Have I Arrived?

My 7 year old showed me a drawing last night.  At first glance it looked to be the madness of a child’s mind – yet when I took my time and studied the details of her drawing, I saw a wonderful still-life drawing of every detail in our living room.    I was remined quickly of my humble beginnings and where I am now as an artist.   Hundreds of drawings on notebook paper stuffed in my grandmother’s drawers.  All the hours in the studio laboring – trying to find myself.  I only knew I wanted to create great art.


This year my solo show BLK HND SDE was sold out.  It was well received and even garnered the nomination of an award.  We’ll see what happens the night of Oct. 28th.  This year I had an opportunity to curate an exhibit at a museum.  It’s the 50th anniversary of Black Creativity at the Museum of Science and Industry; I’m no longer a participating art but judging the prestigious contest this year.  I co-chaired an important art event at the Art Institute of Chicago.  This year I had an opportunity for collaborative work with a clothing company.  From those childhood drawings until now, I’ve made a bit of progress.  Have I been validated?  No


Why would I say NO?  Because it only represents a small portion of my dreams.  When I started this journey I set high goals and have always had great expectations.  I’m grateful for what I’ve accomplished,  but I know its so much more to do.  I’m still climbing. 


Collab with OCCI

2019 Black Excellence Award

Black Creativity 2020

Original work for Dear Jazz exhibit currently at South Side Community Art Center

Original work for Dear Jazz exhibit currently at South Side Community Art Center


I have felt defeated in my life.  I know the emptiness of unfulfilled potential.  I have felt hopeless and unable to move beyond certain boundaries.  I have been down many of these paths that lead to nowhere.  And that is why it’s such a GREAT feeling when you accomplish goals.  Some people look at my life from the outside and only know the victories.  When they say “the sweet taste of victory,” they ain’t lying.   Victory taste like expensive chocolate coated over an exotic nut.


The solo exhibit BLK HND SDE was a victory on many levels.  There was an opportunity to showcase my work in a gallery (Blanc Gallery / Chicago) I have been wanting to be in for at least 4 years.  I stepped outside of my comfort zone and created art I would not normally do; unsure how it would be received by the public.  Of course I spend countless hours creating art, but somehow I was able to balance my time with my family.  I met so many new people in the last 5 weeks that were either new to the art scene or new to my work.  The cherry on top was the purchasing of the art – both by local collectors and out of state.  This body of work resonated with the public and I appreciated every conversation I had about it.


So the year is half over and I feel fulfilled.  I know there are six more months that I have to grind and keep pushing – but as of now – this moment – I’m happy.

Figure out what you want in life and work feverishly toward it, until you are FULFILLED.  Then set new goals.


Without Fear

When you think back to when you were young with just notebook paper and crayons - or if you were special, your grandmother got that pack of colorful construction paper - there were no boundaries of what you created.  If you wanted to make a portrait of your mother with an extra arm it was cool, because you were in control of the art.  The most important thing in the world was that you were happy with what you made.

At some point during our grown professional art lives, sh*t mattered (sorry Ma for the curse word).  Artist get placed in boxes that equal a certain number of sales per quarter, and their work rarely strays far from their bread basket.  The people love when they paint XYZ, so they paint 3 million variations of XYZ.  Fantastic!  Congrats to that artist and their bank account.

Then there are artist that are SO afraid of criticism, they don’t try new things.  They are afraid to experiment with new materials and ideas, with the fear of people not liking it.  What happened to the kid with the crayons and construction paper?  Why do we kill that child?

That little skinny butter pecan kid still dwells within me.  I draw, scribble, doodle in margins, doodle on paintings, add ink to watercolors, paint on top of collage work - I DO WHAT MAKES ME HAPPY.  Yes, I love when people appreciate my art.  I LOVE all of my collectors.  I adore the news articles and blogs in which I’m mentioned.  However, I can’t let any of my previous success dictate every piece of art I create in the future.  Sure you have to pay attention to how the public responds to your work……  but you can’t be trapped in a cycle of creating art that no longer challenges your inner child.  Every piece of art is an answer or response to an internal question.  How can I finish my life test if I’m stuck on question 10, giving variations of the same answer month after month - year after year.  You are no longer a river of flowing creativity - you become a stagnant pool of rainwater in the grocery store parking lot.

