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Published by Mandela Media (Baltimore, MD) Copyright ©2021 Larry Poncho Brown Poncho Retrospective: 40 Years of the Art of Larry Poncho Brown All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, scanning or any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data ISBN 978-1-7379276-0-0 First Edition of 2000 Print and color management by iocolor, LLC, Seattle, WA Printed and bound by Artron Art Group Co., Ltd in Shenzhen, China www.iocolor.com www.larryponchobrown.net www.theartofponcho.com


TABLE OF CONTENTS FOREWORD | DR. LESLIE KING HAMMOND.............4 INTRODUCTION | DENNIS L. FORBES.......................8 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS............................................. 10 IN RETROSPECT | THE ARTISTIC JOURNEY............12 PONCHO RETROSPECTIVE...................................... 41 RAISING THE ARTS.................................................. 187 BIOGRAPHY.............................................................. 256


FOREWORD | DR. LESLIE KING HAMMOND “It’s important…to use art in a manner that incites people to look and then carry something home even if it’s subliminal - that might make a change in them.” Joyce J. Scott, Mobilia Gallery

“But we must tell our stories, and not be ensnared by them.” Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Water Dancer


rtists, as creative makers in today’s world, find themselves with complex, nuanced challenges to construct and design images of critical relevancy to African American, Black, Diasporic and BIPOC communities, however they define themselves. Whether visual, written or spoken word, dance, performance or music, the artistic intent is weighted with an urgency to be a catalyst for social change, explore narratives that are truth telling, revealing, affirming, and positive, poignant portrayals of Black life in America. This publication is an insightful focus on Larry Poncho Brown as an artist and designer through a conversation, his own evolutionary story and decades of an expansive range of imagery he has created. This has been a project, years in the making, that is a testament to his artistry and commitment to the communities he holds in high regard. It is also a pivotal historical contribution that begins to address the critical void in the recognition of creative makers in the ‘Up South’ Middle American region of Baltimore City. Caught between the rural agricultural South and the industrialized urban North, Baltimore

as a crucial contributor to the legacy of an American cultural heritage, has been under represented in the annals of historical documentation. Poncho is Baltimore born and educated as are MacArthur Fellows, mixed media glass sculptor Joyce J. Scott and renown author Ta-Nehisi Coates. They each share different provocative views of Baltimore, and as such represent an intellectually rich - yet, geographically under recognized potency of this locale. This publication is one of many forthcoming initiatives to redress, reveal and elevate the legacy of Baltimore City, its creative artistic makers, designers, artisans, tinkerers, doodlers who believe that the arts are fundamental to the quality of all lives. Larry Poncho Brown has thoughts, a story to tell and a robust proliferation of empowering, positive, beautiful representations of Blackness, that need to be studied for the clarity and agency he instills in his subjects, in this community that is his home. Leslie King Hammond, PhD

Photo by Kirth Bobb


Larry Poncho Brown in Conversation with Dr. Leslie King Hammond LKH: What was it like to grow up in Baltimore? Where did you go to school? What were the occupations and education of your parents? LPB: Life in Baltimore always felt like one big non-stop family reunion. It was still a community of extended family, all working under the paradigm of it takes a village. I went to school at Eutaw Elementary, Mount Royal Elementary and Liberty Elementary, just to show you how many times my family moved during that period of time. I also attended Garrison Junior High School under the tutelage of David Humphreys. Later to attend Carver Vocational-Technical High School, where I blossomed as an artist under the guidance of Mr. Chenal Alford. My father, Larry O. Brown, Sr. was a linotype operator, turned printer, turned vocational education instructor in the area of printing. My mother, Diretha Victoria Hall was a stay at home mother, that mostly worked domestic jobs, cleaning houses, even as a parking lot attendant. Both of them were parents at a young age, and my mother really didn’t have many skills. She later worked in food service, as a dietary aid at St. Agnes Hospital where she ultimately was close to retirement before she passed. LKH: When did you know that you had artistic potential to become an artist and designer? Who or what were the particular influences and supports in your path to become a professional creative maker? LPB: First through my father who was a self-taught artist. I was born into an environment of creativity. I can say that under the tutelage of Chenal Alford, the commercial art instructor at Carver Vocational High School, single-handedly was the person responsible for guiding me down the path of becoming an artist. His lessons, his approach to surviving as a creative were heavily imprinted on me at that period of time. He also instilled the importance of mentorship and how each one of us was responsible for teaching each and every person in our community. One of the things Chenal Alford expected of me from the time I graduated high school to attend the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), was to pay it forward by giving workshops and lectures to his students every year at Carver Vocational-Technical High School until he retired as a teacher. He also transferred that responsibility of help-

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ing other artists, where I think was where I formed my artist advocacy foundation. Influences came directly from entrepreneurship. Most of the people who attended vocational education during that period of time in Baltimore city only had high school educations and were able to start businesses immediately after high school, even if they had no desire to attend college. I was trained and apprenticed with several people who were in that position. I adapted and adopted the way they dealt with their own businesses while formulating my own early on. LKH: How did you begin to develop your thematic focus on Black imagery and why was it important to your aesthetics and ethics? What are the catalyst or muses for your creativity? LPB: I began to develop my focus on black imagery in high school. I always drew from comic books, but I began to switch from what I had been seeing to utilizing people of color, specifically African American people, in heroic positions. From that I eventually continued to find ways to incorporate people of color in the majority of my works. I wanted our people to see themselves represented. When I first started in the art business, there wasn’t a lot of representation of people of color. And so while it is on trend now, back then we were all longing to see positive representations of ourselves. Some of the catalysts or muses for my creativity was of the woman. I’ve always seen great power in the women around me in the communities I grew up in. No matter how men and women were viewed and their roles were defined, black women always rose to sheroes in our community. And I had hoped that the same energy would be seen in my work. But I also saw the black man being marginalized in our history and in the media. I


felt the need to focus on creating strong black men images, including full-family images. Those were most of the muses, as you can say, of the subject matter of my work, from as early as my high school years. LKH: Are there any particular artists or artistic movements that have provided inspiration for your own projects and/ or commissions? LPB: My favorite artist on planet earth ever is Charles White. The way he depicted our people and the mediums he used and being such a technician of those mediums intrigued me very early on. To this day, despite the fact that I have seen many master artists’ works, Charles White’s work, most resonates within my spirit. His balance of strength and vulnerability is masterful. I went to see the Charles White’s Retrospective in New York City, and it was the first time I was emotionally overtaken viewing an art exhibition. Some things you just can’t define in words, but his work speaks to my spirit. I also was intrigued by AfriCOBRA because I am attracted to bold color. I saw them using all these badass colors in their works, and their pieces were very Afrocentric. I like to think that it has carried over in some of my work, but those artists, that was probably one of the biggest artistic movements that had an impact on me, and having met several of the artists from that movement were truly an inspiration for me. LKH: In the work of Baltimore artist - Joyce J. Scott, New Orleans artist - Willie Birch, and Chicago’s Theaster Gateseach have a very important connection to the place that community plays in your artistic practice and the business of art. Please describe the origins, activities and importance of community in the life of your artistry. LPB: It’s very simple. I was born a lower middle working class child, from a lower middle working class family, in a lower middle working class community. We saw the good and the bad living in that existence. In order for us to survive, we had to work together. That same adage followed me through school and was my basic approach to how I deal with artists and how I dealt with my community. I have often devoted much of my time to middle school, elementary school, high school students of Baltimore City. I have developed programs and curriculums for different art projects, despite the fact that I had no real intention to become a teacher. It’s the backbone of who I am. I came along during a period where artist like Thomas Stockett, Robert Torrance, Ernest Kromah and a slew of other


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famous Baltimore artists, that ran with my Dad. I came up watching them, and I also saw the attitudes that many of them had while doing their work. Many of them had low aspirations for what they thought they could achieve in the arts, and many of them didn’t get a chance to get celebrated until they were much older. I was young enough to experience that, question that, and try to address that as I approached my career as a professional artist. I think that my Baltimore community awareness and being a steward of my community cannot be removed from the art that I create or my artist advocacy. As a matter of fact, I think the two of those go hand in hand. I am not just an artist for artists’ sake. I am an artist that likes to be an example to other artists of what can be attained by elevating their gifts and communities. LKH: How important do you believe the arts - visual, performance, spoken, written, poetic words, dance, design and music are to Baltimore - in this era of a relentless 21st century pandemic, riddled with grinding conditions of social injustices, poverty, health care disparities, climate change, limited educational opportunities compounded by systemic criminalization of BIPOC citizens? LPB: As an BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People Of Color) citizen, that’s a big sentence. But what I will say that I believe the arts are a departure from the hard realities of life. Art truly beautifies our world and lives. It shows us positive possibilities, while also making us question what is not right with our world. It shows aspirational possibilities. It frames us in a way that the media never could. It projects us in a way that history books have not recorded. I believe that, at the core,

visual arts, performance arts, spoken word, dance, once you remove those things, you remove our lifeforce and place us in danger of culturicide. Baltimore is a city of culture, just like any other city in the United States despite all the things we see that seem like generational ancestral curses. I see these things as being very important. I don’t see it to be any different, even though we’re in a pandemic. The role of social injustice is just as alive today as they were back then. Poverty in our inner cities is just as prevalent today as it was yesterday. Healthcare disparities are even more than they were before. And the criminalization of our people has always been part of how this country continues to keep us at bay and under control. Racism is still at the core of most of the problems we are faced with despite how much we have advanced as a culture…. but we remain BEAUTIFUL. So, I am very aware of how those things work, and I can’t see, as a young black man, how that wouldn’t impact my imagery. I think there is a certain level of perseverance and strength in my work that is there regardless of whatever subject I’m trying to depict. I think the global scheme of what’s happening is a microcosm of what’s happening in this world, especially in our communities. I am a realist and understand that these problems will exist long after I leave this planet. I just hope that the arts continue to bring these subjects front and center, and I’d like to think that my work is relevant and current and a reflection of all of those things that we feel in our communities. I also hope that as we steadily begin to lose the right to freedom of speech in this country, that censorship does not permeate what topics can be depicted by artists, or that we will have to begin to dumb down our work to appease the many voices that desire to be heard.

became mainstream under a movement that had never been recognized in our written history. I would like to think that the projects that I do now will continue to elevate and bring attention to not just the artists on the fine art realm, but for all of the commercially-successful artists who have painstakingly driven their intention to have their works represented and supported by their communities through accessibility of their work. LKH: Are there other future thoughts or concerns you would like to address? LPB: Divisions in art are beginning to change. Fine art was never intended for mass consumption, or for our community to appreciate Black artists. Artists were viewed in one spectrum, are now beginning to be viewed in other spectrums. Artists from the fine art realm now are bridging a divide between commercially-successful artists. There is a pool of artists that have reached celebrity status like Charly Palmer, Paul Goodnight, Synthia Saint James, Annie Lee, and Charles Bibbs, that our communities readily recognize, where they may not really recognize a Charles White, Elizabeth Catlett or Romare Bearden. It is great that we are beginning to see the success and attention to Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald. One group really has permeated the veil of community, and the other may have a larger challenge of doing so. It is my hope to continue to represent commercially-successful artists and give them the accolades that they deserve for changing the accessibility and perspective of art and creatives in this country.

LKH: What is your vision, plan, next steps for future projects and collaborations? LPB: I was diagnosed with cancer four years ago, so my vision and plans have changed. I’ve now had to accelerate the “legacy” aspect of my career. This book is one faction of that circumstance. I do plan, in the next phase of my career, to move completely outside of my comfort zone to working on projects that further bring light to black creatives and creatives of color. I am currently working on a documentary entitled The Golden Age of African-American Art which is an interview of over 35 artist, gallerists, and art dealers that discuss the pivotal period between 1985 and 2005, where African-American art

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eveloping a readily recognizable aesthetic as a practicing visual artist is very crucial to separate yourself from other artists. This aesthetic will create a demand for an artist’s brand and creativity. The learning process to establish a signature style helps to create an organic customer loyalty and commitment to the artist’s brand. The business of art requires that a visual artist create unique and remarkable compositions and themes. This book through selective documentation of Poncho’s artistic works exposes the fantastically successful art business of Larry Poncho Brown whose art compositions and themes are saturated with vivid colors. During the past forty years, Larry Poncho Brown has been an artist to watch and his works the ones to collect by collectors because of the energy contained in his innovative artistic creations. Looking at the creative and multi-faceted art offerings of Poncho, I noted that he offers sculptures, ceramics, glassware, limited edition prints, open edition prints, posters, original works on paper and canvas, clothing, greeting cards, masks, and the classic “Poncho.” Impressively, he has won numerous awards for his creativity in the highly competitive world of art. Poncho, who by the way, loves the excitement that a challenge offers, has immersed himself, since he was a young lad, into creating unique art objects that then as well as now echo a strong universal urban cultural content. Notably, Poncho’s artistic beginnings were stimulated by his beginning his professional art career as a sign maker painting stylistic letters on billboards and buildings around the city in Baltimore, Maryland. Poncho’s mastery of sign art made it easy for him to transition as a trail blazing visual artist to watch during the emergence of the digital age and become an effective communicator of his artistic aesthetic and skills to followers of his brand through the use of present-day social media communication vehicles. As a young emerging artist, Poncho forged forward with strong determination to achieve and expand his “BIG” dream to become a professional artist of influence. To make his dream a reality, Poncho focused daily on establishing an end game strategy that reinforced his surging aspiration to become an


Photo by Kirth Bobb

accomplished artist -- even if he had to make daily modification adjustments. He developed a guiding triangle principle consisting of perseverance, enjoyment, and hope. The compilation of works contained in this book will spark intrigue as you look at the vivid use of color and the compositions of the body of unique work produced by Poncho. Interestingly, the works presented reveal a special continuity of the ebb and flow of Poncho’s life as he consciously dabbled with radical art concepts. The materials, surfaces, and paints and cutting-edge technology that he used resulted in the output of a high volume of works about jazz, dancers, everyday life, and much more. As a longtime frontline champion in the business of art, Poncho has been arousing the interests of art collectors with impressive art creations. His work embodies iconography and his artistic contributions warrant investigation of inclusion into the sphere of art creativity by a contemporary class of innovative visual artists. As you react with inquisitiveness to the unique stylized works presented herein, it will become clear to you that Poncho did not waste any of the years of his study of art. As you note his courage to experiment with his ideas, take notice through this documentation of his earnest attempts to develop a creativeness that is now recognizably his style that causes collectors and institutions to have a high demand for his creations. As a result, Poncho has emerged as an influential modern visual arts master. Poncho, not afraid to be strong and confident, when asked to describe his creative processes, said, “In my eyes, my cre-

ative process is very simplistic. After years of trying to conform to many others’ art philosophy and expectation, I have learned that experience was necessary for me to take a more organic approach. In all of my years of learning the arts, I never heard the word “spirituality” ever being utilized. Over time I realized that the word was crucial to my creative process. It is a very spiritual experience for me and many other artists. Rather than bog myself down with philosophy, I have learned to just get quiet and allow myself to simply “BE” creative. My work vibe is one where I attempt to get out of the way of all philosophical restrictions. I have learned the rules, the regulations, and the ethics. Now I attempt to create an open space for me to empty my brain. Not being concerned about whether things are right or wrong or meet people's expectations, while immersed in whatever projects I am working on. Art is therapy, and for me it is the ultimate brain emptying session. Going into the studio helps me restructure my thoughts and my own philosophies. As a child in art class, we were not bogged down with rules, regulations, or philosophy. We were allowed an empty space to create. I find myself reverting to those early days and desiring that same creative space. It is at that moment that I feel closest to “God.” Although the details of his creativity might not be obvious, his insight allowed him to integrate his accumulated knowledge of art to sustain a creative flow to bring into existence intended art objects that he worked on. The creation of diverse works of art created in his studio and featured in this book cause excitement, wonder, and a sense of magic for the viewers of Poncho’s artistic expressions. From the streets of Baltimore to his tragic studio fire of 1995, through adversity and setback, it becomes clear that through the years, Poncho has reinvented himself and his business by performing strategic environmental scans. He consistently uses inventive art ideas and imagery that people of all ages readily connect with, both therapeutically and emotively. Art collector Robin Jackson of Washington, D.C., and owner of artwork by Poncho said, “I was drawn to Poncho Brown’s toe tapping woman in the piece “Natural Rhythm” because it shows her body fully engaged in movement as most of his art reflects. Mr. Brown is also from my hometown of Baltimore and I wanted to support a local artist whose works show a depth of color, rhythm, movement and a reflection of our culture. I later purchased a piece of his wearable art – a poncho. I still chuckle that his name reflects the article of clothing that I wear proudly.”

It is critical to pay attention to the colors used, gesturing, movement, layering of materials, compositions, and the inclusion of compelling cultural subject matter that Poncho uses in order to gain insightfulness of Poncho’s versatility as a modern American master artist.

Photo by Kirth Bobb

As you look at the featured works presented herein that Poncho created, note that Poncho harmonized his art education with creativity and became the inventor of the diverse and distinctive artistic style that readily identifies the artwork of Larry “Poncho” Brown. Poncho leverages cost conflict for his art projects in a meaningful way to bring his ideas to life. Because operating a business can be mystified with uncertainty, Poncho recognizes that human interaction must be genuine and from the heart. In addition, he has learned how to leverage art to fund his pet projects, which offsets cost conflict. He knows that whether seeing a work of art or looking at a work of art -- the difference -- is in the eyes of the viewer. Now, prepare yourself for a visual treat as you flip the pages again and again of this very special hand-selected compilation of 300 plus diverse works by Larry Poncho Brown that span from the early 1980s to the year 2021. This book provides an enriching broad glimpse of the amazing talent and evolution of a modern 21st century master visual artist. From this retrospective collection of works by Poncho, be sure to realize and enjoy the ingenuity, wall power, rarity, and innovativeness of works by PONCHO! Dennis Forbes Sebrof-Forbes Cultural Arts Center 9



s I approach the legacy aspect of my career as an artist, I would be remiss in not giving honor to my family.

