to express ourselves in many different ways, whether negative or positive. Myself, I choose to mix the two in order to create a strong, captivating message in hopes of inspiring change.