This month marks my 46 year of breathing Gods good air.  That's 46 years of collecting data, ideas and feelings.  I am not afraid to regurgitate those ideas in new ways.   That's why my solo show this month at Blanc Gallery features works you won’t normally see from me.  I do hope its received well.  The title of the exhibit: BLK HND SDE

If you are reading this, and you are not an artist, I still advise that you live and move without fear.  Pull out some construction paper and crayons and just get busy living. 

BLK 1.jpg


Let’s TALK  - no, let’s CONFESS.  I’m gonna start with am admittance of guilt.  I am a pretender.  No, the man you know or think you know is not me - well not fully.  People have followed my art career for years an have seen growth and successes and failures.  Those people have me figured out - pretty well pegged.  What if I told you what you think you know, you don’t know?

Good morning, my name is Paul and I’m an Abstract Artist.  I know, I can see the look on your face and tell there is shock and a small hint of disgust.  But please allow me to explain.  I have ALWAYS been attracted to abstraction in all its various forms.  I have ALWAYS created abstract art.   You are now questioning WHY have you all not seen any of this work.  FEAR ….. fear is the only answer I can think of.  I rarely show this side of myself.   It’s almost like people hiding porn.   Was I ashamed of my abstract art?   I’m not sure if ashamed is the right word.   To me, I lacked the confidence to show the public because I felt it wasn’t good enough.  There, I said it.   My art was WHACK in my eyes.  I stayed in the closet because I wasn’t ready for y’all to see this side of me.  But no more - I’m out the closet.  It’s finally time to reveal myself.   My name is Paul Branton, and I’m an abstract artist.

Recently I reconnected with some old friends at Gallery Guichard.  Opening on April 11th, my true coming out moment happens in a couple weeks.  For those that know me as a figurative artist, I do hope you don’t spit on me in public (laughing so hard on the inside).  For all of my collectors around the country, come see this new branch of my art life.  I genuinely hold warm places in my heart for all those who have supported me.   This new phase is a leap of faith and I hope you continue on this journey with me. 

Mamas Makeup.jpg

Define Yourself

Last year was wide open for me.  I entered the year with no set exhibits and direct agenda.  I navigated the year almost like a single man wondering through a club; in search of something but not exactly sure of what.  This year is different.  Its more defined, more organized and if its possible, more determined.  I’ve met a lot of people and sold a bunch of art in a short span of time.  Only a couple of months are erased from 2019 and my art world has been churning nonstop.  So what are my main objectives of this year?   First, I need to make sure my solo show in May at BLANC Gallery is top notch.  I need the work to speak for itself and continue to raise the bar.  With the art collective Pigment, there is an opportunity to take my art to Los Angeles, Expo show and once again back to Miami to close out the year.  With that being said, I have high expectations - stepping stones have grown larger and i’m up for the challenge.


Next Steps

I have always had the mindset of greatness.  However I can’t exclude moments of self-doubt that I’m sure many creatives go through.  Overall, it's the great expectations that I place upon myself that allows me to succeed.  Am I the greatest artist to ever live?  Not all all …. yet there is a part of me that won’t be relegated to bum status.  The physical act of creating art is what it is - they call it “practicing artist”, because we are always developing our craft (or you would assume the greats do).  The biggest hurdle is not creating great art.  In my opinion, the much larger hurdle is the mental aspect; believing what you created is great…. overcoming moments when you create bad art.  ANY ARTIST THAT TELLS YOU THEY NEVER MADE BAD ART IS A LIAR - either to you or to themselves.  Its part of our growth.

In a couple of weeks I continue my path of greatness.  Yes, I have to use the word “greatness” because If I don’t believe it, there is no way in hell others will believe it.  We create our own destinies with work ethic, talent, faith and a pinch of good timing.  We all have seen far less talented artist succeed - hence timing and great marketing.   So yes, in December my journey to greatness continues - and I hope you are there to witness it.