To my mother and father posthumously, Diretha V. Hall and Larry O’Neill Brown, Sr., Thank you for passing your legacy to me. I am forever grateful for you both allowing me to spread my wings and fly. Your undying support was truly the wind beneath my wings. How awesome to have both parents become your biggest cheerleaders! I felt your pride with my every stride, and I still feel your presence today. Congratulations on what has now become three generations of artists in our family. To both of my sisters, Jacqueline Brown, and the late Hilda Neal thank you for tolerating me. I know I was a pain, a nuisance, and a little silly at times, but at least I got a smile or two out of both of you. Much time and sacrifice were necessary for my journey. All of my many hours of studio isolation, travel, time away from home, and other notoriety demands surely presented many challenges. Fatherhood truly impacted my drive, motivation, determination, and commitment. The universe provided another artist as my partner. Thank you, Isabelle Massey, for always providing an open creative environment for our children. I have an amazingly talented daughter, Fontaine Patterson, and a creatively gifted son, Mandela Brown. Both of you assisted me in expanding and evolving as a better person, as a father, and as a friend. It amazes me to see the genetic creativity passed down to and through us. May all of your creative endeavors manifest in abundance. I am blessed to be completely surrounded by a constant circle of creative expression. God truly has blessed me. Much respect to my village of great Black men who always had my best interest at heart. The late David Humphries, the late Chenal Alford, my second father; Joseph Ford, my third father, and Lawrence Kirk, my Godfather. You were the true pillars to my success. The lessons you imparted and the wisdom shared


with me were invaluable, but the love you shared was immeasurable. Together you made me fearless and focused. Much respect to my writing contributors Dr. Leslie King Hammond, and Dennis L. Forbes. Each of you were selected because of the impact you have made in different stages of my life and Larry, Mandela, Poncho career, and the historic Photo by Helen Baskerville contributions each of you have made on the art world, specifically in the support and advocacy of African American art. I also thank my editing team of Isabelle Massey, Dr. Tuere Anne Marshall, and Elma La Touche for clarifying the array of story lines in my head and made them all make sense. A note of recognition to Jeff Salva of Archival Arts who unknowingly prepared me for undertaking this project by providing professional images scanning services of my art for the past two decades. Giving honor to my design team of Joseph Ford, Donna Gardner, Perry Sweeper and William Maxwell. May we continue on the path of visualizing creative journeys. Many thanks to Eric Diggs and Lamerol Gatewood for all your printing consultations. To the many gifted artists with whom I have shared creative comradery, fellowship, kinship, and friendship: the late Carl Owens, the late Annie Lee, the late Harry Davis, Charles Bibbs, Synthia SAINT James, Paul Goodnight, Karen Buster, Deborah Shedrick, Sylvia Walker, LaShun Beal, Phyllis Stephens, Grace Kisa, Charly Palmer, Kevin “WAK” Williams, and Leroy Campbell. Thank you for being my extended family. To all my sisters and brothers from another mother. You inspire me, make me feel like family, and challenge me to stay focused. You all make me want to work harder. A special thank you to each of you that entrusted loaning work to me for redocumentation of lost images that made it

possible to fill gaps in my creative timeline from destroyed images due to my studio fire of 1995. A special thank you to all of our 256+ Kickstarter Backers. Your crowdfunding support allowed us to expand the vision of this project and acted as a testimony for all of my friends, family, followers, collectors, and artist family. Essentially you all have become the publishers of this book. We deeply appreciate the commitment of Joseph Ford, Enyd & Lafeal Scott, Jacqueline Philyaw Hoskins, Fran B. Ngong, Elaine & Charles Bibbs, Kibibi Ajanku, Keith Robertson, Cecil Flamer, Blackman D. Aziz, Lisa & Ron Redd, Beverly & Dan Tutman, Coltrane, Moses, Karlene & Kamau McRae, Cassandra & Damien Carter, Dr. Tuere Anne Marshall, Umoja Fine Arts, Barrie Johnson, Iris Jenkins, Dr. Monica Y. McCall, Lynda V. Browne-Kidd & Family, Karen & Kerwin Mercurius, Joe Hines, Gwendolyn B. Jones, Virgie & Arnold Williams, Cynthia Ham, Deborah A. Shedrick, Christine Lynn Miller, Valerie Cooper, Ernestine Jones Jolivet & Russell Jolivet, William C. Gibson & Linda B. Gibson, Diane Walker, Eric G. Tombs, Sr., Alika Muhammad, Khadija Edith Brandt, Dr. Marcella A. Copes, Mona Wilson Lopez, In Memory of Wilson “PAPA” Williams, Patricia A. Thomas, Antoinette Russell Hamilton, Debra Allen, Paula E. George, Gary A. Dittman, Janice King/Janice King Art, Black Art Today!, LLC, Eather Reynolds, Abe Lavalais, Jacqueline Thompson, Teri L. Bankhead, Phyllis Stephens, Lauren Ishmael, William R. Jones, Patricia Levine, Norma Tate-Perry, Jennifer E. Johnson, Tammy Britton, Yahna Gibson, Spencer Boyer & Prudence Bushnell, Katherine Rogers Mozee’, Kirth Bobb, Michele Galloway, Richard D. Wilson, Jr., Sandra & Timothy Hamp, Roshanda D. Prior, Karole Gray, Angela Lee, Bomani Tyehimba, Elaine & Benjamin Antonetty, Kennie Johnson, Beverly Richards, The Sennaar Family, Donna Gardner, Randa Tukan, Kammeran T. Giggers, Lawrence Kirk, Isabelle Massey, Alma Willis, Corinthia Peoples, Frank Frazier, Keith Golden, Barry Blackman, Jeff Salava, William Brandford, Deborah Peaks Coleman, Cynthia Johnson, Ayanna King, Shades of Color African American Gifts, Jaye Richardson, Greg Scott, Julia Ficklin, Regina E. Lewis, Ellinore King, LaKeisha, Joshua & Jermaine Page, Wendell Supreme Shannon, Kay Minnis Bloodworth, Tia Latrell, Ira Barry, Angela C. Johnson, K. Joy Peters, Viveca Mays, Inge Pelzer, Theo McNair, Jr., Akosua Josephine Robinson-Reed, Sharman Knight, Marlon D. Briscoe, Donna E. Montague, Florence & Bernard Flashman, Geneva Marie Frazier, Dr. Joanne E. Nottingham, Dorothy Chaney, Jennifer Ayana Harrison, Dr. Perry Sweeper, Jessica Bolt, Dondra L.

Davenport, Madelyn E. Godfrey, Rozalind Sinnamon-Johnson, Dolores & Patrick McGuire, Dr. Yemonja Smalls, Kinya Kiongozi, Glenna Iona Cush, Tyneir B., Lenda Powell Hill, Linda McShann, Jesse P. Johnson, Carolyn Cheaton, Jolyn GC, Nick Savage, Rona E. Evans, Eugene Lyle Henderson, Linda ClarkeTucker, Linda R. Rosborough, Sharon Duffy, Matt Williams, Kelvin Henderson, Christina McCleary, Annmarie Pancham, Evo Systems, Eugenia A. Turner, Kimberly McDowell, Keith Washington, Tracey & Karen Buster, Andrea M. Davis, Dee Bolton, Ed Towles, Paula Pierce, Lawrence A. Randall, Darcenia McDowell, In Memory of Helen Baskerville, Elaine Thomas-Williams, Jerome T. White, Regina & Rodney Wren, Malaika-Tamu Cooper, Terra Vinson, Dr. Jamila Ajanku-Willie, Preston Frazier, George Johnson, Fay Ashby, Teresa E. Mack, Lisa M. Burch-Harney, LaShun Beal, Victor T. Green, Yvette & Larry Fuller, The Carter Effinger Crichlow Lee Whyte Gantt Clan, Betty J. Bussey, Tanya Montegut, Dana Esposito, Curtis Grayson, III, Vivian Smallwood, April R. Smith, Tanya Snow, James E. Murphy, Jr., Jamaal Barber, Svaace Global, Shawn Livers, Jolyn E. Gardner, Jason Smith, Victor Green, Beverly L. Anthony, Robert Ginyard, Damaris Hill, Chuck Bibbs, Stephanie Bartee, Diana Shannon Young, Irving E. Washington, Jr., Louise Cutler, Sonya Reese, Francine D. Brownley, Sauda A. Zahra, Dr. Gabrielle Lynn McLemore, Cheryl A. McLeod, Esq., Ife Robinson & Mansa Makamu, Cheryl Ingrid Foster, Alesia & Kerwin Hall, Charles Chuck Fowler, Kevin Antonio Johnson, Michele Bartholomew, Deidra Bell, William Maxwell, Aundra Lafayette, Gracye Johnson, Sharon Scott Brooking, Patricia Carey, Natalie Carter-Prince, Oneida Holman, Kevin Robertson, Clyde Johnson, Clarence Abu Green, Linda Brown-Burton, Cheryl Brown-Butler, Ambika Sample, Sharon E. Bunch, Linda Brown-Burton, George Ciklauri, B/ue Robin, Creola Swift Macklin, Tamara Jones, Dr. Lisa Cooper-Lucas & Raymond Lucas, Wanda Rhinehart Felder, Linda Gray, Wanda R. Leggins, Dion J. Pollard, Carolyn Goodridge, Sylvia Gbaby Cohen, Patricia Coleman-Cobb, Oronde Kairi, Sharon Attaway, N. Edwyna Ware, Lawrence A. Randall, MOXIE Solutions Development, Patrena Booze, Eniola Olowofoyeku, Artlisia Bibbs, Imani Arthur Williams El, Sr., Yeshiyah Israel, Carren Clarke, Glenda Simmons, Eubie Blake Cultural Center, Black Art Depot, Dana Easter, Francena Bean-Waters, Sandra Johnson, Cheryl Frazier, Eric Walker, II, Carmen D. Montgomery, Sareena M. Jones, Partlow Art, Jermaine Davenport, David L. McAdoo, Glenda Simmons Jenkins, Thomas Elias Lockhart, III, Sandy Hinton, Leon Johnson, Tsoi Kin Wa, and The Creative Fund by BackerKit for believing in this project. I truly appreciate you all.



My parents were only seventeen years old when I came into their world. I was born Larry O’Neill Brown, Jr. on December 19, 1962, to Diretha Victoria Hall, my mother, and Larry O’Neill Brown, Sr., my father. Additionally, I had one older sister, Hilda, and one younger sister, Jacqueline. Both of my teenage parents were born in 1945, so we were a rare house of all baby boomers. We were also the typical struggling lower, middle class African American family surviving the climate of the 1960s and 1970s in blue-collar Baltimore City.

Diretha Victoria Hall, my mother, and Larry O’Neill Brown, Sr.

My father was a senior at Carver Vocational-Technical High School around the time I was born. He began his aspirations of becoming an artist by selecting commercial art as his trade, but after a few years of financial pressure and job prospect frustrations, my father made the decision to switch his area of study to printing. It was my father’s vocational training that eventually made it possible for him to transition into a job as a linotype operator at a few printing facilities in Baltimore. One of the Baltimore facilities was the Afro-American Newspaper. He was often the only person of color on the job working as a typesetter and linotype operator. He was later recruited by Baltimore City schools via a special workers equivalency program and transitioned into a career in vocational educa-


tion teaching printing in several area Baltimore City schools. In addition to his printing career, my father was also a championship wrestler, who later coached high school and college level wrestling, cross country, and track and field. I remember looking up to my father and wishing I had his talent and athletic abilities. He was a self-taught artist, and I grew up with his work all over the walls of our house. It was not uncommon for us to do small print jobs in our kitchen on a small platen printing press that he kept at the house. After a while I figured out that I actually liked printing. The only problem was I didn’t feel like my father wanted me imitating anything he was doing. It seemed no matter how much I tried to please him, I usually was criticized by him or ended up feeling rejected. It became apparent that much of this energy was because my father was a frustrated artist. There were few opportunities in those days for young black men to pursue art, or art careers. This was at the core of why my father shifted his area of study from art to printing. I’m sure these frustrations manifested in our creative interactions. Nonetheless, I decided at a young age that art was going to be my path. From as early as I can remember, art was a part of my life. Looking back, it was apparent from an early age the way art drew me in. It may have been because I was born the son of a teenage parent who sacrificed his dream of being an artist to take care of his family. I watched my father, not knowing what he was actually going through, try to paint. It was always a mystery to me what he was thinking? How was he feeling? Where was the imagery coming from? I attempted to try to do the things I saw my father doing. As a young child, all I could do was imitate, like most sons, who aspire to be like their father. My father, on the other hand, was a frustrated artist, which I think made him become a little competitive instead of nurturing. I also think it motivated him to deter me from that dream because in the 1960s and 1970s my father did not have the outlet to be a successful artist. At that same time, I experienced several opportunities to witness my father interacting with other notable Baltimore artists like Ernest Kromah, Robert Torrance, Thomas Stockett and various others. But something always seemed strange to me as a child. All of these wonderfully gifted black men were

painting in their home studios and talked about their art as if they were dreaming to make it big one day. That confusion even followed me from grade school through college.

Role Models and Mentors

After a while art became my silent friend. Being a loner and a middle child, who pretty much stayed to himself, it was so easy for me to time travel while drawing. It was a retreat for me. I drew Marvel comics, cartoons, or anything that I could identify with. As a child, I was a big fan of Batman, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Snoopy, and the Incredible Hulk. In my elementary school days, after my family’s last big move from East Baltimore to West Baltimore in 1970, I was befriended by my big brother from another mother, Eric G. Tombs (Ricky). Ricky had quite the sense of humor, which got us into several harmless fights. Ricky would tease me just like any older brother would, but the one thing Ricky never joked about was my art. As a matter of fact, he probably was the first person who made me take my art more seriously. We often would spend hours drawing comic book characters. Eric and his older brother had the largest Marvel comic book collection I had ever seen. This was way before television sets in every room, computers, and video games. He was the one person and friend that was curious about my artistic abilities regardless of what I felt about them. Friends often see potential in you, before you actually see it in yourself. My biggest memory from Liberty Elementary School was when one day my teacher asked everyone in the class to stand and say what they wanted to be when they grew up. Of course, we had a lot of lawyers, teachers, doctors, and an occasional astronaut. I stood up proudly and said, “I would like to either be a yellow school bus driver or an artist”. The room filled with laughter, as my teacher interrupted and said clearly “a bus driver is an honorable job.” I didn’t realize that the yellow school bus driver that passed me every day was driving a bus transporting challenged students. I just thought it would be cool to ride on the bus rather than walk to school. The most interesting distinction my teacher made was that an artist wasn’t even worth talking about. I thought the class was laughing at me because I said I wanted to be an artist. Of course, I sat down with much embarrassment and confusion.

Mr. David Humphreys was my art teacher at Garrison Junior High School, and he was the first adult to stare me in my face and say, “Son, you need to start taking your art more seriously. Mr. Humphreys began forging me to believe in my art. He would give me school assignments to do. We had many assemblies at school, so he would first get me to do full artistic backdrops for some of the assemblies. Then he assigned me to do bulletin boards in classrooms, decorate display cases, for upcoming holidays, and for classroom doors and hallway decorations. I had a few people who were pivotal in pushing me in a direction of making me see my art in a different capacity. I also began to participate in many local art competitions. I had plenty of opportunities to compete against other students, where I began to realize that I had more going for myself than I thought. It gave me a lot of confidence at a time when I had so many negative interactions in middle school. I think I began to see my classmates react to me in a different way because of my talent. By the time I got to senior high school, the way I was perceived by other students changed. I didn’t even realize that most of the bad experiences had disappeared. One, because I was so busy most of the time. Two, because I was beginning to blossom into really knowing who I was and answering those questions, “Who am I? Who do I want to be? Do I want to be my father and end up being a frustrated artist who has no real opportunity?” or “What do I want to be?” But at the same time, I had this ability that I still was keeping captive, and it wasn’t until I began to get opportunities being forced on me by teachers that I began to really grasp that I could do something larger


with my art. At that point, the desire to satisfy my dad began fading into the background. It was like the opportunities that were available for me began steering me in a completely different direction where I was no longer waiting for the validation of my father, as far as my art was concerned. My high school years were magical because that was the first time I began to feel like I had my own identity. It was around that time that my mother and father separated. I was about 14 years old as I entered Carver Vocational Technical High School, which would surely change and save my life, at the same time. Meeting Chenal Alford was the most awesome experience that I can remember because here I was walking into a classroom with a guy that was 6’5”, with an additional 6” afro. His voice penetrated walls, and he would cast this shadow just standing in front of you. There was a level of respect extended immediately because he was a man’s man. Not only was he a man’s man, but he was also a pro-Black man’s man. Mr. Alford always challenged his students to challenge their brains. He challenged us to read, to seek out our history, and to understand that we were from royalty. As a matter of fact, the first thing he ever said to me was, “Son, you’re a descendant of the Kings.” And I thought to myself . . . “this man is crazy!” On one occasion, Mr. Chenal Alford looked me square in the eyes and said, “The white man would never allow you to do the kind of art you want to do, so let me teach you how to letter and you will always eat.” I enrolled in his commercial art class, which taught hand lettering. The sign writing program

included design, layout and composition, perspective, light and shade, but extensive study of typography. It was a three-year program where students would work in the classroom their freshman and junior year, and in your senior year you would be assigned work study. Mr. Alford made me an apprentice under his teaching assistant Barbara Thomas, who had the reputation of being one of the quickest signwriters in the city. I learned how to letter relatively quickly. As a matter of fact, I learned that I had a natural ability for it. Students normally would work up to their senior year in order to be eligible for work study assignments in their senior year. I actually picked up the lettering concepts in three months, during my freshman year. I was one of the first freshmen students they considered for work study at Carver Vocational-Technical High School. They took a chance on me and placed me with an alumnus of Carver Vocational-Technical High School by the name of Jerome Washington of Washington Signs, in Baltimore. I got my first job at the age of fourteen, which completely changed my life. At that time, I was still doing lots of art, mostly fantasy themed pieces. I knew nothing about Black artists at this time, so my work evolved into fantasy, and science fiction. My Black awareness was just beginning to appear in those early works. Mr. Alford was challenging me on Black consciousness and Black history. He even posed questions about Jesus being white and blue eyes, the kings in Africa, civilization was birthed in Africa, the first man was found in Africa, and how the bible was really based on other cultural stories. I mean, this man really got deep into my head and deep into my spirit. He was the first person to have me sit down and compare things. He often would have me read passages from books by historians Dr. Yosef Ben-Jochannan and Dr. Ivan Van Sertima. This was my first true introduction into African and African American history beyond the cliff note versions of Black history I had been taught. It was also when I began to realize that this history thing just might have some merit. My mind was blown understanding the vastness of African civilizations and culture.

