A Black Gay Artist's Perspective

The DIOP Circle v.34

Written by me | Original Article

My art journey started in 2015/16 because I felt humdrum in my graphic design career and needed a new creative outlet. While I was happy using my creativity to make a living, I was unfulfilled. I had stopped my photography hustle because it became a hassle dealing with the cost of equipment and studio time, scheduling, and so much more, although I do foresee picking it up again in the future. Scouring my mind for ideas, I thought back to painting in high school and art classes in college. There was tranquility in working in solitude and letting my imagination run wild, turning a blank canvas into something amazing. So, I decided to make art for my office, something simple yet bold to speak to my graphic design sensibilities.

My family, friends, and coworkers absolutely loved it, so I used that encouragement to continue creating. I asked myself, what really excites me to paint? My mind went to fashion photography, so I started gathering photo research. As I dissected why I was drawn to specific photos, I noticed a common thread of intense eyes and powerful poses, using that inspiration to drive my first portrait pieces. The surreal skin tones and gold leaf came from my inclination to differentiate myself from the art I’ve seen around – eventually becoming my signature style. 

My art journey was chugging along until 2017 when I left a toxic relationship, gained a bunch of weight, and was majorly depressed. I stopped creating and tried my hardest to do the self-work to feel better, to no avail, so I sought out a therapist. That was the best decision of my life! I believe everyone should seek out therapy at some point in their lives, it’s been life-changing. Joy helped me sift through my emotions, past experiences, and acquired ideas to help me understand how I showed up in the world, to that point. Her self-portrait assignment helped me take account of where I started and who I wanted to continue to evolve into. After those revelations, I showed up in a whole new light. Now I have a warmth and love that I hadn’t had since I was a child and would say I’m absolutely the best version of myself. 

But also, at that time, I was lost on my art journey and uninspired to create. I deeply resonated with Nola Darling in the second season of She’s Gotta Have It because she also struggled to find her motivation to create. As I discussed that with my therapist, she asked me what my artistic message was. I didn’t have a clear message, but I bumbled through explaining that my art was meant to allow viewers to see themselves in my subjects, regardless of their background – the look on her face was quite revealing. She encouraged me to figure out the deeper meaning behind my work and what drove me to create. While I figured out my true artistic message, it was extremely hard to create art consistently and stay motivated.

After a magical trip to West Africa in December 2019, everything clicked! I had an immersive experience in Ghana, Togo, and Benin, connecting with my ancestors and discovering the beauty, culture, and natural spirit of Africa that isn’t showcased in media. It’s truly an experience all African Americans should undergo. As an artist, I was flabbergasted by all the connections I saw to my art, such as the patterns I instinctively create and my color choices. As one of my travel group members mentioned, it’s our blood memory connecting us to our ancestors. 

My profound Africa trip combined with the lessons learned from my therapist to be vulnerable, authentic, and allow people to see into my world, life has been nothing short of amazing! I’m more connected to myself, my art, and the people around me. I better understand why I create and own the message behind my art. I’m here to bring vibrance, boldness, and exuberance to the world through my distinct artistic, African American gay man’s perspective – invigorating people to celebrate their uniqueness and confidently let their true selves shine through — echoed in my motto: don’t blend in, stand out!