December 4-6th 2018, in conjunction with Pigment International, please see my art in person at The Penthouse Wharf (125 SW North River Dr., Miami, FL).   I expected it to be a life changing experience.



My entire career has been about stepping stones;  growing both as an artist, but also as an entity.  An entity?  Yes .... Just like I am a father, son and husband at the same time, I find myself having to be an artist, promotor and brand at the same time.

I entered this year for the first time in a long time not having ANY solo shows on my schedule.  It was very liberating but frustrating.  The slate was clean and I could make it whatever I wanted.  However, in this art game you always have to have a partner (somewhat).   Propping your art on an easel and standing on the corner of 79th and Harvard aint gonna make things happen.  I need venues - I need a destination - I need the perfect locations to invite my current and future collectors.

So while I was cooking up new work, I was also building relationships.  I joined a fantastic art collective (Pigment INT), I partnered with (Young Chicago Authors) and linked with (No Cuts No Glory).  All of which have the same outlook and mindset as myself.  At the end of the day, we are all trying to be the greatest versions of ourselves - so why not sharpen each other?


branton artist talk.jpg

Giants Among US

In 2010 or 2011 I was at the Hyde Park Art Center participating in open critique.  I brought in 3 or 4 pieces to be discussed.  A few people that lead the critique were notable voices like Dawoud Bey and Paul Klein.  Anytime you show your work publicly it stands to reason that some not so nice things can be said…. At some point in your professional career you have to take some bullets; albeit verbal, they can hurt just the same.

In the crowd that night was Joyce Owens.  I had recently met her at the annual Delta show and became an instant fan of her work.  I didn’t know it at the time, but Joyce became a mentor figure.  Also in the audience that night was a very young Max Sansing.  It would be the very first time we meet.  Little did I know that we would end up going numerous exhibits together.

Mr. Klein started along a path of dialogue that questioned the use of bright colors in figurative work and these colors being use more particularly by African American artist.  Before I could answer his question I heard a voice over my shoulder.  It was Joyce.  They debated like ancient philosophers, and the sharpness of her tongue and brilliant mind claimed her the victor.  I saw a nodding approval from Max and a soft wink from Joyce.   I understood at that moment that I had allies in the art world:  more specifically, the Chicago art market had a community of Black artist that truly cared about each other and the potential growth as individuals and with our craft.

This was a random night on the south side of Chicago – and I’m sure it meant nothing to anyone there.  BUT 50 years from now will someone say, “hey, remember the night in Hyde Park where these Giants stood and talked about art?”  My goals in life are humongous -  I’ve witnessed the growth of my sister Joyce.  The sky is the limit for my brother Max.  And Dawoud is already an ICON.   Many decades from now, I want someone to REMEMBER THAT NIGHT and the GREATNESS that came from it.




In this vast world – in this extended universe that goes far beyond our physical sight – we are just tiny drops – we are specs… YET, the inflamed egos make us feel more than we are.  We no longer just enjoy the privilege of life.  We no longer relish in the love that is given freely.  We have become something else.  Too many men have developed a God Complex.

So in times where ultra-racist march on American soil or leaders of nations throw verbal bashes as if the world were a playground or well-armed men with mental issues murder the innocent by the dozens, HOW DO ARTIST RESPOND?  Do you gage the temperature of the world then its business as usual?  Do we become the mirrors of the soul and reflect the ugliness that has become far too common?  Are we the bearers of bad news and report just as any other news anchor – except our news is on canvas or brick walls or spit in verses or scribbled on pages? 

The ROLE OF THE ARTIST is not to run.  The ROLE OF THE ARTIST is not to blend in.  The ROLE OF THE ARTIST has and will always be rooted in TRUTH.   For we see the world from multiple perspectives at once and only an artist can regurgitate what we see.