Chenal Alford, Carver Vocational Technical High School


Chenal Alford, Barbara Thomas, and Me

Here I was in high school beginning to incorporate some of that new knowledge and new awareness in my art. Mr. Alford recognized I needed to continue going down that path of finding out who I was. He completely altered my thinking when it came to religion, history, blackness, and everything else that was soul searchingly expansive. He truly broadened my horizons. Now, if you can imagine getting that kind of horizon broadening, how it would affect your art. I went from drawing things that were representational of other cultures, such as comic book characters and white characters to suddenly doing Black characters and creating Black heroes. I stopped drawing Marvel comics and I drew my first Black character. As a matter of fact, on my birthday in the 11th grade year, Mr. Alford let me do a mural in the commercial art class and it was a depiction of a Black hero I created named Kronos, which I stole from my father, strangling the Hulk. If you were assigned a mural on one of the walls of our shop, it meant you were one of the top artists at Carver Vocational-Technical High School. My mural was displayed for about two decades at Carver. Those years were magical, but they were also full of challenges. Life was coming at me relatively fast. Chenal Alford realized I had one foot in the streets and one foot in the classroom, and at that time he was going to do whatever he could to save me from the streets. To keep me driven and engaged Mr. Alford made me join the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America (VICA), a regional trade Skills Olympics competition. I entered each year and won two silver medals and two bronze metals with different commercial art disciplines. I was the first 10th grader to win a medal in that contest. Mr. Alford was explaining to me why it was important to draw from things that you saw, work from your imagination and work from the basics. I think he began to feed more information and more techniques to me because he saw me grasping

them so quickly. But I think he also knew that if he kept me busy, the likelihood of me getting in trouble was slim. He protected me all through high school because he was aware that I was experiencing a few developmental challenges as I was transitioning through high school. My parent’s separation really emotionally impacted me during that period of time. However, it was soon afterwards that I began to find my way and enjoyed doing what I was doing, but being a sign painter kept me busy. Not only did it keep me busy, sign painting kept me in a position to make money. Before I knew it, I was able to make a stream of income where most kids in my neighborhood were not even sensitized to working or were on the boundaries of moving into a bad life in Baltimore. Art saved my life several times because it actually kept me off of the street while most kids were doing their thing. I was in a corner somewhere drawing while kids were outside riding their bikes and creating mischief. I was in my bedroom drawing. When I was in class, I was drawing. Most children wished they had a secret power. I started to really believe that my secret power, was art. And so, I committed to it fully. And I began to see the rewards of committing to my art. At that time, I had no idea whether I was good, whether I was above average or whether I was just average, but it began to come to me that maybe I was a little above average because I had a knack for learning quickly. If you showed me something once, generally I would get the concept and I would duplicate it and move on. And it wasn’t long before I started doing my own adaptations to what I’d been taught. I had no intention to attend college. By the twelfth grade I was completely tired of school and was only willing to go into the work world. The trend when I was in high school was for everyone to go into the military after graduation. I wasn’t from a military family, so the notion of going into the military really wasn’t part of my plan. The idea of world traveling, on the other hand, sounded wonderful, but the fact of the matter was I had never even traveled outside of Baltimore. I was interested in knowing what was happening around the world, so traveling was definitely going to be a part of my future. My brain was totally screwed from the beginning with regard to ever being hired as an employee because up to that point I had met many African American people with entrepreneurial spirits who owned their own businesses. Towards my senior year, I was still on work study, which cut my school days in half. Just before graduation I was informed


that I was in college. I think a lot of them assumed I was probably dealing drugs. I kept that part of my life to myself. I’d always heard those crabs in the barrel analogies.

Photo by Helen Baskerville

by my counselor that I had received a few scholarships from Carver Vocational-Technical High School to continue my education at the Maryland Institute College of Art which was located in Baltimore City. I knew the prospect of me going to college would make my parents proud as I would have been the first college attendee in my immediate family. Even though I had no desire to continue my education, I knew that many people had higher expectations for me. Later, I would find out that I had no clue what to expect as I prepared for college. Truthfully, at that point I didn’t even know what a scholarship was. I hadn’t been to the counselor’s office, except for when I was in trouble. So here I was in my 12th grade year being offered these things called scholarships. At that point in my life, I thought my future was going to be that I would graduate from school, find a little shop that I could afford to rent, I would paint signs, and live happily ever after. After all, Mr. Washington worked from a garage attached his home. I was tired of school, and ready to be out of school. Nevertheless, the scholarship actually changed my trajectory. This “thing” was being offered to me and everybody around me was telling me I should do it. So, on a dare from my high school teacher, I enrolled in the Maryland Institute College of Art. Trust me, I was not college ready and had no clue what I was walking into, but this trajectory would certainly change my path. I would later be inducted in the Carver Vocational Technical High School “Hall of Fame” in 1993, as well as being invited back to Carver as graduation commencement speaker in 1997.

College Culture Shock

I was living two lives . . . part city boy, part college student. Being from the east side very few folks in my community knew


Initially, I thought I wanted to be a cartoonist, animator or something like that. I often would fantasize about maybe doing comic book art. By the time I reached college, I realized a few things. One is that, when I said I wasn’t college ready, I wasn’t. Even though I was a pretty good student academically all through high school, when I got to the Maryland Institute College of Art, I quickly found out that I had some problems. Imagine if you’re going to school half a day and academics half a day in a vocational setting, you’re probably going to be a little weaker in academics than most other students, so when I got there, it was an immediate culture shock. Imagine going to orientation at a new college with about 300 students in an auditorium. Imagine only seeing about fifteen black students in the crowd. The staff began to do a roll call of the students and the classes they were to attend. It seemed that everyone was present. As they completed checking off the list they asked if any student had not heard their name. They asked us all to stand. About 30 of us stood up, only to hear an announcement that would set the pace of things to come at the Maryland Institute College of Art. The announcement stated that if you were standing your financial obligations had not been met and that you should report to the financial aid office to resolve any financial matters. It was the most embarrassing experience I had ever had. I wasn’t by myself though because surprise most of the other students were the same color as I. I later found out that the few scholarships that were given from my school were not enough to cover my first semester of tuition. I also found out that my high school had an arrangement for a four-year scholarship once had been defaulted on by a former student. And no, I could not resume studying there on what was left of the scholarship. I was informed that the scholarship was offered in four-year cycles. The former student had only completed two years before they dropped out. How could a black person drop out of a four-year paid scholarship? So from the very beginning I had to struggle.

Academic Challenges

My days at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) were really confusing. First, I had gone to all black schools my entire life. I did not see one child of another race through high school. When I got to college, it was just the reverse. Most of

the kids were white, and that was culture shock. I came from a predominantly black school. In fact, I never had a white student in any classroom until college. My most difficult adjustment was in the area of academics. For the first time since my high school years, I realized I had some academic challenges specifically with English. Even though my academic grades were in the 80s and 90s all through high school, when I took my English placement test at MICA they decided to place me in English 101. Now, English 101, typically, was for international students who were speaking multiple languages. That was very embarrassing for me to be placed in English 101, because I only spoke one language. Why am I in this class?” Everybody kept trying to explain to me, “Well, you tested pretty low in English, so we’re going to put you in this class just to kind of get you acclimated from your high school life to your college life, and then you’ll be fine.” I reluctantly got onboard, and I started going to these classes. Believe me, it really was an eye opener because what it did was introduce me to other students that weren’t white that were from all over the world. Here I was in this diversity movement without really knowing it, and this was before diversity was as popular as it is now. What I started learning was that I was fine in my studio classes. As a matter of fact, I was a little above average in my studio classes in my foundation year because of my vocational educational and the things and techniques I learned in high school. It gave me room to catch up with my reading because I didn’t do much recreational reading. I could pass my tests in high school without even doing any studying. It just made me buckle down, but it made me join a group of people that came from different cultures. I can’t tell you how that impacted me. I needed it because at that point, I was actually fearful. On the other hand, the foreign students at the school seemed to welcome me with open arms. The foreign students were from all over the world and most of them came from pretty prominent families. They also had money which was something I had to always work hard for. I, by no means, tried to hide the fact that I was financially challenged. Every now and then they would invite me to a party or get together. Most of the time I accepted their invitations. At those gatherings we discussed everything from foods, other cultural traditions, to religion. Some of my most valuable lessons were learned by affiliating with the foreign students. It was very interesting coming from a Christian background,

to talk to other people with other religious affiliations. In my sheltered life, I thought there was only Christianity. I would soon learn that all my views would be challenged. I began to feel as if I were the most arrogant and naive person in the group. We had pretty good representations of many faiths in our group. Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Christians and even an Atheist. The interesting thing was when we’d have discussions on religion, they were always civil. There was no yelling there was a general respect for each other’s faith. From my Baptist background, I never had the opportunity to meet other people from other faiths. This experience changed my life. It was there that I began to pay attention to the other things that were happening in the world. I quickly humbled myself and tried my best to focus on my academic classes. Our school was going to be more than just drawing and painting. For a moment I questioned whether I had made the right decision, but I had a history of completing what I started. While trying to catch up in my English classes, I developed a great relationship with an instructor named Joe Carderelli. After I passed in a few assignments, he commented that I had a knack for writing and that I should pursue it further by beginning a journal. I had kept a journal for most of my life. It was not uncommon for me to have a few diaries. He challenged me to read more and motivated me to write more. It took me awhile to appreciate literature, but by the end of his class, I had a better appreciation for writing and conceptualizing my ideas.

From Signwriting to Illustration

Sign work was becoming scarce because of technology. I did hand lettering from 1979 all the way up to the late 80’s. The art form was becoming competitively challenged by Gerber Systems and other plotter-based technologies. These new vinyl cutting systems began threatening the future of hand lettering. So, I was already beginning to feel the squeeze of the industry adapting to this new technology. It was around that time that I had an opportunity given to me from a couple of local film studios. They still needed hand lettering for movies and commercials because the plotter-based systems at that point, produced lettering that was very stagnant and mechanical looking on camera. So, I made a transition from waiting by the phone for my old sign clients to call me back into local television and video reaching out to me for freelance work, which was much more lucrative. I was reinventing myself again. After a few months, I left my temporary job at the


maintenance department at MICA and immersed myself into studio work. It felt prestigious to be working indoors painting signs for commercials that you would see on local and national ad campaigns on television. As I made this transition into the local video and film arenas, I got a couple of big commercial opportunities, including commercials for local Chevy dealerships and I aligned myself with Balloons Over America that needed imprints on their balloons for different commercials. I also created a life-size dollar bill mascot for a local Maryland Lottery commercial campaign, which eventually led me to contracts on gigs with Barry Levinson who was shooting his movie, Avalon, in Baltimore City. I was young and I was black and there weren’t many black sign painters in that arena for some reason. I knew every Black sign painter in the region because we were trained in the same place, and we all had the same philosophy and hustlers’ mentality. I was fortunate to learn from many legendary Black Baltimore sign painters like Ricardo Valentine, George Wainwright, Al Green, James Forney, and Jerome Washington. Along with my former high school teacher, Barbara Thomas, who pound for pound was the fastest signwriter in Baltimore City. She was the reason why I learned lettering so quickly. My first signwriting job was at Washington Signs. Washington had to be one of the most accurate letterers in the game. So here I was learning from the fastest signwriter in the city and the most accurate letterer in the city. Now, I was an inner-city kid, working with this Hollywood set stationed in Baltimore. They needed letterers to do time-dated facade work on signage, vehicles, and murals. I was young and enthusiastic. I’ll never forget the lead came through one of the video companies I was working with that the studio was looking for sign painters. So, I contacted them, and set up an immediate appointment. I showed up with my lettering brushes in my back pocket. I’m excited. I’m full of confidence. I get in there and they proceed to pull out a blueprint and lay it on the table. The lead painter Danny Hinzo said, “Now, Mr. Brown, we need you to duplicate this blueprint.” And I go, “Do you have any other instructions?” And they replied, “No. We just want to see what you can do.” It was like a test audition. So, I looked at the blueprint, I looked at the measurements to the lettering styles on the blueprint. I was familiar with all the materials. I had an old Walkman. I put my earplugs on, and I proceeded to reproduce this sign from the blueprint on the set. It was like I traveled through time. I got in the zone for


a while, and I didn’t even realize that people were watching. I’m trying to impress these guys and replicate this sign. I’m knocking it out and not even stopping for a break. I’m into music and maybe about an hour and a half later, I finished the 3ft x 16ft sign. I go to the bottom of the sign to signature it because I was so used to signing Washington Signs on completed assignments. My brain said, “Well you’re not working with Washington, so go ahead and sign Poncho Illustrations on the bottom of it.” So, I put Poncho Illustrations on the bottom of the sigh. I finished the sign, I’ve taken my headphones off. I’m looking at the sign to make sure it’s looking like the blueprint. I turn around and there are about six painters staring at me. I looked back and I walk over to Danny Hinzo, a Native American in charge of the painting department who was over all of the signwriters on set. Mr. Hinzo looked at me with this strange look on his face and he said, “Come here young man.” I walked over to Mr. Hinzo and he says, “Look, we’ve got a couple of problems.” I said, “Oh, sorry sir, where can I make improvements?” He said, “No, you did an excellent job. But these are the rules around here. Number one, we don’t sign anything here. We are a representation of the movie studio, and we are replicating a particular period in time in this movie, so there will be no self-promotion.” He says, “The second thing that’s a problem is for you to slow down because you’re making all of us look bad.” We all laughed, I agreed to his terms, and that was the first time I was hired on a professional movie set as a sign writer. I did the freelance position for two months. I learned a hell of a lot and it was the most money I’d ever made per hour in my life. The movie was Avalon directed by Barry Levinson shot around 1989. I would later pick up a few other movies filmed in Baltimore like He Said, She Said shot in 1990, The Meteor Man directed by Robert Townsend shot in 1992, and a couple of other local movies in the Baltimore area as a signwriter. Soon thereafter that successful run, the Gerber sign systems became more and more sophisticated and my life as a sign painter began to come to an end. I didn’t see it coming, but my main hustle line was beginning to dry up. It was around this time that Chenal Alford suggested I go and see an accomplished graphic designer by the name of Joseph Ford. He worked at Morgan State University in the Public Relations office. I had compiled a portfolio of my graphic design

and illustration projects. He really acted as my first mentor of African American decent that wasn’t a formal teacher. At this point in his career, he was a shining star in the region, being the first black art director for a major ad agency. Mr. Ford looked at my portfolio and reviewed all the different types of art projects I was doing. He was perturbed by the amount of raw talent I had, but he knew I needed some direction. This was the beginning of another trajectory into investigating graphic design and illustration as a career path. Mr. Ford was very keen on discipline and recognizing talent. He made me look at myself and humble myself to figure out what my career next step would be. Early on Mr. Ford tried to funnel me through a few illustration projects. He also tried to introduce me to some people within his circle. By his request, I began participating in many portfolio reviews with local designers, illustrators, and design agencies. He also sent me to a few local television stations. I met so many people that I got a chance to show my talent with the prospects of them hiring me, but I still was having a problem being picked up by anybody. Some people looked at my work and they felt like I was a little overqualified for some of the positions that they had available, and I probably didn’t have enough experience for other positions. I found myself in this strange spot where people were impressed by my work, but nobody shared any interest in hiring me. It was Mr. Ford who would later be the person to give me my first real illustration job. It was a black and white illustration for a poster for the Morgan Walk-A- Thon. Mr. Ford hired me for that project, which he offered me about $75.00 for that illustration. This project was low budget, but he saw an opportunity to get me acclimated to working for a client. Soon Joe Ford would be saying to me, “You probably need to stop painting signs because you’re bringing the quick and dirty sensibilities of painting signs into doing illustration work. I believe that if you would slow down when you’re creating illustration work you could probably find a lot of work in illustration.” Joe Ford was the person who made me steer away from doing signs, which changed my direction because up to this point, I had only imagined myself being a sign painter. I hadn’t imagined myself being successful as an illustrator. Working with Joe Ford was a challenge because he was direct, straight forward and never used color or blackness as a reason for not achieving success. So, when I kept explaining to him my experience with going to portfolio reviews, he always

looked confused. “Well, you got raw talent here. I don’t know why you wouldn’t have been picked up by any of these people.” Joe Ford was the kind of person who was a simplistic thinking person. He was a results-oriented person, a problem solver, and a task master. He also had mastered his craft as a graphic designer. This guy could simplify the most complicated of concepts. Watching him work was quite amazing. Later in my life, some of his approaches to graphic design would rub off on me as an artist. Ultimately, Mr. Ford would give me my second illustration job, which really connected a few dots in my mind. The second illustration job was a poster featuring Bill Cosby. Mr. Cosby was doing a benefit concert to raise funds for Morgan State University. It was a big deal. City-wide people were murmuring about Bill Cosby coming to Morgan. Joe Ford felt I had enough talent to do a portrait of Bill Cosby on this poster and so he gave me my first color illustration job. Man, I was scared to death. I wondered if I could do it. I was doubtful, but Joe Ford believed I could do it, and this second project had a real budget. He could have hired top talent from the Graphic Group in Atlanta, a top talent agency for illustrators, with that budget, but he decided to make sure I got compensated on this project, since I wasn’t paid much on my first project. The project paid about $1,500.00, and that kind of money changed my whole trajectory. Why would I continue painting signs, if I could do what I loved and still make the same money? Back then that was a lot of money. If I did a sign job, a four-foot by eight-foot piece of aluminum with lettering on it would cost about $500.00. So, to be doing a 22 by 17-inch illustration for that kind of money was eye opening and it helped fuel my transition from the sign painting into illustration. That project gave me great exposure. Even though MSU ended up not being able to sell the poster, it was given away to a lot of people and other HBCU’s. Ultimately MSU gifted the original art to Bill Cosby. What’s funny about this story is that Dick Gregory would call me to tell me that he saw that piece in Bill Cosby’s living quarters. That gave me a lot of confidence


Meeting Bill Cosby at Morgan State University

knowing that my work had finally trickled down to a celebrity. Shortly thereafter, Winston Salem State University saw the piece I did for Bill Cosby, and they decided to commission me to do an illustration of Anita Baker as she was scheduled to do a benefit concert for their institution. And as a result, I got to personally meet Anita Baker. So, I was on a roll. I had just come off this low with the sign painting world that was falling apart. I got a big boost with the movie industry and that was starting to come to an end. And then this thing happened where Joe Ford practically catapulted me into yet another trajectory of my work: doing illustrations. Joe Ford was beginning to pitch me to people who made me realize I didn’t have some of the abilities I thought I had. He tried to get me a position creating storyboards for ad agencies, but we realized that my drawing skills at that time were not sophisticated enough for that. I had succumbed to the reality that I would likely never become a comic book illustrator, or that I would never become a cartoon animator. Those fantasies were coming to truths that I would not be doing many of the artistic endeavors I had earlier imagined. And still I heard that voice of Chenal Alford, “White folks will not allow you to do that.” But on the other hand, Joe Ford was reminding me, “You got raw talent and it’s time to figure out what trajectory to follow while not limiting yourself by the things that you’ve already learned.” This was an important transition for me because I still had the undercurrent of entrepreneurship and I was aspiring to connect to the new directions to find opportunities. If I had to nail it down, opportunity was the single-handedly most difficult challenge I was facing.

A Light at the End of the Tunnel

I had morphed away from graphic design because I didn’t


like it, and I was having a little bit of success with illustration, but something was still missing. After being mentored by Joe Ford for a few years, I began to become discouraged as to whether a clear art opportunity would present itself. I questioned at that point whether my intention should be working for someone as an illustrator or continue my bumpy entrepreneurial path. I hadn’t really drawn a game plan or business plan toward building a business as an illustrator/artist. I had already gone to several portfolio reviews where people began to flip through my portfolio while staring me in the face as if to say, “Why are you here?” I heard that line, “We will keep you in our files” repeatedly. On a whim, a friend in New York City mentioned a portfolio review with buyers of freelance illustration and graphics for Ebony, Essence and Jet magazines. Looking at this as my last opportunity to strike, I put on my cheap suit, gathered my newly updated portfolio, jumped on the Greyhound bus to New York, and took another bus to the portfolio review. I was nervous, but felt I was ready, and I felt confident. Maybe this will be my turning point! My interview began, and to my surprise the reviewer was a white male. I handed the interviewer my resume, and with a brief read he opened my portfolio and began flipping through my portfolio the same way many of my past portfolio reviews had gone in the Baltimore, Washington, and Virginia areas. They all said they would keep my information and get back in contact with me. I literally was deflated. When I left that interview, I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t ever have that feeling again. On the bus ride to Port Authority in New York to head back home to Baltimore, just before my bus was approaching the Lincoln tunnel, we passed the Jacob Javitz Convention Center in New York City. As we approached the building, I observed several people leaving the building with canvases jumping into taxis and limousines. I remember asking the bus driver could he let me off right there. I inched my way to the door and as I approached an Asian man was running out of the building. I asked him what was the name of this event, and with a slight accent he replied “ArtExpo, one of the biggest art shows in the world.” My eyes lit up. He jumped into a taxi and took off. I entered into the Javitz lobby and saw a registration desk. I asked the registration folks what I needed to get into the show. They said I needed a business card and $20. I, luckily, had business cards prepared for my portfolio review. So here I was entering this trade show known as ArtExpo at the last three hours of the show. This art fair took up

the entire Convention Center. If you can imagine me running through the aisles in my cheap suit, seeing every genre of art you could imagine. I felt like I had made it to heaven. My feet were not touching the ground. But I was frantic to take in as much as I could before the show ended. I know that I probably only got a chance to see at least 2/3 of that show while practically jogging, but during that overview I noticed there were only about three companies out of literally hundreds of companies that were selling works that were African American. When I left that show I didn’t know how, but I knew I was going to be in that show. Finally, all the rejections I had received made sense. Looking at that show, I realized I had been talking to all the wrong people, and now I had a path to follow to find how I would be able to sell my work rather than feeling like I was a service provider as a graphic designer or illustrator. I got back home and couldn’t sleep for days. I did some research and within two years from the date I walked into the Javitz, I became an exhibitor in ArtExpo. This was a key turning point for me moving from doing graphic illustration work into doing fine art.

