If I’m in this world and making a difference in a positive way, then I am honoring my gift.
Incarcerated: 34 years
Housed: Marion Correctional Institution, Ohio
My art story started as a kid, I always loved to draw. I would always find myself drawing, doodling, sketching, whatever. I had two friends back then who were incredibly good, and I would always wish to have their gift of drawing. I would bug my mom about painting on my bedroom walls. I would try sending my sketches in to see if I could win a contest for drawing from the back of magazines. As I grew older I drew less and developed other interests. Eventually I stopped drawing altogether until I made an attempt at college. I took an art class that barely lasted a semester.
It wasn’t until I was incarcerated for 15 years that I started drawing again. One of my Mexican friends who was on death row with me was extremely talented with drawing, painting, and inking. One day he was throwing out an old watercolor set, and I grabbed it. He gave me a couple of brushes and some paper. My very first painting was of Jamie Fox sitting in some old school car with a hat on, leaning out the window. Surprisingly enough, it turned out pretty good. That painting caused me to keep going. Shortly thereafter my friend, Loza, from California gave me some old oil paints. Once I got a taste of that medium I fell in love. I have tried every medium since then, but oil is the one I fell in love with. I still paint acrylic and watercolor occasionally, but I could never part ways with the oil medium.
I’ve been painting for quite awhile now, and have learned something new about it over the years. In the beginning it was mostly just about fun, but the more I discovered about painting, about art, about myself, the more it became something meaningful, purposeful, spiritual, even. I started developing a gift I never even knew I had. I have become so passionate about my art and being an artist of sorts. Now knowing the power of art, my approach to it is very intentional and purposeful. Sometimes it literally takes on a spiritual aspect, particularly and especially when I do memorial portraits for people who have lost a loved one. At first the spiritual nature of it was a bit strange for me, I had never experienced it before then, but the more I connected with the respective pieces, the more attuned I became to that side of it. I could be at some stage of the painting (and it’s different for each painting) and there would be times when it literally feels as if the piece (the face of the person) is having life breathed into it; it feels alive to me. It’s not something I speak on all the time, because most wouldn’t understand the process, but in instances such as this, I can speak on the matter freely. For me, there’s a great deal of reward that comes with painting and being an artist. Being commissioned for your work is awesome, and I can remember those initial days when I realized I could make good enough art for people to want to buy. Of course, that was an incentive in itself. And the better I got as an artist, the more I could charge, and the more commissions would come my way. Beyond the money, though, I came to realize through artistic maturity that there is an even greater reward to be had. And that’s the one you receive from those you positively impact. The complimentary words, the facial expressions, and stories people share of how the work has affected them. For me, that’s a beautiful experience each time it happens. I just received a Jpay from a stranger expressing how amazing they think my work is after seeing it on Tik Tok. And from there, wanting to commission a portrait of their dog. This is the stuff I love, and what moves me as an artist. If I’m in this world and making a difference in a positive way, then I am honoring my gift. This makes me happy. I hope to continue doing my part making people smile and feeling good through my art. This to me is the power of art.
As for the art itself, I enjoy painting portraits and people’s pets the most, because of what they mean to them. It’s the most challenging, of course, having to capture likeness and essence. I love it, though. My goal is to start doing more loose & abstract work where I feel I have more freedom to create. Doing all art is fun and offers its rewards, but I look forward to continue developing my style and making corrections through my art with people around the world. Art for me has been a bridge to many opportunities along the way, and I look forward to the continuation of this bridge building experience.