To my fellow artist:  Be Truthful – HEAL – report – Be Angry – Be HURT – be LOUD – be Vibrant – be HEARD – be SEEN …….. do not lay your head on your pillow in slumber and hoping for a better tomorrow.   MAKE TOMORROW better. ….. TOUCH the WORLD around you.  Yes, we are just specs in the universe, but our specs are a tad bit more colorful.

paul vibrant2.jpg


They are our offspring.  Every last one of them.  Some you care about more than others – but every time you put pencil to paper or brush to canvas, they become your children.  At first my children just lived with me and very few people knew they existed.  Later I got to the courage to show a few friends – they thought the kids were cool because they couldn’t make anything remotely close.  Sketches don’t count much – although some sketches you get attached to and you stare at them like you watching a million year old star burn out. I don’t have a uterus and I’ve never felt anything close to labor pains (except that one time when I hurt my back and it felt like a thousand hot knives stabbing for no damn good reason).  Even if I can’t house life in my womb, I give birth repeatedly every week in my studio.   I paint – I give life – they are my CHILDREN.


As I grew as an artist I also became familiar with the business side of art.  I’m always honored when my art goes home with a wonderful couple.  I know that they will take good care of my child.  I LOVE when my art goes to a loving home and will receive the proper amount of attention – reciprocating joy daily.  These are the best feelings about creating something from nothing.  They are original and nothing else exist like it in the world.


So know that you understand how I feel about my babies, let me try to articulate the feeling of reproducing them.  It’s hard for me to make prints or put images on coffee mugs.  It’s all great to share my art in many forms and I love and appreciate when someone would even consider purchasing ANYHTING with an image of mine of it.  It could be a damn oven mitt with a color pattern from my paintings – trust me, I’m humbled by the mere desire for it ………. It just feels weird as a father.  It would be like someone telling me that my daughter Erin is a great person and asking me if I could make another one of her – or perhaps just a smaller version of her – just a little something for people to carry around or glance up at in workspace cubicles.  I don’t know why I struggle so much with this idea of turning my art into bastards – tiny bastards to cover shirts, calendars, mugs, socks, etc …… Let people get their fix in smaller portions.   I’m not saying I would never do this or have never duplicated my work … I’m just trying to figure out this FEELING and how to deal with it.


A child is a gift.  It’s a precious being.  I am absolutely in love every night when my brush glides across the surface of the canvas …….. I feel like a cheap Madison hooker when I make copies of my baby behind her back.  Hoping that she will never find out.

EGO Trippin

The most talented people in the world are driven by either believing they are or striving toward the idea of being the best at what they do.  It is this drive and passion that allows us to evolve and get better.  I used the word “us” because I put myself in this category.  That’s not to say that I’m an egomaniac, but in order to reach any level of success that thought pattern has to be in place.  You have to picture yourself in certain positions – and if you are picturing yourself in a certain position, why the hell would you ever have thoughts of being in second place if you gave a damn? 

It is our ego that both helps and hurts.  It is our ego that pushes us toward greatness.  With that being said, we have to recognize when to push the ego aside.  We have to understand that not one person gets to where they are on their own.  You can reach even higher heights if there is a collective effort.

As an artist I have been involved in several group shows over the years.  There are special moments in life in which an individual artist shines – but then there are moments where the SHOW shines.  When the level of talent rises so high in each individual that the entire body of work exceeds any expectations.  I am honored to have experienced that this summer.  I have enjoyed some success this year – and I feel like my art continues to grow both in substance and exposure – but what I have done as an independent artist is minuscule compared to the current group show that I’m part of.  From the concept to the curator, it blows me away.  I’m thankful.

Being around a lot of artist all the time makes you want to step your game up.  Iron sharpens iron.  The proof sits on the 3rd floor of 2635 S. Wabash – a nondescript building seemingly in the middle of nowhere.  Yet on the 3rd floor, this old brick warehouse holds perhaps the best exhibit in the Midwest.  When egos are laid to the side  and artist are able to create freely and with purpose, the most magnificent things can happen.    