Fine Art VS Commercial Art

One of the things that became apparent to me was that there was a division in ideology on the subject of fine and commercial art. During my foundation year all we were allowed to do was draw, draw, and draw. Still lives, perspective drawings, gesture drawing, and model studies were among our daily practices. It was a difficult adjustment, because I felt as if the instructors at MICA were stripping me of all the things I had learned in high school. Coming from a vocational education background, most of the things I was introduced to at MICA were not new to me. In high school I learned a lot about color, tonality, perspective, composition, typography and beginner to intermediate level drawing. As I began to travel around the campus at MICA all the students seemed to carry themselves a little differently. There were the gothic types, hippie types, quite a few relatively conservative types, and even a few militant types, like me. Everybody’s major question was, “Are you in the graphic design department or the general fine art department?” The graphic design reply was usually followed by a condescending look or facial gesture. After a while I realized I could not identify with a few of the students who were in the fine art department. So, segregation began even in art school. Later I would learn the that division was going to be a challenge even as a professional

artist. I could not understand why it seemed as though they were stripping me of all the things they selected me for in my portfolio reviews. I’d even made it a Black thing . . . because I thought they were trying to strip me of my blackness, use of black content or black consciousness in my work. I assumed this perspective through my first three years at MICA.

Creative Differences

Most of my critiques at MICA were summed up by me as “the instructor not being able to interpret my art.” There were times when they gave us guidelines with how our work was to be presented. Because of my militant attitude and views, I spent most of my time trying to aggravate the teachers by turning in projects that broke one of their rules. It was as if I was entertaining myself with seeing the frustration on their faces. I once had a classical cast drawing instructor named Peter Collier who told us at the beginning of the class to only use black and white media on paper 18” by 24”. I couldn’t understand why those restrictions were being imposed. During that class we stood out in the halls of the Maryland Institute College of Art and attempted to draw all of the classical casts created by some of the world’s greatest sculptors. The concept was that by drawing the classical casts we would learn a lot about light, shadow and form. I immediately found it boring. The instructor would walk the halls and inspect and critique all our work, and he walked through the hallway with an air of intimidation, as well. Not being used to any white men staring over my shoulder, I began to feel a little intimidated by his presence. His critiques really made me want to respond. It was as if he was singling me out to test my nerves. One evening he gave me an assignment to redraw my project. It was on now! I went back to my studio and begin a drawing that I knew would rock his socks. Oh, and by the way, I did it in hot pink on black paper. When I finished, it looked like a blacklight painting on velvet from the seventies. At the next class, I placed my drawing on the critique wall. I could hear small murmuring in the class. “Oh my God someone said . . . it’s in color! Can we do that?” Many eyes looked my direction like I had burned a flag. I was truly entertained by this. The teacher came in fashionably late put down his portfolio, removed his sunglasses and proceeded to the critique wall. As he walked down the wall he came upon my drawing and in an act of frustration he completely passed my drawing without a comment. His face was as pink as the figure I had drawn. He attempted to critique two drawings


on the wall. The distraction was apparent. In a fit of rage, he went to my drawing, pointed to it and asked, “Who has decided to disregard the rules of this class? Who is the creator of this drawing?” I could hear the other students gasp as I stood up to defend my drawing. “Why do you insist on breaking the rules Mr. Brown? Why have you chosen to use color in my class?” My reply was short and sweet. “Why are we only discussing color? What about the other merits of the drawing?” By then his face went from pink to red. “How dare you challenge me . . . when you break the rules there are no merits worth mentioning,” the instructor replied. Then I decided to use a squirt of street smarts to aggravate him further . . . I replied, “But Mr. Collier, I am colorblind! When I lay out all of my pastels, I select my colors from brightness to darkness. Then I select colors that are more intense versus colors that are less intense. So, in my eyes, my drawing is black and white.” My classmates gasped again, like I had done a magic trick that resulted in doves flying from my behind. And guess what? They bought it! The instructor really did not know how to take me, but from that point he left me alone. I returned the favor by following his guidelines. But after a few weeks of working in this class, I began to enjoy drawing classical casts. One day I had an epiphany that I was actually paying them to endure my mischievous disposition or ignorance. I realized I couldn’t let my militancy derail my focus. A few professors at MICA were pivotal in my not giving up. Abby Sangiamo, was my portraiture professor during my foundation years at MICA. The rules of his class seemed pretty straightforward, and I knew I would ultimately enjoy his class. I loved drawing the human face, and now I was in a class that primarily focused on faces. One of the biggest things I had to prove to myself was that I was just as good as the other students. Being one of two black persons in most of my studio classes made me work a little harder. Mr. Sangiamo was one of the first professors at MICA to look at merits of my work. In this class, we explored creating a portfolio of self-portraits measuring 18” x 24” or 20” x 32”. Most of the students were creating monochromatic images with a traditionalist approach, using earth toned conte, charcoal, or pastel, mostly black and white with few remnants of color. I was bold and brash, turning in my assignments in full color. On week two, I broke away from the black and white, started doing color. All of a sudden in week three, the other students


started doing color. I got pissed off, and I went up a size to 30” x 40” in color. We would all participate in group critiques, and Mr. Sangiamo would always give an in-depth critique on the work. The following week, the students would come in with 30” x 40” assignments, so I got pissed off, and I went down to the MICA art store and found out what the largest sheet of paper was. To my amazement fine art paper came in 5-foot rolls! So, here I was in a portraiture class that started out with 18” x 24”, and I was suddenly doing these huge 5’ x 6’ portrait murals. I completely took over this class and what was really great is that Mr. Sangiamo, allowed me space for exploration. It was the first time I felt competitive because I went into this setting believing that white students had something that black and brown students didn’t. That old adage “that white folks wouldn’t let me do the art I wanted to do”, started to fuel me. I really loved that portraiture class, so I kept pressing forward. It wasn’t until the very end of the class semester when Mr. Sangiamo pulled me to the side and he said, “You know, I hope you realize what you’ve done in my class.” I immediately thought that I was in trouble again with an instructor, which I had already experienced a few times in my foundation years at MICA. He then said, “Well, there are leaders and there are followers, and I watched you press yourself in content, scale, and in the amount of work you were creating.” I even got to the point where I was turning in two assignments because they were all doing one assignment. If they did one, I did two. I would create one for the class, and create one for me with no class restrictions, but hung them both for critique. The one created for me allowed me to do some things that were full of my imagination, but Mr. Sangiamo was watching me do this. He was the first person to commend me on leadership, on my ability and on me being a trendsetter. He said, “You knew the students were following your lead, but you inspired them all to do other things. Continue to be a leader. I want you to take that with you for the rest of your career.” Those words would stick with me for the rest of my creative life. Mr. Sangiamo single-handedly fueled me through pivotal years of development at MICA. He gave me confidence and was the first teacher who really supported me in my college years. He was kind. I don’t know how he was to other students, but he was intentional in embracing me. That relationship helped me to find my own lane at MICA.

Early Phases

I went through many phases as I attempted to find which sub-

jects appealed to me. One of the first things I struggled with was my identity. Being a junior has its challenges. It means you automatically live under the umbrella of your namesake. If that namesake is an artist, you might have a few problems. First, everybody has expectations of your talents based on your lineage. Second, my father had his own signature (LOB), and as his son my signature was a copycat of his (LOBJ), but try signing your work Larry O’Neill Brown, Jr. My most frequent question from folks is where I got the nickname Poncho. Simply stated, it came from an old television show from the 1950s titled The Cisco Kid, who had a sidekick named Pancho. The Cisco Kid and his English-mangling sidekick Pancho travel the Old West in the grand tradition of the Lone Ranger, righting wrongs and fighting injustice wherever they find it. My dad thought it would be cool to name me Poncho. So, with much trepidation, I decided to drop the O’Neill and junior and start using my nickname as my moniker. I started creating science fiction themed works which fused African American characters in imaginary national geographic settings. They were a direct offshoot from the black-light posters I experienced in the 70s with big afros, sensual strong figures, featuring both male and female subjects. I also had a huge interest in biology, so animals were often characters in these works. Most of these paintings were created using gouache on illustration board. I got pretty good using the water-soluble mediums. My father and I were both Frank Frazetta and Boris Vallejo fans, so their works had a big impact on the images I was creating. I was so enthralled with creating these works. I may have created about twenty-five paintings before I began to lose interest and move in another direction. At the time fantasy art was becoming very popular, so my science fiction themed pieces became more futuristic. I was heavily influenced by 80s movies like Tron, Blade Runner, RoboCop, Terminator and other Sci-fi movies. As I began peeking into adult magazines, erotica, pinup or cheesecake art was also

an influence with some of my favorite artists like Olivia De Berardinis, and Alberto Vargas. So, I ventured down a path to create some images in this style, although I may not have had the anatomical talent of some of these artists. The subject matter captivated me, and I did amass about 30 paintings in this genre. These phases prepared me technically for my next direction, which was creating graphic-looking images with African American themes. I’ve finally found what was appealing to my spirit. I knew I wanted to do more images that featured an aspect of black culture, but in unique ways. I was a long way from drawing cartoons and comic book characters. I was aggressively trying to find a style, without realizing the style was supposed to find me. Through this early journey I learned a lot about all mediums, dry and wet and began to experiment with combinations of those mediums, while learning more about composition and color sensibilities.

The Airbrush

The 1970s was a crazy time with all of the customized vans I saw around Baltimore. As a child, I always wondered how that work was done and I later learned about this technique called airbrushing. While I had a pretty extensive training in vocational education, I was introduced to the airbrush, but didn’t get an opportunity to pursue it based on the academic focus. When I went to MICA I still had the expectation that I would learn how to airbrush, but because of the foundation year requirements and full class load that I was carrying at MICA, I never got an opportunity to pursue learning more about airbrushing. The year after graduating from college was when I first made a commitment to teach myself how to be proficient in airbrushing. I was so driven to learn airbrush that I went and bought all the materials, a small Badger air compressor, and two or three airbrushes. I, literally, created


one painting a day while trying to learn how to use this apparatus. The process proved to be tedious and time intensive. It required patience, which was something I probably lacked with regard to my creative process. The more I took my time, the more disciplined I became, and the more proficient I became at using airbrushing. I was excited about the medium and was proud that I had taught myself how to do the technique. The technique was utilized in many of my early popular works. It was my sole medium through most of the 80’s up to around 1999. “The Egyptian Queen Series”, “The Colorism Series”, “The Totem Series”, and “The Perseverance Series” were all created with the airbrush. I eventually stopped airbrushing because of health concerns. I had at that point in my career been breathing every kind of toxic chemical from my sign painting days on up to my airbrushing days. So, I made a conscious decision to stop using materials that would threaten my health. I had noticed that many of my older sign painter friends were suffering from emphysema and other lung issues directly attributed to smoking, and other bad habits; but more importantly, the toxic lead-based paints that we were using at that time, we freely sprayed without masks for decades. I became conscious of this and began to work toward only using safe art materials, and eventually incorporating a water-soluble environment in my studio.

My Many Solicitations

It was shortly thereafter that I really immersed myself into my illustrative work. In my black bedroom, in my mother’s house, I was creating a painting a day using airbrush or whatever other accenting medium I could find. I had accumulated a portfolio of very strange works from science fiction on down to realism. After graduation I went through this other path of really trying to hone my craft. In my naiveté, I concocted an idea to begin soliciting my work to celebrities and compa-


nies. A plan was devised to create portraits of celebs and to gift them when they did concerts in my hometown. My hit-list included Tina Turner, Lionel Richie, Bobby McFerrin, Oprah Winfrey, and a host of others. In this plan, I would create a portrait, have it framed and delivered either to the venue or hotel if I was fortunate in pinpointing where they were residing. I may have tried this plan ten or so times. Most of the time I would act as a delivery person and transport the piece directly to the venue with a personal note as a gift welcoming them to Baltimore. I thought this was a stroke of genius. My hope was that eventually someone would recognize the merits of my work and I would possibly snag some future work. I shipped Oprah’s portrait to Harpo Studios, in Chicago, IL. In very rare instances, I would receive a thank you response, but I did receive a thank you form letter signed by Oprah. When the Transformers hit the scene, I was so mesmerized by the concept I immediately began designing a few characters I thought would accent what already was one of the most creative concepts I had seen. In one case, I designed “The Aquabots” a team of aquatic robots that transformed into predator fish including a great white shark, a hammerhead shark, a killer whale, and a whale shark. I designed schematics and illustrations of the characters. I then took them to have slides made of the illustrations. I researched the address to Mattel Toys and sent my work to them with a cover letter introducing me and my work. In this case, my envelope was returned with a cover letter from Mattel Toys informing me they did not accept solicitations. The only thing not returned was the slides I had submitted. A year later a sea bound group called “The Sharkticons” were introduced as a new breed of Decepticons. Coincidence? As a self-proclaimed fantasy artist, I began sending work to any magazine that seemed to feature illustrations with the hope that I would get exposure. I was a big heavy metal magazine fan, so I sent a few solicitations to the magazine with no response. Playboy magazine and Penthouse magazine from time-to-time featured illustrations by two of my favorite illustrators like Stanislaw Fernandes and Hajime Sorayama who both greatly influenced my earlier work. I solicited a few of my futuristic robots of women to Penthouse magazine. They sent me back a letter saying, “Hey, we thank you for sharing your talent. We’ll keep you in mind.” To my surprise they ran one of the submissions in the classified section of the magazine,

covering themselves from liability by giving me credit for it. But it was then I realized, wow, I can’t solicit my work to anyone anymore because they can take it and do what they want with it. And this was Penthouse magazine too, which probably wasn’t the classiest place for me to solicit my work. I realized, I really probably didn’t think this through. The reality is at that point in my development I had no concern about copyright issues and intellectual property protections. I also didn’t understand corporate structure and how my solicitations would be viewed by companies that had complete staffs of artistic creative individuals. I was so eager to be recognized that often put myself in danger of being creatively exploited. I needed to be smarter about how I was managing my work, despite the fact that I was certainly being more proactive than most artists would have been in promoting themselves. I actually compiled a 3” 3-ring binder to hold all of my rejection letters from the many things I solicited to get noticed. I believed in my spirit that with all of the no’s I’d received, that I’d eventually get a yes.

is the day you are forever reborn as a creative. Whatever your spiritual or religious beliefs . . . art and creativity are some of the most obvious signs that there is a creator. People will even say . . . “Oh, so it’s a God-given talent” as they dismiss all of the hard work or devotion you have dedicated to your craft. I have come to the conclusion that the creator only gave artists the ability, so that they wouldn’t go crazy. The creator knew that we would need a place to retreat and recharge, a place to think and resolve, a place to pray and meditate, and a place to fantasize and dream. Artists are all very sensitive, emotional beings that need to be heard even if they don’t feel like they have a voice. Art is a form of communication. Like religion it requires constant renewals of faith and patience.

Creative Energy

Creativity is an interesting topic for me. I find that most artists spend their lives trying to figure it out. I have found that most artists have been taught that art or creativity is an extension of them. They look at it simply as something they can do or an ability that can be turned on or off like a light switch; as if it’s a choice to participate in or not to participate in; like something that can be put on the back burner. My existence as an artist has always felt like a spiritual expression not totally defined by words. I have always believed in my abilities (my strengths and weaknesses) throughout school. I noticed that I was usually reprimanded for drawing in class, on my notebooks, on my completed tests, or on my desks. Everyone around me seemed to react like there was an appropriate time to “doodle”, but I never seemed to be able to control the urge. I realized early in life that art was not an extension of me, that indeed it was a spiritual part of me, an innate part of my being. My college years were the worst. In sixteen years of education, I never heard the word “creativity” used in conjunction with “spirituality,” just as I never heard the word “art” used in relationship with “business”. Nor did I hear an assessment of a master or a student artist in the context of spirit. I believe this is the primary area of confusion for most artists. Who would I have become if I was told art was a part of my being? The day you accept it as part of your being, spirit and personality

Dick Gregory became the first celebrity to endorse my work

The Manifestation of Dick Gregory

Back in the early 80s, I began working with Reginald Toran who worked with my mother at St. Agnes Hospital. He was a young budding entrepreneur who was very prosperous on his job, but really was interested in building some sort of business opportunity. He was affiliated with a few multi-level marketing companies in his spare time, like Amway. Toran was the very first vegetarian I had ever met, and most of his entrepreneurial endeavors dealt with health. This alignment would certainly affect my life. We became good friends and ultimately, we began discussions about the Black condition regarding entrepreneurship. As a result of those conversations, Dick Gregory became one of our targets. I remember sitting in my bedroom at my mother’s house with the two of us strategizing how we were going to meet Dick Gregory because at that time he was at the height of the Dick Gregory’s Bahamian Diet craze. Reginald was very informed about all things relating to health and was the real deal. We both planned to go to a scheduled event in our area at Catonsville Community College in Baltimore.


