by Jeff Henderson·
My son, Elijah, is an artist.
I wanted him to want to see Kadir Nelson tonight at 7 World Trade tonight but he was busy doing something close to nothing but different than the day before.
My other son Jream, the designer, joined me instead.
Watching Kadir on stage was very reflective for me. He clearly doesn’t lavish the limelight but he’s comfortable in sharing his craft because he knows that he’s a role model for people who look like him.
I’m working on that part.
Kadir also reminded me of my original path as an artist. He spoke about the person who made art a reality for him as a child.
James Evans, Jr.
Aside from ‘Piano Lesson’ by Henry Ossawa Tanner, the only artist I recognized was Ernie Barnes through the lens of JJ on Good Times. So I drew my characters elongated and stretched. That was art.
I remember a teacher showing me an art book in elementary school and I distinctly remembering that it was nice but was clearly for other people.
JJ’s paintings were for us.
So that’s what I drew.
And I drew all of the time.
But I wasn’t comfortable being an artist. My family liked my work. My friends liked my work.
They were supposed to. I couldn’t see how people I didn’t know would appreciate my work. I wondered if I could earn a living with my strange sketches of people that looked like us doing things that I thought we were doing.
I find it a little strange that I would have so much insecurity with respect to creating art but give little thought to becoming a footwear designer at Nike with no design degree. I drew some pretty terrible designs in my day and had no trouble showing them to the world and taking the truth without blinking.
Why couldn’t I have done that with my drawings? With my art?
My drawing became my emotional outlet. When Junebug died. When Wade died. I didn’t talk to people.
I don’t remember the last time I drew something. I don’t miss it. I love art from others but I have no interest in creating my own. That’s not me any more. I had some troubling times in my youth so maybe I needed that outlet. I’m glad my family and friends supported my doodles.
But I have no inclination to create any more artwork. I’m satisfied seeing the work of Kadir and Elijah.