Failure / Success

Success rarely comes without some form of failure .... and I have failed a lot.  Mostly minor failures, but a few colossal screw ups.  Yet we are not measured by our failures - you should never let yourself be defined by failure.  The mark of success is how much we learn from failure and how far we reach afterwards.  We know of Malcolm's imprisonment,  but we are more focused on the end result of his evolution.  I'm sure the Wright brothers crashed a hundred times, but that's not why history remembers them.  It is what you do after that crash that gets written about.

Life aint been no crystal stairs ..... not everyone is give a great head start in life.  Some people dont have trust funds and plush summer jobs.  It is this idea of starting from the bottom and working your way up.  Its humbling.  I was never dirt poor, but there are many events in my life where I had to do without.  Does that make you appreciate things more?  maybe ..... I do know it certainly made me want to achieve more.  I wanted to be the best at whatever I did.  Does that mean Im the best artist in Chicago?  Hell no .... but Im working on it.

This summer I will bring the heat.  Despite all my shortcomings and past failures, after this summer I bet more people will remember me.  There should be something left on their minds because of my art.  I am not the imprisoned Malcolm, but rather the fiery speaker that sparked the minds of thousands.




high expectations

Although there are no guarantees in life, I have always felt that if you put in the right amount of effort your chances increase tremendously.  I’m not the hardest working person that I know, but I do grind.  I have met people that literally never sleep – every moment of everyday is either doing or thinking about their dream.  I have the same amount of passion, but I can’t totally ostracize my family.  Their patience and understanding with me when it comes to my art is already appreciated.  To reach any point of success you have to be committed.  With that in mind, I set both short and long term goals.        

This years I set 5 goals for myself:

  1.  Solo exhibit in my home market (Chicago).  Earlier this year I had a solo show at NYCH Gallery that was well received.  This late summer I have a solo show at Good Details.  In my mind, it’s the most important exhibit of my life.  It’s time to take another step forward.

  2. Take part in successful group exhibits.  The Farewell 44 exhibit got great exposure and it’s always a plus when I gain new collectors of my work.  This summer I will participate in one of the best group exhibits EVER in Chicago.  I’m extremely excited about what is about to take place this summer.

  3. Multiple Streams of Income.   I host Sip and Paint events both for the public and private.  That portion of my business has been steady.  It literally pays for my daughter’s expensive college education.  Thank God.

  4. Get in more publications.  It had been years since something was written about my art in any type of publication.  This year I have been featured in Ebony Magazine.  I’m humbled and thankful.   At the same time, I’m even hungrier for exposure.

  5.  Exhibit in outside markets.  It’s about to enter the 5th month of the year and I have NOT booked any exhibits outside of my hometown.   This is something I need to put the full court press on.  It’s time to hit the road.



    I once said that success rarely comes without some form of failure.  I have fallen many times.  I have learned many lessons.  You have to apply those failures to build your future.  Yes, I’m still a work in progress.  There are so many things I want to accomplish before I leave this fin earth.  I plan to reach most, if not ALL of my goals.

Get this magazine and turn to page 20-21

Get this magazine and turn to page 20-21

28th Day

After being in labor for two days, my mother released me to the world the morning of May 7th 1973.  I was born Black and have remained so for the entirety of my life, despite my lighter complexion.  So if I am Black every second of the day for so many years, why would I regulate my Blackness for 28 days a year?  My father died a hair short of his 50th birthday.  His birth certificate, which is in my possession, states that my father was born Colored.  From Pine Bluff, Arkansas to Chicago, Illinois he carried that label both beneath and upon his skin.  Every day we live in America as Black men and take all the good and bad that comes with it.  It makes no sense to only celebrate and acknowledge it for only 28 days.

This Blackness that I carry, how does it translate to my art?  Does my art get Blacker in February?  Is this the only time of year that my art lifestyle is profitable?  Should I exploit my Black Heritage at this time of year?  Is it easier to get media coverage during the chilly month of February?  All of these questions surround me and my tightknit artist community as we wear the hats of both artist and businessmen, planning our lives both in practical and in terms of commerce.  We gotta eat.  We gotta survive.  We gotta create dope art, because that’s what we were born to do.  The level of exposure and support does get heightened a bit in February.  How do we as artist ensure that our exposure continues throughout the year?   Celebrating our culture shouldn’t end on the 28th day. 