Mr. Gregory did an extraordinary lecture splashed with hard information and humor. At the end of the lecture, Reginald and I proceeded to go to the front of the auditorium to personally meet him as he was greeting guests. I was prepared with a small portfolio of my work and Reginald had already prepared a folder providing information about himself. We both shook his hand and he graciously greeted us. We quickly presented our prepared materials to Dick Gregory and proceeded to leave the auditorium. As we were leaving, Dick Gregory called out to both of us and said, “Young brothers, young brothers come here for a minute.” We both turned around, went back to the front of the auditorium and he asked, “Hey, did you do this artwork?” I replied, “Yes Sir.” We reintroduced ourselves again, and Dick Gregory says, “I got a project I’d like to include you in.” He gave us a number to contact him, and I received my first job from him that night. Dick Gregory became the first celebrity to endorse my work. The first job Mr. Gregory gave me was creating a mural banner of Ronald High, a 700+ pound client. I worked as a free-lance graphic designer/illustrator for about six years. Dick Gregory was a very creative person. People knew him as a comedian, as a civil rights activist and a host of other titles, but they probably don’t realize about Dick Gregory as a very creative-thinking person. I would often get calls at midnight from Mr. Gregory as he was conceptualizing a particular project. He always moved fast, so he would present it to me to illustrate it or make it look presentable. That is how our relationship went for that six-year period. I was included in some pretty pivotal projects that he was working on. The pace of these projects was usually fast and furious. At that point, the travel demands of Dick Gregory were very high, but I wasn’t personally aware of the status of the Dick Gregory Bahamian Diet at that time. The business was beginning to encounter financial challenges for him during that period. Nonetheless, he presented opportunities that I had never envisioned doing. Along the way, I was asked to design a multi-level marketing manual for the company, which was a very big project. I was also very eager in my art aspirations with this alignment. I would create visual prototypes that I thought would benefit him as kind of a solicitation. It was a good pairing because he would keep these concepts with him as he traveled his hectic schedule giving me added exposure. And now he had a creative eye that could visually represent some of his ideas. Mr. Gregory read ten newspapers a day. He hoarded information and seemed intrigued with history, the


human condition, world news, social justice, and politics. It was the basis of his commentary, comedy, lectures and advocacy. A mounting issue was there were times I was compensated, and sometimes I was not compensated. Often intellectual properties were misused, but at the same time, it was fast-track learning because I was introduced to some people that I would’ve never met had it not been for Dick Gregory. Dick was a very popular global figure around that period of time and was featured in Jet magazine every few months. The popularity of the Bahamian Diet was really spreading across the country. The Bahamian Diet was the first national ad campaign credited to me. It came from a solicited piece of artwork that I had presented to Mr. Gregory. He loved it so much that he submitted it to Ebony, Essence, and Jet magazines to run as an advertisement. That ad gave me national exposure really quickly, despite the fact that I was never fully compensated for its usage. Needless to say, I learned a lot about agreements, solicitation, copyrights, intellectual property, and other issues working with Dick Gregory. But I also learned how to filter through media influence in a way that sticks with me even today. Dick Gregory always expected us to not just hear the story, but to look at the story peripherally, and to not believe what you hear or what you see because other agendas are always taking place. I think this conspiracy theory component became part of my being as an artist during the period that I worked with him. It allowed me to look at my projects from more than one perspective, not just from the perspective of the client, but peripherally from more than one perspective. I think that the concept ultimately affected how I create my work and how I approach my projects. Dick Gregory had me doing marches in front of the White House with civil rights activist Hosea Williams; conceptualizing advertising on Walter Hudson, who was the sixth heaviest man in medical history; doing before and after portraits of his 600+ pound plus clients in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, for a 60 Minutes feature story; or acting as his entourage

ately that statement would forever change our relationship . . . and it did. Soon after, I no longer had the drive to continue working under those conditions, and decided it was time for me to take a different path.

Presenting another advertising concept to Dick Gregory

while on the set of The Donahue Show. He placed me in so many different positions, which allowed me to see so many different aspects of what it took to address the media. Watching him prepare for the 60 Minutes interview with Ed Bradley was an amazing experience. Although I know that for everything I saw, there were twenty other things happening. It was that weekend in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, that I realized the mastery of Dick Gregory with regard to the media. Seeing that aired on television nationally with me being included was also pretty bizarre. Through most of the years we worked together, I was star struck. Mr. Gregory invited me to a Black Mayors Convention at Caesars Palace in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where I met a host of Black celebrities and notables. It was amazing to me that I was suddenly in this environment as an introverted 24-yearold being in this world. I really wasn’t prepared, but I got to meet a lot of people, and it was amazing to see Dick Gregory navigate in any environment. During that trip, Dick had presented one of my illustration works to Muhammad Ali for a project he called “Muhammad Ali: Rice and Beans”. I created an illustration of Muhammad Ali holding a bowl of rice and beans. He obviously went to present the concept to Muhammad Ali and his people. I think he may have gotten some rejection because when he returned to the room, he was visibly agitated. He was scheduled for another event, so he had to fly out that night. He left Reggie and me at his hotel suite. A huge turning point was when we were having a discussion about some of his ideas and Dick looked at me and said, “Why don’t you leave this art $#!+ alone, and let me show you how to make some real money?” The room was silent. Reggie Toran was also a part of this discussion, and knew immedi-

Those times are irreplaceable, and he exposed me to some people during that period of time that really helped me build my confidence that I could use my art to achieve anything. Mr. Gregory also taught me something about loyalty. When I was doing an art program for the city of Baltimore called the African American Youth Art Exhibition and I asked him to be a guest speaker, and he did. When my father’s 50th birthday was approaching, I asked Mr. Gregory if he could come to my dad’s birthday . . . and he did. After my tragic studio fire in 1995, I invited him to my first art reception in my new studio, and he did. Dick Gregory always showed up and made me feel like I was an important part of his world. I am forever grateful for crossing paths with Mr. Gregory and the lessons learned.

The “Black is Black” Phenomenon

Soon after my graduation from MICA, I began to have an urge to produce works that were a reflection of me, my visions, and the issues in my head, which my earlier works never accomplished. No artist knows what his most popular piece will be. When we are being creative in our image-making capacity, several concepts, ideas, and narratives run through our collective consciousness. We attempt to regurgitate fragments of those visions. “Black is Black” was a complete anomaly, in that it was my very first Black-themed work introduced to the art world. This piece was created after my science fiction and fantasy phases. It evolved from a debate between me and a close friend having a serious debate about who had it the toughest in the seventies, me being a dark-skinned male or her being a very light-skinned woman. The conversation was very intense, at times humorous, but I never forgot the exchange. Soon after, I did a few sketches exploring that concept, with our conversation still echoing deep into my spirit. It begged the question: How do we deal with the subject of racism and prejudice, when we practice it within our own racial group? That conversation became the central focus of creating the “Black is Black” series. “Black is Black”, created in 1988, was the first time I had something to say, that I captured graphically. It also represented a new direction as a stylization in my work. Having studied some high fashion ad photography featuring all white women faces, I took that concept, and explored it. As a note of trivia,


buyers would relate to a textureless figurative image. He also felt it was too graphic of an image in how it was cropped, but he shared more interest in “Sidesteppin’”, which was another textural experiment in my work during that period, which was created in 1990. Needless to say, I didn’t accept his criticism. In my spirit I knew that if I self-published the piece, it would resonate with people. Nobody at that time was dealing with the subject of colorism and I claim “Black is Black” as the first piece to specifically have the discussion and dialogue about colorism. In frustration, I took a gamble and decided to self-publish the image. The piece would quickly become one of the top 10 best-selling Black art prints in the nation. Things Graphic & Fine Art would later reconsider and publish poster versions of “Black is Black” and “Sidesteppin’” around 1992. I then created a male version in 1992, to accompany the female. At that time, not many sequels were happening in the Black art realm. It became a very popular set. The pair outsold all of my other works combined during that period of time. The “Black is Black” female version was from my imagination, no real photo sources, but in the male version I used all models, and is the only self-portrait that I’ve ever created. the first piece I created in 1987, was not the work that became popular in 1988. It had a darker face toward the front, with the lightest face toward the background. I call it the lost “Black Is Black” piece because it was inexpensively purchased by a collector before I had a chance to document it. So, I created a second version, switching the face order, as to not confuse it with the first version. To this day that collector has never been heard from, as if they disappeared from planet earth. I got an opportunity to present “Black is Black” to Things Graphic & Fine Art which at that time was the largest Black art distributor in the United States. I remember going to their offices and walking through their huge warehouse, seeing hundreds of titles they published of some of the top names in Black art of the times. I really aspired to work with a publisher at that point, but it was one of the first that I felt confident enough to pitch. Edward Robertson, the owner, looked at “Black is Black”, and he also reviewed another work entitled “Sidesteppin’”, but his words would stick with me. He said “Black is Black” would never sell because it was not created in a traditional medium; that it was created in airbrush. He didn’t think that


The “Black Is Black” series would become the first reproductions of its kind to address the subject of colorism visually and dynamically, while garnering huge commercial success, and a fan following. Released as open editions, the series was designed to be accessible, affordable works of art. It also became one of my most licensed images to date having been produced in book covers, calendars, puzzles, watches, tee shirts, and several other product lines. The rest, they say, is history. Soon thereafter television shows like “A Different World” would include it on the set of the show. Overnight “Black is Black” became mainstream, with a huge HBCU following. The message resonated with folks of all skin tones. I felt a sense of redemption that the piece had been received so well. I had once again proved my naysayers wrong. The great Carl Owens credited my “Black is Black” series as inspiration for his work “Sisters of the Sun”. The artwork was so popular that many legal fights, intellectual property battles, bootleg scenarios and other struggles began to surface because everybody wanted a piece of the action. I was among a small group of notable artists featuring Charles Bibbs, Synthia SAINT James, Albert Fennell, and a few others to sign a publishing contract as the first African Ameri-

can artists signed with a major white art publisher, Paloma Editions, which was controversial during that period of time. Most publishers were reluctant to produce Black art or work with Black artists.

PM when most of the fast-food establishments in the neighborhood had already closed. I decided to take the seven-minute drive home to make myself a sandwich and return to the studio to work late.

I had an early dispute with Mark Weinbaum, president of Paloma Editions. Mr. Weinbaum had an issue with me and a few of his signed artists self-publishing their work. In those days, art publishers and distributors believed they should control and promote the work, and the artists should just create imagery. I always had other publishing aspirations because of my early introduction to printing from my father. At one point, Mr. Weinbaum was so distraught with the momentum that I and other artists in the group were having as self-published artists, that he threatened me with finding an artist to bootleg my “Black is Black” series. At that time, he enlisted an artist from his signed group of talent named Keith Mallett who Mr. Weinbaum ultimately convinced to create two knockoff pieces of my “Black is Black” male and female works. His intention was to disrupt the flow and popularity of the pieces, and to show me that I could be bought and sold at any point. The unfortunate part of this story is that he pitted two Black artists against each other. Mr. Mallett always denied that it was his work. I learned quickly that art was a dog-eatdog business, and “Black is Black” would prepare me to defend myself against many copyright or intellectual property issues.

The Hollins Street Exchange Building was located in a pretty bad neighborhood, so thinking defensively, I rarely wasted time getting into my vehicle when leaving the building at night. I proceeded to take the short drive home and as I entered my home the telephone was ringing. I rushed to pick up the phone only to find out that it was my security company. The dispatcher mentioned that a Code 6 was triggered on my alarm at the studio. I didn’t recognize what a Code 6 meant, so I simply requested that they dispatch the police and I returned to the studio. As I drove down Baltimore Street, I noticed that the sky was a warm orange color. As I got closer to the bottom of the hill, I realized that the sky was also full of smoke and that emergency equipment had already blocked off Hollins Street. As I turned the corner, I was horrified to find that my building was already engulfed in flames. One-third of the building was already on fire; the short trip home only took me about 25 minutes. The building must have already been on fire when I left to go home. It was a windy night, so I didn’t smell any smoke or see any flames. At first the police would not let me get closer to the building but, ultimately, they let me get closer after they found out I was one of the tenants.

In another situation I was sued for $35,000 by Things Graphic & Fine Arts because I unknowingly signed a contract with them which allowed them to take over the distribution of “Black is Black”. I had not read the fine print on our contract, which lead to some deterioration of our business relationship. I lost that dispute in arbitration. It was the first time I had lost that sum of money over one of my works, but it will forever set the tone for my business dealings and contract arrangements from that point forward.

The building housed about fifty companies and about 150 workers, most of which were African American owned and operated. The Hollins Street Exchange Building was a city block long and eight stories tall. Although it was in an industrial area it was surrounded by neighborhoods. Fighting the blaze would soon become a difficult task. The water pressure in the neighborhood was already substandard. The fire department had a difficult challenge trying to get enough water pressure to fight the eleven-alarm blaze. The fire had taken over the building rather quickly. As many of the tenants began to approach the rear of the building to see the blaze from another vantage point, we quickly found out that two other warehouses were already on fire. Later we found out this was where the fire originated. It was a rather cool fall evening and some homeless people had broken into one of the warehouses to stay warm. The homeless persons had begun to burn some trash in a couple of trashcans to keep warm. The third warehouse building housed mattresses. So, by the time the fire reached that building it really gained some fuel. One of the homeless people had admitted that the fire had gotten out of hand and they rushed

Studio Fire of 1995

I had reached that point in my life where the majority of the money I had invested in my art business was just about to bear the fruits of my labor and show a return on my investment. November 10, 1995 was probably the biggest turning point in my life. I had been truly blessed throughout my career as a professional artist. I felt that just about every derailment I had encountered, that I had figured a way to persevere. On this night, for some reason, I had a rare anxiety about staying late at the studio. I was rather hungry, but it was around 11


to evacuate the building. Fearful of prosecution many of them would never be heard from again. But at that moment it seemed like the worst Photo by Donnie Greene of the worst was happening. After about four hours of waiting around, I became very tired and began to lose my optimism. As the fire made it to my corner of the building, which ironically was the last quarter of the building to burn, all hope was lost. With eyes full of tears, and a heart full of fear, I jumped into my car and returned home. When I turned on my television, it was already on the early morning local news and even featured on the national news. I prayed to God that by some miracle there would be something to salvage. To my amazement the building was completely destroyed. This experience triggered an emotional breakdown, which years after, left me in a state of depression, with contemplations of suicide. I lost everything I had created from grade school up to 1995 which required me turning the page on the first stage of my career. I had to start over. Many lessons were learned as a result of this tragedy. Before this event, I had no idea how far my reach was or who my true supporters were. And although I traveled with many of my artist families, I still didn’t know who was in my support system. Artist camaraderie was something I learned during this difficult time. Many artists stepped forward to support me during this resurrection. Charles Bibbs, and Paul Goodnight provided their business mailing lists and substantial support checks. Frank Frazier delivered a huge chest to my home. It contained numerous art supplies. Michael Brown was the first to physically visit my home bearing cash to assist me. James Denmark sent me a case of a thousand sheets of large reproduction paper. Elba Vargas came and sat with me in a moment when depression was beginning to take effect. No one had any agendas. Fans and collectors mailed donations, returned artwork, and most of all provided prayers. These humanitarian expressions of love financially, physically and spiritually supported me that first difficult year after the fire. I quickly learned that I was not alone. A large percentage of the images depicted in this book were destroyed by my studio fire of 1995. It was a painstaking pro-


cess to go back and attempt to resurrect images that had been essentially erased from a history. Thankfully, with the efforts of my collectors, art dealers and family, I was able to re-document many of the creations from before that time frame. Many speculated that my work would change as a result of what I had experienced. “Phoenix Rising” and “Surrender” were the first two works created after I began recovery from my depression. The main thing that changed was my way of working. Prior to that time, I used lots of old magazine photographs as references while planning my imagery. After that, I began to rely more on my imagination and began shooting my own reference photos rather than using any pre-existing imagery. A reporter once asked me if I could have salvaged anything from my studio fire of 1995 what would be? I replied . . . “My 3” 3-ring rejection letter binder.”

The Golden Age of African American Art

Little did we know that we would be at the helm of a major revolution in the arts. Before 1980 African American artists had little choice in the support of Black art in America. In fact, African American art hadn’t even been designated as a genre in the art industry. Exhibition venues were few, museum opportunities were rare, and there was no real infrastructure for African American art. Before that time the primary infrastructure for African American art lie in the hands of academia. Artists like Charles White, Elizabeth Catlett, Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden and others were the primary artists of mention before the 1980s. The Harlem Renaissance, AfriCOBRA, and other Black art movements were the last noted revolutions in the African American art realm. I was also among the generation of African Americans who were hungry to see themselves represented in movies and television. We longed not only to be represented but envisioned seeing ourselves depicted in a positive light. Velvet paintings and black light posters of the 70’s touched that nerve. We were sucked into the appeal of these images. They were colorful, provocative, and sexy. They explored astrology and sexuality. They also depicted black people as strong figures, with afros and physiques, but typically were nude. The big problem about this era was it was an early example of how these images were targeted and marketed to Black people. The sad truth is most of those works were not created by Black artists. Many of my earlier works were inspired from what I saw during this popular poster phenomenon. The Blaxploitation films of the 70’s were the first examples

many of us experienced as Hollywood tried to capture the essence of Black culture through film. I remember seeing Shaft, Uptown Saturday Night, The Mack, Blacula, Three the Hard Way, and various other movies, that were refreshing to see regardless of the stereotypes they portrayed. That kind of media laid the groundwork for everything that came soon after. Good Times was a pioneering television sitcom that aired for six seasons on CBS, from 1974 to 1979. It was created by Eric Monte and Mike Evans and developed by executive producer Norman Lear. Lear developed television’s first African American two-parent full family sitcom. The character of “J.J.” was single handedly the most inspiring character in my life to be shown on TV. The fact that they would include an artist as a central character on the show spoke to a new level of exploration in the storylines of television. “J.J.” became my hero. He was the first person who looked like me doing what I dreamed of doing. It really captured my subconscious in a way that nothing else had up to that point in time. Soon thereafter, The Jeffersons was a sitcom television series that was broadcast on CBS from 1975 to 1985. The Jeffersons was one of the longest-running sitcoms, and the second-longest-running American series with a primarily African American cast. The depiction of an affluent African American couple was mind boggling. To show wealthy business-minded Black people during that period of time especially after the introduction of Good Times really set the stage for Blacks being seen in a different light. Mr. Jefferson’s character was loud, rambunctious, outspoken and militant for that period of time on television. His radical attitude and entrepreneurial spirit appealed to me in that important stage of my life. The only downfall was that The Jeffersons did not feature any art or Black art on the set of the show, which, I believe, was truly a lost opportunity. The Good Times era and The Jeffersons era both played an important historical role in painting a picture of modern black culture. One of the largest contributors to the revolution in the arts in the 1980s came directly from the printing industry. The printing industry had gone through several revolutions directly impacted by technology. Before 1980 it was literally impossible for artists to afford to reproduce their works. Before that time artists employed traditional techniques to reproduce their work via etchings, stone lithographs, serigraphs, monoprints, etc. Printmaking became the primary method for reproducing works of fine art. Advancements in offset lithography would

soon equalize the playing field and entice art publishers and artists to take advantage of mass production opportunities. The Cosby Show era, a period between 1984 and 2000, created a new revolution in African American art. Bill Cosby was known throughout the world as a major collector of African American art. Whenever anyone from the African American art realm references the beginning of this movement, this era is pinpointed. Although Good Times was one of the first times African Americans experienced the life of an artist via a major network television sitcom, The Cosby Show was the first time we would witness a full gallery of works by several artists on the set of the Huxtable home. Surely an art revolution could have begun in the 70s when Good Times was on the air. Simply stated none of the works of Ernie Barnes was readily accessible to the masses during this period. The biggest difference between those two eras was the printing industry hadn’t advanced to the point where reproductions were affordable. That revolution in printing would come along in the 80s, and with it the ability to make art accessible for all to partake. The most powerful medium . . . television . . . began that explosion. That accessibility birthed what became referenced as “The Golden Age of African American Art”. This advancement enticed legions of art publishers and dealers to get into the game. It spawned the dawn of African American art being offered as a legitimate genre in the art industry. Galleries devoted to ethnic art, publishers specializing in Black art, and venues created to highlight African American art began to pop up around the country practically overnight. After a few years of artists having viable opportunities, obvious problems arose. Many African American artists began to experience some of the challenges of working with galleries, museums, art publishers, art dealers, and most of their early contracts often did not work in their favor. Artists were forced to become business minded, and most were fast tracked into entrepreneurship. Many of the ideas artist quickly learned was that they could reproduce their own works and not have to partner with publishers. It was as if a new hybrid of artists was birthed during that period. Artists were not viewed as publishers, artists were hardly viewed as legitimate business people. Many of the artists entered into the open door of opportunity, not realizing the impact it would later have on the art industry. At this point in the evolution of the art business many artists were making a living full-time from their work and many of them would become financially independent as a result of new fan followings, and art opportunities.


