Welcome To The Art of
An Artist of the Diaspora Diaspora
I have no idea when I discovered art or if it was art that discovered me.
I grew up in Anniston, AL a place where finishing high school was in some circles considered the epitome of higher education. My first art contact was with a childhood friend of my aunt who was attending Miles College majoring in Art Education. I never actually witnessed her drawing or painting for that matter. What impressed me was the idea that she was an actual college student. At the time, my aunt was the first in the family to attend college.
My first experience with art was my sister seated at the kitchen table drawing from a comic book page that said “Draw Me and Win a Scholarship,” She never won the scholarship but that image was forever emblazoned in my head. I would be an artist.
As a man, an artist, a husband, and a father, I have searched my soul for answers to the questions: “Why this path for my life and my family? Why is this the way I must leave my mark on the world?” I have tried to get to the bottom of this obsessive need to create images and stories and display them to others. Is it ego? Loneliness? Fear? A desire for greatness? It is a difficult question that cannot ever be fully understood or explained. Simply put, like all human beings, I have an overwhelming need to communicate and connect with others. Unlike most, I create pictures.
My mother, like many parents before her, moved us north to Dayton, OH where I graduated from Roosevelt High School as “The Most Outstanding Artist of The Year.” My life was happening in tunnel vision, and I was headed straight for a head on collision with the Ohio University Art Department. It was the best and most important time of my life. I have been learning my craft ever since.
I left Ohio University in 1976 armed with my Masters of Fine Arts and the ego of the innocent kid who believed in his own press clippings, which at the time I did not have. I calculated a year perhaps two before the world of art would recognize my greatness and come calling.
After graduation I moved from Ohio to Boston, MA where the reality of what artists face in trying to grab a small corner of success became painfully apparent. Thousands of artists lived and worked in Boston. At the time, I could have easily been one of the worst artists in Boston. I had received my wake up call and it was neither quiet nor gentle.
I spent the next five years in the studio working and learning. One wonderful thing did happen to me during that time. I got married to the most wonderful woman whose support, encouragement and spirit kept me plowing forward during the hard times of doubt and insecurity.
My wife, Hauwa, and I moved from Boston to Zaria, Nigeria in 1979. I did not know it at the time, but I would live and work there for the next seven years. I spent most of my time either drawing or painting in the villages or learning the culture of the nomadic Fulani tribesman. The first year I created almost one hundred drawings. Learning to understand the nature of life in a society where life was nature and sometimes both hard and cruel was a lesson in the creative process that no art school would ever teach me. Those seven years proved to be the most important influence in my life and my art.
We returned to the United States in 1987, where I would teach art at the University of Akron for the next ten years. At the University of Akron while learning to teach others, I learned to push my art and myself to a whole new level. My next and present stop is Benedict College where I currently teach drawing, painting and manage the art gallery.
In my art career, a career that became my life, I have had the pleasure of illustrating ten children’s books and numerous spreads and book covers.
During the many presentations that I have made over the years, I have tried to get to the bottom where this compulsion to create originates. Decades later I am still at a loss for answers. Perhaps art is my way of searching for the questions that plague us all, from complex questions like fixing global warming and mending race relations down to the simpler ones like: what is the best wine and where do I find it and if found, can I afford it?