I LOVE who I am.  Every bit of my Black existence radiates in my artwork.  Those underlining themes stretch far beyond the communities in which I was raised.   My Blackness doesn’t need to be confined to Black patrons no more so than being confined to one short month.  My experience on this earth is unique in its own right, but it overlaps the experiences many of us have had despite birth certificate labels.  I won’t allow my art to be contained in a box.  I will not be painted into a corner to distribute fine arts calendars for the Blackest month of the year.  That’s not me, and never will be me.  I certainly hope that’s not you either.  LOVE yourself everyday – celebrate yourself and your ancestor’s every day.  LEARN something NEW about yourself and your past EVERYDAY.  Don’t get trapped in this condensed 28 day cycle.  Let the 28 days just be a louder trumpet for what has been going on the other 337 days.

Ali and Malcolm

Ali and Malcolm

Young Artist

I recently spoke to a young artist in Dallas.  She was/is frustrated.  And I totally understand her frustration because I’ve been in her shoes.  There really is no blueprint for people like us.  There is no direct path.  Some things work for some artist, while other artist fall flat on their face trying to duplicate those same footsteps.   So what do you say to these young and eager artist that are ready to grab the world by the collar to get attention?


There are a few things I’ve learned over the years, that I WISH I would have known or applied in my practice when I was her age.  First and foremost, it’s always great to have passion in whatever it is you do.  It is that passion and drive that fuels success.  You can define “success” in any way that fits your criteria.  So yes, continue to have that passion and desire, because that is what helps you to create art.  Now how do you turn that passion and hours of painting into some type of profit margin?  There are two quick and direct answers – find out what type of artist you are and then identify your audience.  Many young artist mimic their favorite artist or create work they think is wildly popular.  Which may be ok for short term success or just personally building your skills.   In the long term outlook, it’s far more important to develop who YOU are as an artist.   I should be able to look at a piece of art from across the room without reading a signature and KNOW THAT WORK CAME FROM YOU…… develop your style and personal stamp within your art.  Quite honestly it doesn’t matter how great or bad that art is – because what I may see as “bad” there is always someone that thinks its “great.”   That is your audience.  Everyone has an audience …… just ask Tyler Perry.


So as you are working hard creating this work and developing into whoever you are to become as an artist, get to know your artist community.  That community exist in 3 levels:  other artist, organizations and of course art collectors.  Have you ever been introduced to someone more than once, and you swore this person has seen and talked to you on many occasions – and yet, they act like they don’t know you from a hill of beans?   This is not out of the normal, so don’t take it personal.  Some people take this as a sign of disrespect or even more hurtful, a bruise to the ego.   The truth is, it takes a person an average of 8 times to meet or be in the same room with someone before they actually learn your name or recognize you.   If that is a fact, then you have to make yourself seen and reintroduce yourself quite a bit.   To some of us introverts, this is a very unnatural state of affairs.  You HAVE to fight against nature.  You HAVE to shake hands and open your mouth.   As wonderful as your art may be, it may sit dead and unseen if you never take the small steps of introducing yourself over and over and over.   As easy and natural as creating the art can be, the opposite end of the spectrum is as hard to take it to the public.   Some artist are GREAT at this…. Theaster Gates is a GREAT people person.  Raub Welch is wonderfully social.  These qualities are very helpful in your practice.


Lastly, I have found if helpful to gain wisdom from artist that have been around longer than me.   That may mean finding an artist that does similar work than you and seeing what galleries they show their work.  But more fulfilling, is having conversations with artist that are on a level you wish to be at.   Are all artist willing and able to guide or part words of wisdom to younger artist?  Hell no … Some artist may look as you as a threat… or perhaps they feel “I made it my way so you find your own way.”….. whatever the case, it is always helpful to just soak up good words from experienced artist.  I’m forever grateful to artist like Joyce Owens and Dayo Laoye.  I have sat in Dayo’s studio and just listened and learned.    I was a young nobody, and I remember talking on the phone to Abiola Akintola, and him offering to send me his book that listed every art exhibition and fair in the country.  It’s these types of artist that not only help elevate the next generation of artist, but teaches the valuable lesson of community.  Ted Ellis is constantly teaching not only other artist, but the community as a whole.  There is enough world for everyone to eat and be happy.  Find your place.  Make your mark.  Pass on your wisdom.