Before long they were sarcastically referenced as “The popular artists.” I started my art publishing business in 1985 at the age of twenty-two. My company Melanin Graphics began participating in international art trade shows like ArtExpo New York, Galeria, and Art Buyers Caravan. Also, because of this “affordable art” movement, many art publishers and art distributors began to appear in my sights. Coopers Originals, Viewpoint, Things Graphic & Fine Arts, Paloma Editions, Vargas and Associates, Fine Arts by Todd, Essence Art, and Bruce Teleky, where a few. Ethnic Expressions also found success in the home show arena and became a high-volume client for several years. These art publishers and distributors became necessary because of the 3000 plus art dealers and art galleries that ordered art through their networks. It seems like all the elements for a viable art business network was in play. African American artists from all over the United States were willing and ready to make available their art for the retail market. Art publishers and printers were in place to produce art reproductions. Art dealers and galleries were in place to sell art prints to the general public. The general African American buying public had plenty of disposable income ready to make purchases. At the height of this era my works were being sold in 3000 galleries across the country, and on the walls of over 500,000+ homes. By the global impact of 9-11 in 2001 to the economic collapse of 2007, the internet was becoming a force to which few in the art business had anticipated or prepared for. As the housing market, stock market, auto industry and pre-recession engulfed America, many of the demographics that had supported the art industry lost employment and required restructuring. We witnessed the total decimation of nearly 3000 art galleries, ten or more major art distributors, and several black art venues within that period. The web would become the new infrastructure. “Disruption” is a term being used to define the technical revolution that is happening daily in every aspect of business. Just as the impact of Netflix was to Blockbuster, or Amazon was to most bookstores large and small, the art business evolved to an online revolution. Now the playing field has become global, and thus the artistic opportunities. All artists now had the ability to brand themselves without the traditional artist blueprint. I began focusing my attention to the World Wide Web and all it had to offer. Many African American artists had taken note, as we all began to rewrite


history in the African American art realm.

The Three Entities

I opened my first business at the age of seventeen, so you can imagine I knew absolutely nothing about business or business structure, so my experience came through much trial and error. Business was a fast-track learning experience. I did not come from a family where entrepreneurship was stressed. My business aspirations evolved from me beginning to build a list of clients as a signwriter. I named my first business Poncho Illustrations. At that time, it certainly was a sole proprietorship, but at least I had a company name that gave me an umbrella of validation as an entity. Warehouse space was plentiful in Baltimore in the 80s. I resided in three different locations during this period of my development. Poncho Illustrations was my attempt to structure my signwriting, graphic design work, and illustration work. I came to the realization that I didn’t like doing signwriting or graphic design work for the same reason. It felt too service oriented, and creatively restrictive although making money was guaranteed. It certainly dispelled the stereotypical starving artist narrative. My passion had always been image making, so I decided to restructure my career aspirations and follow my passion. My transition to follow my passions was bumpy at first. I was still being tempted by the work opportunities I was trying to stop doing. Many mistakes were experienced in the area of business, and it was going to be a long journey before I could catch up with the popularity of my work before it hit a wall. My second incarnation in business was Melanin Graphics, Inc. which I began in 1985 after publishing my first few works as reproductions. Melanin Graphics expanded its reach to include other artists from the Baltimore-Washington area. I began to network with other artists who had already self-published their works. Melanin Graphics acted as a publishing and distribution company of African American art. The growth and success of Melanin Graphics exceeded anything I could have expected and at one point had upwards of five employees, three part time workers, and a host of other salespeople servicing around 3000 galleries nationwide. The company flourished and grew until our untimely studio fire of 1995. We literally were forced to start over, and the years of rebuilding the business was slow and full of physical and emotional setbacks and challenges. The African American art market had begun to reach its peak by the late 90s, and the great recession was heading our way

by the end of 2005. The tragedy of 9-11 in 2001, and the economic collapse of 2006, set up an implosion in the art market. Melanin Graphics struggled to the point where it was wise for me to close that chapter and restructure to prepare for what was about to happen in the realm of technology. The company resided in two different locations during these transitions. Melanin Graphics existed before the internet and the advent of social networking. Although we took a blow in the art business, I had already begun to make adjustments for this new media and new direction which prompted us to launch our first website that offered our art reproductions online. At the core Melanin Graphics was a wholesale art distribution business. We watched art galleries, art venues, and other important parts of art business infrastructure begin to crash. By 2007, it was time to throw in the towel. The art business as we knew it would change forever. My third incarnation in business was The Art of Poncho, Inc. The Internet was the newest frontier. The art industry either was prepared for this transition or tended to be reluctant about the impact the World Wide Web was going to have on the art business. Up to this point most viewed the art landscape in regions, but the Internet would prove to change everything into a global perspective. Very few art entities at that point had websites. The larger companies were first to be able to afford to be represented on the Internet. Artists certainly were the last in line to investigate the possibilities of being represented on the Internet. I had always taken pride and having my fingers on the pulse of what was happening in the arts. So, I began to investigate websites and learning website development by early 2000. We were among the first of many African American artists or galleries that had a web presence. Although it took a while for sales to be generated from this medium, it began to take off like wildfire as the new millennium gained momentum. By the time social networking became a factor in early 200304 the two became a one-two punch that gave artists, galleries, and museums maximum visibility that, before this time, had to be in-person. The days of huge catalogs, printed materials, and tear sheets presenting artwork were becoming obsolete. By the time smartphones became part of this landscape, collectors, artists, galleries and anyone interested in art could have access to purchasing at the touch of a button. With the advent of social networking those huge catalogs were replaced digitally and virtually. We moved location, downsized and redesigned our focus to prepare for this new nor-

Photo by Helen Baskerville

mal. The internet allowed us to easily connect to and develop our following, and we were determined to take advantage of this new playing field.

Raising the Arts

My mother once told me that one day my art would minister to others. I didn’t know what she meant at the time. She used to assign me these little projects from her job at St. Agnes Hospital. She was always so proud of me, and basked at any chance I would create something that her work colleagues would see. She was always promoting me to her coworkers. My first commission piece was from Morgan State University for the Morgan Walk-A-Thon. That piece catapulted me into investigating the illustrative side of my abilities. It soon led to other projects from Morgan State University and a few other historically black colleges. Before long, I had accumulated a body of work that ministered to Black causes, Black events, Black cultural events, and HBCU events. Over the last four decades, I have created over 70+ images for various nonprofit organizations across the United States to bring attention to their missions while providing fundraising opportunities. The concept for Raising the Arts evolved from a conversation with my former office manager at Melanin Graphics named Yvette Judge. At that time, I probably had amassed about 10 to 15 commissioned works. I soon had the epiphany that even the way I was approaching commission work was not traditional. The hustle and grind I learned as a sign writer began to transfer into how I marketed myself to other people. I was adept at walking into a storefront with a faded sign and convincing the owner that they needed me to do their sign work. It was the foundation that my entrepreneurial spirit was built on.


It wasn’t long before I developed a system that I could utilize to approach organizations and show them how I could assist them with raising funds while creating a work that encapsulated the mission of their organization. After a while, I began to target specific organizations that had a great impact in the Black community, like the Sickle Cell Association, the Alzheimer’s Foundation, including other causes for HIV AIDS, breast cancer, mental health, etc. It was amazing to me the number of non-profit organizations out there that were hosting redundant fundraising strategies like galas and other community outreach projects, who were craving a new fundraising option. I realized that some of them had art initiatives, so I duplicated that with other organizations. I compiled a portfolio which featured all the commission works created to that point and encapsulated them in a catalog. I simplistically outlined the monetary investment, I also outlined what they could possibly raise in a simple form and began sending those to potential nonprofit organizations and other organizations. Sororities and Fraternities eventually became targets. My partner in crime, Karen Y. Buster, and I began doing the Delta Sigma Theta National Conventions in the early 2000’s. The biannual event exposed me to several Delta chapters. Before long, I had convinced many of these chapters to create a specific image for their chapter. This evolved to creating other images for The Links, the Alpha Kappa Alpha, and the Zeta Phi Beta sororities. These works were exposed to masses of women which became a target demographic for my work. My first commission targeting a breast cancer organization was shortly after my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. I met a woman by the name of Linda White-Epps who was a crusader for breast cancer awareness and was the president of a non-profit organization called Sister’s Journey. She, a cancer survivor herself, created an organization that catered to the wellness of African American women cancer survivors. I remember bringing my mother a calendar from her organization and witnessed how that calendar assisted her with making some difficult decisions regarding her personal cancer journey. Unfortunately, my mother became a victim to a statistic that rarely is represented by the media. She succumbed to a malpractice incident which led to her death at the tender age of 57 years old. My mother didn’t die from the effects of cancer, which was early diagnosed, but she died from an error in


judgement by an anesthesiologist. This life experience impacted me in a specific way with the Raising the Arts concept. In one year I had ten commissions by various organizations all over the country. It also allowed me to build a portfolio of images that dealt with specific issues facing the African American community. I got great satisfaction from creating these works as well as watching these works minister to others, as my mother had predicted decades before my success as an artist. I have since taught a few of my artist mentees my concept and showed them how to duplicate what I had successfully created from a spark from a valued employee. I also struck an accord with faithbased organizations and before long, I had over ten commissions by various faith-based organizations, which became a specialty area for my Raising the Arts collection. One of my largest commissions to date was purchased by Coppin State University, Helene Fuld School of Nursing, which was a 40-inch by 60-inch painting giving homage to black nurses. The piece “The Caregivers” also represented a concept where I began to market the original works to some of those who could afford to treat the investment as an acquisition. More than half of the commissions in the Raising the Arts collection have been purchased by the organization. I also reached a point in my concept where I was confident that I could sit with any organization and convince them to create a commemorative art fundraising project. At a certain point in the development of this project, I gave the option to the organization to publish and finance the work, and for those who didn’t have a budget, I began to publish those works myself. The momentum of the Raising the Arts collection was an example of duplication. Some of my negotiations were deals that allowed me to create multiple pieces for certain organizations. Venture Richmond eventually commissioned five consecutive pieces to promote the Second Street Festival, in historic Jackson Ward, Richmond, Virginia. The West Oak Lane Jazz and Art Festival commissioned me to create three images to represent their festival. Soon I had amassed a collection of images created for music festivals. One of the bigger names included in my recruitment list was for Macy’s as they commissioned me to create an image for the Macy’s Music Festival in Cincinnati, Ohio. Sometimes I was on a roll and got multiple opportunities. The same year I was commissioned to do the Macy’s Music Festival official poster, I was also commissioned to do a work for the Underground Railroad Museum,

son, Jerry Pinkney, Leo Dillon and Carl Owens. Reprints of the artwork were featured in Anheuser-Busch advertising, calendars and posters. The series was so bold and explosive that I wished I had an opportunity to participate as one of its original artists. I had a fascination for ancient Egyptology, so I decided to create a series of queens in the spirit of the Budweiser collection. This series was among the very first pieces that I published of my personal work. The series consisted of six paintings, all created in acrylic on illustration board with airbrush.

Photo by Kirth Bobb

which had recently opened in Cincinnati, Ohio. Ultimately, I would create two images for the Macy’s Music Festival taking place at the Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. Creating images for music festivals were among my favorite commissions. Cultural festivals became a good fit, as I had participated in so many of them in my art journey. The Kunte Kinte Commemoration and Heritage Festival in Annapolis, Maryland, was my first commission for a cultural festival, which also commissioned me to do a second poster twenty-six years later. I also created images for the Umoja Festival in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, The Ujima Festival in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the African American Cultural Festival of Raleigh and Wake County in Raleigh, North Carolina. These images breathe culture and were a joy to create. Duplication, duplication, duplication. The concept worked, and it was providing me a strong body of work and a stream of income that kept my work visible for over four decades. Creating works for this series allowed me to explore different stylizations. Most of the images had cultural appeal and all of them were clearly created with Black people as a central focus. The notion of creating positive imagery that represented our culture is very evident in the Raising the Arts series. I have made a commitment to the universe to expand the reach of this legacy building project.

Series Work

“The Egyptian Queens” was my response to The Budweiser “Great Kings of Africa” series. The collection’s award-winning artists included Jonathan Knight, Alexander Bostic, Barbara Higgins-Bond, Paul Collins, John Biggers, Lydia Thomp-

“The Colorism Series” evolved from my painting “Black is Black”, and explores the variance of color tonality of black females and males. It touches on themes of diversity, but was a graphic exploration in harmony, movement, and composition. The series consisted of eleven paintings, all created in acrylic on illustration board or watercolor paper with airbrush. “The Dance Series” was a departure in subject matter from the music and jazz images I saw other artists producing in the 80s and 90s. I had always been fascinated with dance, so it gave me an opportunity to explore a subject that I felt was just as universal as jazz while giving tribute to dance companies like Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Dance Theatre of Harlem, Philadanco and other Black dance companies. The series consisted of eighteen paintings, all created in various mediums on black paper or watercolor paper. “The Perseverance Series” began with my painting the “Blackness”, and explores the subject of oppression, spiritual submission, the balance of strength and vulnerability, and perseverance of the black male and female. The series consisted of five paintings, all created with a fusion of charcoal and acrylic airbrush on watercolor paper. “The Totem Series” was inspired by Native American totem poles, but utilizes kente cloth patterns and adinkra symbolism from Ghana, West Africa, combined with African American male and female faces. The series consisted of six paintings, all created in acrylic on watercolor paper with airbrush.

Red or Blue Pill

In the movie The Matrix, one of my favorite trilogies, the term “red pill” and “blue pill” referred to a choice between the willingness to learn a potentially unsettling or life-changing truth, by taking the red pill, or remaining in contented ignorance with the blue pill. My first major decision as an artist would


a stylization that would give me a better chance of selection in the grant and jury systems.

Photo by Kirth Bobb

surely present a life-changing truth. Nobody told me when I enrolled in college that choosing graphic design would automatically put me at the bottom of the barrel with regard to being respected as a fine artist. I had a choice of general fine arts, printmaking, photography, graphic design, but I chose graphic design, and immediately I realized that there was a difference in perception of the two paths. That one decision was pivotal. Remember with each of those programs, the tuition fee was exactly the same. It’s not like graphic design was discounted and the one that was most prestigious had higher value. So, in my observation, choosing graphic design really put me in a bad position from the start because I was interested in graphic design as a craft, but all along, I had aspirations of pursuing fine art. Graphic design was chosen because I had just come from a commercial art background, and it also quieted stereotypes of the starving artist. I already knew in my spirit that I could make a living, so at that point, I probably should have selected general fine arts, but I chose the graphic design track, and it seems that over the course of my career, I have been fighting that choice. Once you are categorized as a graphic designer, they have difficulty considering you as a fine artist. If I applied for a juried exhibition, my work generally looked more commercial because I was from a commercial background, and it was non-traditionally created. I was always being judged on the graphic content of my work and never the essence of my work, and I didn’t realize how bad the situation was until I graduated from MICA, attempting to be recognized as an illustrator/ fine artist, but people couldn’t see past the graphic quality of my work. I think that the distinction or delineation became a struggle throughout the forty years of me being an artist. Many arts grants were rejected. Many juried exhibitions rejected my work because of its graphic quality. I had to adapt


To this day I think the cloud of commercial distinction and my commercial success was the only thing that made people take notice of what I was doing. Nothing I’ve done in the art business has been traditional. From representation, to publication, to distribution, most of my strategies to have my work recognized were untraditional. I think that I moved against the grain of what most art dealers, gallerists, especially museums were looking to support. At that point, I had to make a distinction of what I wanted from my career. Did I want critical acclaim? Did I desire to be respected as a viable force in the art world, or did I want to be successful as an image maker? I was almost forced to be content with being an image maker. Becoming a popular artist or a commercially successful artist gave me leverage to do some things that many artists probably weren’t able to do. I also watched a host of artists become successful in that same way. I studied the movements of premiere African American artists like Paul Goodnight, Joseph Holston, and other artists of that caliber because they were able to straddle the fence of this fine art/commercially successful duality. They also began to receive opportunities on the fine art side of the business that many artists were not able to accomplish. I’ve also watched artists like Charles Bibbs, Annie Lee and other commercially successful artists who were comfortable in the lanes they were in. I would later have to learn how to be comfortable in the lane I was in. Once I understood what was at stake, I became content with the direction that was passed to me. No roadmap was given to me on how to become a successful artist or image maker. I had to learn the best way to navigate this multi-track thing called art. My teacher Chenal Alford used to say, “There’s more than one way to a destination.” I adapted that mentality along the way, fusing each victory and success while duplicating those efforts to the point where I developed my own road. I had to learn to trust my visions and instincts. Moreover, I had to accept the fact that I may never be accepted by the masses. I had to learn that my collectors and followers ultimately would be the people who keep my name alive.

The Importance of Art

My journey as an artist has taught me a lot about what I personally feel art should be. Yes, art is supposed to encapsulate our history and act as a narrative to the stories of our culture. Art is supposed to be a place where there is an exchange between

concepts that need to be articulated in a specific visual way. I’ve witnessed the longing for cultural identity in my people. As I traveled many communities across the country, it was a unifying desire. There’s always been a fine line between catering to people with pretty pictures and educating them. I also don’t believe that every piece is supposed to educate. I do believe that opening dialogue about certain subjects is what art does. I also don’t believe that art is exclusively for intellectuals. Art is a universal language like music and like dance and people act like voyeurs desiring to see themselves reflected in the art. I’ve witnessed customers cry over certain images I have created. I’ve also experienced people beam with pride at a piece that reminds them of their past or of a person in their lives. I’ve heard people say this is me and my sisters or that reminds me of my dad. I’ve also witnessed a woman on her death bed, frustratingly awaiting the hospice to hang a piece I gifted her, only for her to pass away peacefully soon after it was hung above her bed. It was my angel piece entitled Heaven Sent. I’ve watched people who had no idea of what’s happening in a piece only to be awakened after reading the title. Watching customers from 10 feet away view The Forgotten Journey and then as they approach, they get punched in the heart and in the head chakras as the middle passage slave ship that they thought was a thermometer or a tattoo came into focus. I struggle with the internal dialogue of “Is this just a pretty picture?” “Is this saying anything?” For the last four decades, I’ve been in many places in my personal development, and I’d like to think that the images in this book are reflections of snapshots that have crossed my mind in one way or another. The images in this book reflect the published works of Larry Poncho Brown. There are several thousand images that the public has never seen or that were purchased by collectors, or that I determined should not be published. The question always arrived at is how do I know what to publish and what not to publish? My response is: it’s a spiritual feeling. I do an overview of a piece, determine its reach, and what’s being said in the piece. That same question helps me decide what pieces get produced as open edition works versus limited edition works.

The pieces that I believe are timeless are images that I usually decide to produce as open edition images. Have I ever published a flop? Yes, I have. All artists have. We all have that piece that we thought was going to resonate with the public, only to have a stack of them still sitting on the shelf in a warehouse somewhere. Have I ever known in advance what pieces will be a hit? It has never occurred to me that I would be painting for hits, or creating for awards, or be in a realm of that level of assessment or scrutiny. The biggest transition I’ve made in my art career is that I stopped questioning what I was creating. In the eyes of academia and scholars, that statement probably would not be something that could be considered high art, but I’ve always had my fingers on the pulse of my community, the issues that are important to them, and the way that I can best articulate that to them, to make them want to keep that creation on their wall at home. And, while all artists would like to have their legacy translate into our culture and would like to have mass acceptance in the realm of fine art, if I had to have a choice, I’d rather my works be in 500,000 homes than one museum. I realize by putting that statement into the universe that it might be the actual result as it is returned from the universe. But I must live with all the images I shared with the world as an image-maker.

Larry Poncho Brown, Alonzo Adams, Roedrick Vines, Woodrow Nash, Keith Mallett, Kathleen Adkins Wilson, and Charles Bibbs at ArtEpo NY


Have I ever put a piece into production that shouldn’t have been? There was a time in the 1980s when I could not offer or sell a nude image, but by 2000, there was a demand for nude images. While I may have been successful marketing a civil rights image in the 80’s and 90s, I would not have had much success publishing social justice themed images, but in 2020, the demand was there. Yes, I have had to question when a customer asks me, do I have a piece under a particular subject. My creative side wants me to shut out that information, but in time, I began to filter some of those ideas to fuel future works. I do not intend for my customers to match their sofas, chairs, and drapes with my works, although I’m smart enough to realize that it does happen. What I do hope is that they are so moved by an image that they want to take it home, to put on their wall, to act as a mirror through their soul. It’s always amazed me to watch a customer find a piece, resonate with the piece, purchase the piece, frame the piece, and hang the piece. That process for image-makers is the ultimate commitment and validates their vision and purpose. The world is filled with literally millions of subjects that can be captured by the psyche of an artist. I have taken the responsibility of creating images that are reflections of the many faces I have met in my life and of the circumstances that have governed my life. I’m blessed that people see and react and validate those visions. All I hope for my people, is that we continue to strive through open dialogue, and to educate people, and to rewrite and restructure every stereotype that’s ever been handed down to us. I know that sounds dramatic as you thumb through the pages of this book, but if I got you to question your history, I was successful. If I made you feel beautiful, I was successful. If I made you long for family, I was successful. If I made you cry, I was successful. If I made you sad, I was successful. If I made you angry, I was successful. Artists are held to the highest level of scrutiny when it comes to their concepts and how they are purveyed. Being a commercially successful artist has released me of some of that responsibility. In order for a publisher or distributor to decide to sign certain works for their catalog, they would have to be able to predict whether their client base would receive these works. No publisher or distributor is going to publish a work that leaves too many questions in their interpretation.


That whole equation or assumption may be limited if it is a white distributor versus a black distributor, but I have watched both sign certain pieces that had a unifying thread, and I believe they both knew which images would resonate to the public. My demographic, as in other artist’s target demographic, has always been 85% women and 15% men. I think those percentages have wavered over the last four decades, but I’m still well aware that the higher percentage of the purchases of my work are to African American women. It has always puzzled me why most art contain women, or women and children, but may not have included men or men and children. And I was also staggeringly aware that the African American male, young male, has been almost avoided in the art world. Art is truly a reflection and depiction of what’s happening in our communities. That’s not to say that artists are not creating these images, but somehow these images never make it to the marketplace. I believe artists must continue to force certain types of images on the marketplace in order to break the barriers that exist about what images publishers and distributors believe black people want to see. I have constantly created images that challenge every notion of the rules I was taught in art school. One of the biggest responses to my work that always annoyed me was the statement, “I like your colors.” Because at that moment, I feel since we all see in color, that you had no other way to assess what you were seeing. I’ve watched other races observe my work, and I’ve come to realize that white people are often intimidated by my work. They look in curiosity from a distance as if the image is going to jump out and abduct their soul. I’ve also watched black and brown people look at the work with a curiosity, a commonality, and those are the ones who mostly collect my work. Does that mean that white people have not purchased my work? No, they have. And the images they purchase, typically are universal subjects like music and dance. Am I painting happy pretty pictures? You will find a few in this book. Am I addressing social justice in this book? Yes, I am. Am I attempting to show the strength and perseverance of my people in my work? Absolutely. My freedom has come in not being defined by what academia

Photo by Kirth Bobb

or the commercial market says I should or should not be. At the moments when I am creating, there’s total silence with an element of time travel. It serves as my therapy, and it is an anchor to my mental health and wellness. I get my therapy long before a piece is ever published.

It has been my honor to paint the narratives of the beauty I’ve seen in my people. Black magic is created every day. Black people are so colorful and have such style and attitude that I will never run out of subjects to create. We are truly among the most colorful people on the planet.

The images in this book are likely images on your wall. If you have collected my work, the image is likely in this book. Remember that these images are the pieces that have made it to print. The criteria for inclusion in this book is special because under the guise of making affordable art, I had to present fresh new ideas that had to go through assessment just to be published.

Our impact on culture is evident in all venues and professions, in skilled labor - those who have special training and knowledge and have attended college, universities, and technical schools; in unskilled labor – those in work that requires no specific skill or prior training; plus, those in commercials, in music, and in movies. That impact in style, attitude, and spirit are the inner secret ingredients why most of the images in this book have sold.

The images in this book are in two categories. My limited editions cover everything from open edition offset lithograph prints, limited edition lithograph prints, silkscreen prints, and giclée prints.

Enjoy this journey of 40 years of image-making. May my next volume be of images you have never seen. Larry Poncho Brown

Most of the images in this book are still available to the public unless they have reached sold-out status.





Always Reading Between the Lines Mixed Media Collage on Paper 29” x 43” 2007


Land of the Giantress

Path of the Rhino

Rider of the Realm

The Encounter

Gouache on Illustration Board 27” x 19.5” 1980

Gouache on Illustration Board 27” x 20” 1980


Gouache on Illustration Board 26.5” x 20” 1980

Gouache on Illustration Board 23” x 17” 1980

Iguana Princess

Gouache on Illustration Board 27.5” x 19” 1982


Eclipse, Ellipse

Acrylic on Illustration Board 25.75” x 20” 1984



Staircase of Tomorrow



Acrylic on Illustration Board 22” x 17” 1985

Acrylic on Illustration Board 19.5” x 15” 1985

Acrylic on Illustration Board 19.57” x 14.75” 1985

Acrylic on Illustration Board 22” x 17” 1985 45

Black Is Black

Acrylic on Illustration Board 22” x 17” 1988 The Colorism Series


Queen Nefretiti

Acrylic on Illustration Board 28.5” x 20” 1989 The Egyptian Queens Series

Queen Nofretari

Acrylic on Illustration Board 39” x 30” 1989 The Egyptian Queens Series


Queen Cleopatra VII

Acrylic on Illustration Board 28.5” x 20” 1989 The Egyptian Queens Series

Queen Hapshepsut

Acrylic on Illustration Board 35” x 45” 1989 The Egyptian Queens Series



Mixed Media Collage on Paper 39” x 30” 1990

Afrika Adorned I

Mixed Media Collage on Paper 42” x 55” 1990


Kente Queen Oil on Fabric 44” x 32” 1990



Oil on Fabric 46” x 40” 1990


Queen Khamerenebty

Acrylic on Illustration Board 22” x 17” 1990 The Egyptian Queens Series


Queen Kawit & Ashait

Acrylic on Illustration Board 35” x 45” 1990 The Egyptian Queens Series



Oil on Black Rag Paper 44” x 38” 1990



Oil on Black Rag Paper 39” x 54” 1990 The Dance Series



Graphite on Watercolor Paper 30” x 22” 1991


Spiritual Spouse

Oil on Paper 40” x 30” 1990

Natural Rhythm

Oil on Paper 48” x 36” 1990



Mixed Media Collage on Paper 39” x 54” 1991 The Dance Series


Oil on Black Rag Paper 36” x 50” 1991 The Dance Series


To the Rhythm

Oil on Black Rag Paper 39” x 54” 1991 The Dance Series

Heights of Harlem Oil on Black Rag Paper 30” x 44” 1991 The Dance Series


Precious Moments Serigraph 30” x 22.5” 1991


Black Is Black (The Brothers) Acrylic on Illustration Board 22” x 17” 1992 The Colorism Series



Mixed Media on Illustration Board 40” x 40” 1992


The Brotherhood

Mixed Media Collage on Paper 39” x 54” 1992

Tribal Dance

Mixed Media Collage on Paper 49” x 38” 1992 The Dance Series


Rhythmic Pleasures

Mixed Media Collage on Paper 36.5” x 28.5” 1992 The Dance Series



Mixed Media on Paper 54” x 39” 1992 The Dance Series



Mixed Media on Paper 29” x 41” 1992 The Dance Series


Native Son

Mixed Media Collage on Paper 54” x 39” 1993


Gradations I

Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 20” x 29” 1993 The Colorism Series


Gradations II

Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 20” x 29” 1993 The Colorism Series


One Love

Mixed Media Collage on Paper 40” x 40” 1993


Praising My Roots

Mixed Media Collage on Paper 30” x 44” 1993 The Dance Series


Acrylic on Paper 30” x 44” 1993 The Dance Series


Opposite Forces

Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 50” x 36” 1994 The Colorism Series



Mixed Media Collage on Watercolor Paper 40” x 26” 1994



Mixed Media on Illustration Board 28” x 15” 1994



Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 50” x 36” 1994

Indigo Blues

Acrylic on Black Rag Paper 39” x 30” 1994


United Minds

Mixed Media on Watercolor Paper 50” x 36” 1994



Mixed Media on Watercolor Paper 44” x 39” 1994 The Dance Series


The Blackness

Charcoal and Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 31.5” x 25.5” 1994 The Perseverance Series


Tranquility II Acrylic on Paper 12” x 16” 1994

Sun Maiden

Mixed Media Collage on Paper 16” x 12” 1994

Moon Gazer

Mixed Media Collage on Paper 12” x 16” 1994

Adorned #1

Acrylic on Paper 16” x 12” 1994



Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 40” x 40” 1995 The Colorism Series


Son of Kings

Mixed Media Collage on Paper 57” x 32” 1995


The Sanctuary

Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 36” x 26” 1995


Perseverance Totem

Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 50” x 13” 1995 The Totem Series

Power Totem

Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 50” x 13 1995 The Totem Series


Spirituality Totem I

Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 50” x 13” 1995 The Totem Series


Spirituality Totem II

Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 50” x 13” 1995 The Totem Series

Divine Spirit

Mixed Media on Watercolor Paper 35.5” x 36” 1996 The Dance Series


Phoenix Rising

Mixed Media on Watercolor Paper 30” x 44” 1996 The Dance Series

Freedom Dance

Mixed Media on Watercolor Paper 30” x 44” 1996 The Dance Series


Linked In Spirit

Acrylic on Paper 41.5” x 29” 1996

Precious One

Mixed Media on Watercolor Paper 41” x 29” 1996


Release Me

Mixed Media on Watercolor Paper 41” x 29” 1996 The Dance Series


The Vibe

Mixed Media Collage on Paper 18.5” x 20.75” 1996


Mixed Media Collage on Canvas Board 20” x 24” 1996 The Colorism Series


Faith Totem

Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 29.5” x 59.5” 1996 The Totem Series


Composite of Woman #1 Mixed Media on Paper 26” x 20” 1996

Composite of Man #1 Mixed Media on Paper 25” x 19” 1996


Ancestral Spirits #1 Mixed Media on Paper 25” x 19” 1996

Ancestral Spirits #2

Mixed Media on Paper 25” x 19” 1996

Ancestral Spirits #3 Mixed Media on Paper 25” x 19” 1996



Charcoal and Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 33” x 33” 1996 The Perseverance Series


Kindred Spirits

Mixed Media on Watercolor Paper 30” x 22.5” 1997


Heaven Sent

Charcoal and Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 46” x 32” 1997 The Angel Series


Millennium Mask #1

Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 30” x 22.5” 1997

Millennium Mask #5

Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 30” x 22.5” 1997


Sheer Essence I

Mixed Media on Paper 43” x 29.75” 1997

Sheer Essence II

Mixed Media on Paper 43” x 29.75” 1997


Absence of You

Graphite and Watercolor on Paper 30” x 22.5” 1997 The Nude Series

The Very Thought of U

Graphite and Watercolor on Paper 30” x 22.5” 1997 The Nude Series


Blooming Beauty

Graphite and Watercolor on Paper 30” x 22.5” 1997


Sweet Memories

Graphite and Watercolor on Paper 22.5” x 30” 1997 The Nude Series


A Time of Sensitivity

Graphite and Watercolor on Paper 30” x 22.5” 1997 The Nude Series


Big D

Graphite on Watercolor Paper 22.5” x 30” 1997


Family Affair

Mixed Media on Watercolor Paper 22.5” x 30” 1997


Peace of Mind

Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 36” x 26” 1998 The Colorism Series


The Sun People

Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 19” x 52” 1998 The Colorism Series


Lustful Contours

Graphite and Watercolor on Paper 22.5” x 30” 1998 The Nude Series


Stolen Moments

Watercolor and Graphite on Paper 30” x 22.5” 1997

Warm Places

Watercolor and Graphite on Paper 22.5” x 30” 1998


The Peace Keepers

Mixed Media on Watercolor Paper 25.5” x 36” 1998 Collaboration LaShun Beal, Larry Poncho Brown, and Leroy Campbell


From Darkness to the Light

Mixed Media Collage on Watercolor Paper 22.5” x 30” 1998

Holding Back the Darkness

Mixed Media Collage on Watercolor Paper 22.5” x 30” 1998


The Forgotten Journey

Charcoal and Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 35.5” x 28” 1999 The Perseverance Series


Smoove Groove

Collage on Paper 11” x 8.5” 1999

Jazzy Keys

Collage on Paper 11” x 8.5” 1999



Mixed Media Collage on Watercolor Paper 22.5” x 30” 1999 The Dance Series


Loves Fantasy

Graphite and Watercolor on Paper 30” x 22.5” 1999 The Nude Series


Real Love

Mixed Media Collage on Watercolor Paper 30” x 22.5” 1999


The Guardian

Charcoal and Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 38” x 32” 2000 The Angel Series


The Forgotten Journey 2

Charcoal and Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 35.5” x 28” 2001 The Perseverance Series


Precious Treasures I Mixed Media on Paper 19” x 25” 2000

Precious Treasures II Mixed Media on Paper 19” x 25” 2000


The Heat of Passion

Graphite and Watercolor on Paper 30” x 22.5” 2000 The Nude Series



Mixed Media on Embossed Paper 30” x 22.5” 2001


Just Coolin' It

Mixed Media on Watercolor on Paper 30” x 22.5” 2001


The Love Within

Graphite and Watercolor on Paper 11” x 8.5 2002 The Nude Series


Caress Me

Graphite and Watercolor on Paper 8.5” x 11” 2002 The Nude Series

By His Design

Graphite and Watercolor on Paper 8.5” x 11” 2002 The Nude Series


Dark Deliverance

Graphite and Watercolor on Paper 8.5” x 11” 2002

Pain of Passage

Graphite and Watercolor on Paper 8.5” x 11” 2002


Abandoned Dreams

Graphite and Watercolor on Paper 11” x 8.5” 2002


Better Days Ahead

Acrylic on Canvas Panel 8” x 10” 2002


Funny Moods

Mixed Media on Paper 11” x 8.5” 2002

Wrapped Crown

Mixed Media on Paper 11” x 8.5” 2002


Hold On To Your World

Mixed Media Collage on Watercolor Paper 11” x 8.5” 2002


Dark N’ Lovely

Mixed Media on Paper 11” x 8.5” 2002

Some Me Time

Mixed Media on Paper 11” x 8.5” 2002


Hats & Cigarettes

Mixed Media on Paper 8.5” x 11” 2002



Lend Me Your Ear

Drive Me Wild

Wanna Get Next To You

Mixed Media on Paper 11” x 8.5” 2002

Mixed Media on Paper 11” x 8.5” 2002


Mixed Media on Paper 11” x 8.5 2002

Mixed Media on Paper 11” x 8.5” 2002

Love Myself Unconditionally Mixed Media on Paper 11” x 8.5” 2002


Summer Friend

Feed the Fire

Stick Around

Contemplate U

Mixed Media on Paper 11” x 8.5” 2002

Mixed Media on Paper 11” x 8.5” 2002


Mixed Media on Paper 11” x 8.5” 2002

Mixed Media on Paper 11” x 8.5” 2002

Brighter Side of Me

Brown Eyed Beauty

Let Me Tell U

Passionate Lady

Mixed Media on Watercolor Paper 11” x 8.5” 2002

Mixed Media on Paper 11” x 8.5” 2002

Mixed Media on Watercolor Paper 11” x 8.5” 2002

Mixed Media on Paper 11” x 8.5” 2002


All That Came Before

Watercolor and Graphite on Watercolor Paper 8.5” x 11” 2002


The Future of Us

Mixed Media on Paper 11” x 8.5” 2002


Workin On Me

Mixed Media on Paper 8.5” x 11” 2002


Yours Begins, Mines Ends Mixed Media on Paper 11” x 8.5” 2002



Mixed Media on Paper 11” x 8.5” 2002

Need My Keys

Mixed Media on Paper 11” x 8.5” 2002


Lady Locs

Mixed Media Collage on Paper 40” x 21” 2003 Collaboration with Larry Poncho Brown and Charles Bibbs


Two of A Kind

Mixed Media on Watercolor Paper 12.5” x 12.75” 2004 Collaboration with Larry Poncho Brown and Charles Bibbs


Smooth Jazz #4

Smooth Jazz #5

Textured Sounds #1

Textured Sounds #2

Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 30” x 22.5” 2005

Mixed Media Assemblage on Paper 30” x 22.5” 2005

Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 30” x 22.5” 2005

Mixed Media Assemblage on Paper 30” x 22.5” 2005


If Only For One Nite

Mixed Media Collage on Watercolor Paper 36.75” x 25” 2005


Memories of Afrika Mixed Media on Paper 30” x 22.5” 2005 The Angel Series


After the Storm I

Mixed Media Collage on Watercolor Paper 22.5” x 30” 2005


After The Storm II

Mixed Media Collage on Watercolor Paper 22.5” x 30” 2005


The Space Between the Tears Graphite and Watercolor on Paper 22.5” x 30” 2006 The Nude Series


Angelic Contemplation

Graphite on Watercolor Paper 11” x 8.5” 2006 The Angel Series

The Appointment

Graphite on Watercolor Paper 11” x 8.5” 2006 The Angel Series


A Pondered Future

Mixed Media Collage on Watercolor Paper 22.5” x 30” 2006


Waitin By Da Phone

Mixed Media Collage on Watercolor Paper 12” x 36” 2006

Your Midnight Snack

Mixed Media Collage on Watercolor Paper 12” x 36” 2006


A Creative Mind

Mixed Media on Paper 11” x 8.5” 2006


Fine Young Man Acrylic on Paper 24”x 18” 2007


Nuthin’ But Da Blues Acrylic Canvas Collage 30” x 40” 2007


Dawn In the Garden of Eden Acrylic on Canvas 36” x 24” 2007

Wrapped Around U Acrylic on Canvas 36” x 24” 2007


The Skin I’m In Acrylic on Paper 30” x 22.5” 2007


Wait 4 Luv

Acrylic on Paper 30” x 22.5” 2007

When Will I Learn

Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 30” x 22.5” 2007



Mixed Media Collage on Watercolor Paper 12” x 36” 2007

Thinkin' Bout U Nite and Day

Mixed Media Collage on Watercolor Paper 12” x 36” 2007

TV Watching Me

Mixed Media Collage on Watercolor Paper 12” x 36” 2007


Face of Innocence

Mixed Media Collage on Watercolor Paper 24” x 36” 2007


The Man

Mixed Media Collage on Watercolor Paper 30” x 22.5” 2007


Looking 4 Luv

Mixed Media Collage on Bamboo 18” 2007

The Inquisitive One

Mixed Media Collage on Bamboo 18” 2009


In the Spirit of Umoja Acrylic Canvas Collage 30” x 40” 2011

In His Hands

Charcoal and Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 21” x 52” 2011 The Perseverance Series


The Most High

Mixed Media on Paper 30” x 24” 2011 The Dance Series


Maternal Moments

Acrylic and Ink on Paper 30” x 22.5” 2013

The Venus Factor

Acrylic and Ink on Paper 30” x 22.5” 2013


The Consequence of Change Acrylic on Canvas 30” x 40” 2013


To Be A Man

Mixed Media Collage on Paper 22.5” x 30” 2013



Mixed Media on Canvas 30” x 24” 2013



Mixed Media on Paper 29” x 23” 2013



Acrylic on Canvas 20” x 16” 2014


Light of the Ancestors Acrylic on Canvas 50” x 60” 2015


B’more Flava

Acrylic Canvas Collage 30” x 40” 2016


Black Butterfly

Acrylic Canvas Collage 30” x 40” 2016



Mixed Media on Canvas (Diptych) 18” x 48” 2016


Indigo Magic Digital Collage 36” x 40” 2016


The Power Within

Mixed Media Collage on Paper 38” x 28” 2016


Refugee, Evacuee?

Mixed Media Collage on Paper 30” x 22.5” 2017 174


Acrylic on Canvas Panel 20” x 16” 2018


Funky Interlude

Acrylic Canvas Collage 60” x 72” 2018


Deeply Rooted Digital Collage 36” x 24” 2019


Seeds of Wisdom Digital Collage 20” x 30” 2019


Digital Collage 24” x 36” 2019



Mixed Media Collage on Watercolor Paper 30” x 22.5” 2019 The Speak Words To Power Series


Mixed Media Collage on Watercolor Paper 30” x 22.5” 2019 The Speak Words To Power Series


Mama Sunrise

Mixed Media Collage on Masonite 16” x 11” 2020


The Truth Principle

Mixed Media Collage on Paper 11” x 5” 2020


Workin My Magic

Mixed Media on Watercolor Paper 11” x 5” 2020


Black Moon

Mixed Media Collage on Watercolor Paper 11” x 5” 2020

Crown and Pestle

Mixed Media Collage on Watercolor Paper 11” x 5” 2020


Of Kings

Mixed Media on Watercolor on Paper 12” x 8.5” 2020


Of Queens

Mixed Media on Watercolor on Paper 12” x 8.5” 2020

Blaque One

Mixed Media on Watercolor Paper 12” x 8.5” 2020

Blaque Too

Mixed Media on Watercolor Paper 12” x 8.5” 2020






Mixed Media on Paper 8” x 11” 2001 187

Morgan Walk-A-Thon

Acrylic on Illustration Board 22” x 17” 1986 Commissioned by Morgan State University – Baltimore, MD

Bill Cosby Live

Acrylic on Illustration Board 22” x 17” 1987 Commissioned by the Morgan State University Foundation – Baltimore, MD

Anita Baker Live

Acrylic on Illustration Board 22” x 17” 1987 Commissioned by the Winston Salem State University Student Government – Winston Salem, NC



Mixed Media Collage on Paper 38” x 30” 1991 Commissioned by Kunte Kinte Celebrations, Inc. for the Kunta Kinte Commemoration and Heritage Festival – Annapolis, MD


The Church

Acrylic on Illustration Board 36” x 26” 1991 Commissioned by Marcorp, Inc. for the Thelma March Scholarship Fund – Baltimore, MD


Caribbean Beats

Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 44” x 30” 1993 Commissioned by BZB International to commemorate the 3rd Annual Washington Black Art Festival – Washington, DC


Mixed Media on Paper 54” x 39” 1993 Commissioned by ASBHM for the 11th Annual Artist Salute To Black History Month –Los Angeles, CA



Acrylic on Paper 50” x 36” 1993 Commissioned by Marcorp, Inc. for the Thelma March Scholarship Fund – Baltimore, MD


Each One, Teach One

Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 26” x 40.5” 1994 Commissioned by the Black Atlanta Transplants to commemorate the 5th Annual Black History Month Celebration – Atlanta, GA


Glowing Graces

Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 29” x 41” 1994 Commissioned by the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority- Peoria Chapter – Peoria, IL


Circle of Love

Mixed Media Collage on Paper 32” x 36” 1995 Commissioned by The Black Mental Health Alliance –Baltimore, MD


A Common Vision

Mixed Media Collage on Paper 19” x 29” 1998 Commissioned for the 6th Anniversary of the Ramee Art Gallery to benefit the Charles Young Elementary School – Washington, DC



Mixed Media Collage on Paper 22” x 30” 1999 Commissioned by the Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky African American Chamber of Commerce for The Ujima Cinci-bration – Cincinnati, OH


The Reason For Being

Acrylic on Paper 22.5” x 30” 2000 Commissioned by African American Visual Arts Association for the Black Heritage Art Expo –Baltimore, MD



Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 30” x 22.5” 2001 Commissioned by Sankofa Fine Art Plus to commemorate the Cleveland Fine Art Expo –Cleveland, OH



Mixed Media on Watercolor Paper 8.5” x 11” 2001 Commissioned by The 11th Annual Mark L. Pastor Black Book Fair –Cincinnati, OH


Love, Links & Lineage

Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 41” x 29” 2001 Commissioned by The Sickle Cell Association of America – Hartford, CT


Following the Path

Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 26” x 44” 2002 Commissioned by Youth Initiatives In Education and Leadership Development for Mt. Carmel Redevelopment Corporation, Inc. –Kansas City, MO


Sister’s Journey

Mixed Media Collage on Paper 41” x 29” 2002 Commissioned by Sister’s Journey of New Haven, CT


The Delta Factor

Acrylic on Paper 20” x 29” 2002 Commissioned by It’s A Greek Thing commemorate the 46th National Convention of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority-Atlanta, GA


The Pledge

Mixed Media Collage on Paper 29.5” x 42.5” 2003 Commissioned by the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Cincinnati Alumnae Chapter – Cincinnati, OH


Sankofa Spirit

Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 22.5” x 30” 2003 Commissioned by Morgan State University-Visual Arts Department –Baltimore, MD


Cruise the Night Away II

Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 29” x 41” 2003 Commissioned by Our Gang Travel & Astah’s Art Gallery- Union, NJ


Art of Inclusion

Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 30” x 22.5” 2003 Commissioned by Cuyahoga Community College-Cleveland, OH


Link of Courage

Mixed Media Collage on Paper 29” x 41” 2003 Commissioned by The Links of New Haven, CT


Soul Survivors

Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 22.5” x 30” 2004 Commissioned by The Power of Prayer Cancer Spa to commemorate the African American Cancer Survivors Art Show –Trenton, NJ


Fountain Family

Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 29” x 41” 2004 Commissioned by Fountain Baptist Church to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of Pastor J. Michael Sanders–Summit, NJ


The Possibilities

Mixed Media Collage on Paper 30” x 22.5” 2004 Commissioned by Associated Black Charities –Baltimore, MD


To the Beat of the Drum

Mixed Media on Watercolor Paper 22.5” x 30” 2004 Commissioned by UMOJA African Arts Company to commemorate the 1st Annual African Arts In The Park Festival – Pittsburgh, PA


I Am Because of the We

Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 30” x 22.5” 2004 Commissioned by the Safe Healing Foundation to commemorate the First Annual Family Healing Symposium, Reuniting the African Family –Baltimore, MD 214


Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 30” x 22.5” 2005 Commissioned by McDaniel College to benefit their Office of Multicultural Services – Westminster, MD


Jazz on Ogontz Ave

Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 22.5” x 30” 2005 Commissioned by Art Noir Gallery to commemorate the West Oak Lane Jazz & Art Festival – Philadelphia, PA


Our Story

Mixed Media Collage on Paper 30” x 22.5” 2005 Commissioned by OurStory Expo to commemorate the 1st Annual Our Story Expo-Cincinnati, OH



Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 22.5” x 30” 2005 Commissioned by The Myrtle Tyler Faithful Fund of Zeta Phi Beta, Inc., Alpha Zeta Chapter –Baltimore, MD

The Measure of A Man

Mixed Media on Watercolor Paper 22.5” x 30” 2005 Commissioned by The Monarch Awards Foundation of Xi Nu Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.-Chicago, IL


Saving Our Sons

Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 26” x 37” 2005 Commissioned by the African American Male Leadership Institute to benefit the Saving Our Sons Initiative –Baltimore, MD


Faithful Family

Mixed Media on Watercolor Paper 41.5” x 29.5” 2005 Commissioned by the First Church of God Christian Life Center – Evanston, IL


Window of Faith

Acrylic on Paper 31” x 44” 2005 Commissioned by Raising The Arts to benefit Baltimore Community Faith Based Organizations – Baltimore, MD


Legends and Legacies

Acrylic Canvas Collage 40” x 30” 2005 Commissioned by the Triangle Urban League to commemorate their Legends Gala Raleigh, NC


Pearls of Wisdom

Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 38” x 25” 2005 Commissioned by Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of Pi Theta Omega Chapter – Morristown, NJ


The Spirit of Fatherhood

Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 29.5” x 41.5” 2005 Mbrace Fatherhood to benefit the Maarifa Elementary & Middle School’s Student Scholarship Fund – Baltimore, MD


Praise the Lord With Gladness

Acrylic on Wood 40” x 48” 2006 Commissioned by Epworth United Methodist Chapel to commemorate their 50th Anniversary– Baltimore, MD


Celebrate Freedom

Acrylic Canvas Collage on Canvas 30” x 40” 2007 Commissioned by the Underground Railroad Freedom Center for their 1st Annual FreedomFest – Cincinnati, OH



Acrylic Canvas Collage on Canvas 40” x 30” 2007 Commissioned by Festival513 to commemorate Macy’s Music Festival –Cincinnati, OH



Acrylic Canvas Collage on Canvas 30” x 40” 2007 Commissioned by Namyanka Christian Performing Arts, Inc. – Baltimore, MD



Mixed Media on Canvas 40” x 30” 2007 Commissioned by Venture Richmond to commemorate the 2nd Street Festival – Richmond VA


Heavy Burdens

Acrylic Canvas Collage on Canvas 40” x 30” 2008 Commissioned by Wholeness Development, Inc. to benefit homeless veterans-Atlanta GA



Acrylic Canvas Collage on Canvas 30” x 40” 2008 Commissioned by the Association of Black Psychologists to commemorate their 40th Anniversary –Washington, DC


Ribbons of Life

Acrylic Canvas Collage on Canvas 30” x 40” 2008 Commissioned by Sisters’ Journey to commemorate their 10th Anniversary – New Haven, CT


On the Main Stage

Acrylic on Canvas 30” x 40” 2008 Commissioned by Venture Richmond to commemorate the 19th Anniversary of the 2nd Street Festival – Richmond, VA


The Jazz Dimension

Acrylic Canvas Collage on Canvas 30” x 40” 2008 Commissioned by the Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corporation to commemorate the West Oak Lane Jazz and Arts Festival- Philadelphia, PA


Sowing Seeds For A Lifetime Harvest

Acrylic Canvas Collage on Canvas 40” x 32” 2009 Commissioned by Sowing Empowerment and Economic Development- Riverdale, MD



Acrylic Canvas Collage on Canvas 40” x 30” 2009 Commissioned by NDUTime Youth & Family Services, Inc. – Richmond, VA


Every Round Goes Higher

Acrylic Canvas Collage on Canvas 30” x 40” 2009 Commissioned by the Douglass Memorial Community Church Inspirational Choir –Baltimore, MD


Live On Ogontz

Acrylic Canvas Collage on Canvas 40” x 30” 2009 Commissioned by the Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corporation to commemorate the West Oak Lane Jazz and Arts Festival- Philadelphia, PA


The Caregivers

Acrylic Canvas Collage on Canvas 60” x 48” 2009 Commissioned by Coppin State University-Helene School of Nursing-Baltimore, MD

When the Ribbon is Red

Acrylic Canvas Collage on Canvas 36” x 36” 2009 Commissioned by the National AIDS Education & Services For Minorities, Inc.- Atlanta, GA


Street Songs

Acrylic Canvas Collage on Canvas 30” x 40” 2009 Commissioned by Venture Richmond to commemorate the 21st Anniversary of the 2nd Street Festival – Richmond, VA


Two Street Sounds

Acrylic Canvas Collage on Canvas 48” x 36” 2010 Commissioned by Venture Richmond to commemorate the 22nd Anniversary of the 2nd Street Festival – Richmond, VA


To the Beat On 2nd Street

Acrylic Canvas Collage on Canvas 40” x 30” 2011 Commissioned by Venture Richmond to commemorate the 23rd Anniversary of the 2nd Street Festival – Richmond, VA


A Legacy of Love & Learning

Acrylic Canvas Collage on Canvas 30” x 40” 2011 Commissioned by The Caring Center to commemorate the their 20th Anniversary- Philadelphia, PA


Blue Notes

Acrylic Canvas Collage on Canvas 40” x 30” 2013 Commissioned by East River Jazz for the “Let There Be Jazz” Series-Washington, DC


It’s All About Love

Acrylic Canvas Collage on Canvas 40” x 30” 2013 Commissioned by Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Virginia Peninsula-Williamsburg, VA


Passing the Torch

Acrylic on Watercolor Paper 24” x 36” 2013 Commissioned by It’s A Greek Thing commemorate the 50th National Convention of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Centennial Celebration-Washington, DC


The Culture Keepers

Acrylic Canvas Collage 30” x 40” 2013 Commissioned by the African American Cultural Festival of Raleigh and Wake County- Raleigh, NC


With These Hands

Mixed Media on Watercolor Paper 25” x 30” 2014 Commissioned by The DC Lottery and Charitable Games Control Board to commemorate Black History Month- Washington, DC



Digital Illustration 40” x 30” 2014 Commissioned by the Capital Jazz Fest to commemorate their 22nd Anniversary- Columbia, MD


Now & Forever

Acrylic on Canvas 40” x 32” 2014 Commissioned by the Pythias A. and Virginia I. Jones African American Community Forum on Memory Loss to commemorate their 10th Anniversary- Baltimore, MD


Community Heritage Service

Acrylic Canvas Collage on Canvas 30” x 40” 2015 Commissioned by the Coalition for Stronger Communities, Inc. to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the Fort Washington Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.-Fort Washington, MD


Remarkable Journey

Acrylic Canvas Collage on Canvas 40” x 30” 2016 Commissioned by The Center For Remarkable Women, Inc. to commemorate their 10th Anniversary- Baltimore, MD


Smooth Cruise

Acrylic Canvas Collage on Canvas 40” x 30” 2016 Commissioned by the Capital Jazz Fest for the 25th Annual SuperCruise- Columbia, MD


Cincy Vibes

Acrylic on Canvas 40” x 30” 2018 Commissioned by Cincinnati Music Festival-Cincinnati-OH


The Visionary

Acrylic Canvas Collage on Canvas 40” x 30” 2020 Commissioned by The Beauty of Blackness Fine Art Show- Fort Collins, CO




arry Poncho Brown, a native of Baltimore, Maryland, started his first business as a signwriter at age 17, and without interruption, continues to be a full-time artist. He received his bachelor of fine arts degree in graphic design and photography from the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). Poncho’s earlier works were predominately airbrush illustrations. He evolved from a graffiti artist, to a classically trained sign painter and graphic artist. His published works from the mid-80’s i.e., the “Black is Black” series was one of the first to address colorism in the African American art realm. Both fine and commercial pieces of Poncho’s art have been published nationally in Upscale, Ebony, Ebony Man, Essence, and Jet magazines. His art is featured in the UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History book entitled “Wrapped in Pride”, “Connecting People with Art”, and “Wondrous Works.” His popular works have been prominently featured on several TV shows including “A Different World”, “In the House”, “The Wire”, “The Carmichael Show”, “Star”, and “Greenleaf”. Movies featuring his art include “Avalon”, “He Said, She Said”, and “Soul Food”. His work adorns the walls of the likes of Camille and Bill Cosby, Anita Baker, Susan Taylor, Ed Gordon, Bernard Bronner, the late Dick Gregory, and a host of others. A number of Poncho’s original works are housed in the corporate and institutional collections of Coppin State University, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the District of Columbia Superior Courts, the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University, Howard University Hospital, Yale New Haven Health Park Avenue Medical Center and the Sebrof-Forbes Cultural Arts Center. One of many artists, monikered “The Popular Artists”, that gained national recognition during “The Cosby Show” era and found commercial success between 1985-2000. During this “Golden Age of African American Art” period, they made art accessible to the masses through direct participation in community art and cultural festivals, foregoing the traditional artist arrangement of artist representation: gallery representation and art publisher distribution. At the height of this era Poncho’s works were sold in 3000 galleries across the country, and hung on the walls in 500,000+ homes.


In pursuit of his philanthropic aspirations, Poncho founded Raising the Arts, a company that created over 70 images to assist nonprofit organizations and African American Organizations with fundraising for the past three decades. He also co-founded the Creative Quarantine, a collaboration of other professional artists that dedicate the entire month of January to create new experimental works. Photo by Kirth Bobb Poncho received the “Artist of the Year” award from the African American Visual Arts Association in 2000, the “Heritage Arts Festival Palette Award” in 2003, the “Save the Arts Award” as Museum’s Choice in 2010, “The Jan Spivey Gilchrist Visual Arts Award” in 2013, and the “Baker Artists Award” in 2021.

Admirers often site rhythm, movement, and unity as favorite elements in his work. He primarily works in acrylic, although he uses a variety of mediums and styles to express his interests in Afrocentric themes, Ancient Egyptology, and dance. Poncho’s unique style combines past and present art stylizations to create a sense of realism, mysticism, and beauty, which gives his art universal appeal. “The African American art movement has been pressing onward, producing positive images that have become a narrative of our perseverance. My works attempt to capture SOUL while purposely depicting positive representations of African American culture. Art and imagery are the strongest forms to challenge the perceptions of African Americans in our society.”

– Larry Poncho Brown

$60.00 ISBN 978-1-7379276-0-0


9 781737 927600

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