Black Gem II / Acrylic on canvas .... current exhibit at NYCH Gallery Chicago

Black Gem II / Acrylic on canvas .... current exhibit at NYCH Gallery Chicago


You have to get to a point where you have NO FEAR when creating your art.  You can never stray too far away from your center.  Your voice is important.  If a rapper bite rhymes it may sound hot, but it ain't you – it ain't authentic.   As a visual artist you have to spend countless hours developing your voice – YES you can have influences.  We are all influenced by someone….. And sure that influence may show up in your work … but at some point people want to see who You ARE – they want to see what YOU are adding to the culture.   That’s where the fear comes in. 

People spend hours absorbing films and music.  Their hands are always scrolling or texting on their phone.  They drown themselves in trivial time gaps.  They are afraid of the silence.  More specifically,   they are afraid of spending quiet time with themselves.  Why have we gotten to the point where we are afraid of our own thoughts?  Afraid to get to know our true selves?  That fear is multiplied when it comes time to show our true selves to others.  MC Breed eloquently put it, “ain’t no future in yo frontin” ….. So if we are constantly trying to be something that we are not to please other people, just image what artist go through.   They create work to first and foremost please others before they even think about what pleases themselves.

STOP BEING AFRAID!!!!!  Find out who you are as an artist.  Embrace it.  After you embrace it, enhance it.   Develop what you love and want to say – form it in a way that it can be served to the public.  Will it please everyone?  Probably not …… but that’s not the most important thing at the moment.  The biggest obstacle is overcoming the FEAR that is holding you back from creating EXACTLY what is in your mind.  Who cares how it is initially received.  Let them catch up.

When I was knee deep in the film game, I got so many letters that said “no”, the word had lost its edge to me.  NO don’t mean a thing to me anymore.  I can hear the word NO 1000 times.  No sweat off my back …. Because I know there is a YES around the corner.  The same equates to art.   Somewhere, somebody is gonna dig what you are doing.  There is an audience for everything.  FEAR NOT ….. just create.   


Art With Limits

Years ago i learned to listen to my audience.  You have to pay attention to what people respond to.  When you get a favorable response you try to take that into your next body of work - I never try to duplicate art over and over, but I try to gauge what elements made people respond positively and carry that into the next work.  There have been many successful artist that found one thing that people love about their work and they replicate it into nausea.  Which is GREAT for art consumers because they get what they love - but it would seem that the artist would feel a growth stunt if he or she is creating the same piece of art over and over - just different variations of color and small changes.  Their bank account grows tremendously,  but do they truly grow as artist?

Its perfectly fine to create a series or work.  That series can be continuous throughout your life.  Most series start as an artist trying to answer a question or complete a task - at some point there has to be new questions, new answers, new challenges.  I'm constantly trying something new.  In doing so, I'm positive I have created some bad art.  If I don't create the bad art, I don't learn.  I rarely get to that point where i create GREAT art.  If i never take chances with my art, I never grow.  My audience never changes.  My life as an artist dies slowly.  In order to live I must churn out work - i must take chances - i must express ever inner thought that means anything to me.  All of this doesn't come without a price.  There is scrutiny and harsh criticism.  Its all a part of growth.  As an artist, if you are afraid of a few bad opinions, then you will remain in the small corner of your world with only a mothers eyes to appreciate your work.   If you do not fear rejection, the world awaits.  Paint without fear.  Create recklessly and act as if your life depends on it - because quite frankly, it does.  My life is meaningless without art.  

Art Saved My Life

I have always been a pretty healthy guy.  I'm not a gym-rat, but i get my fair share of workouts in.  I'm not a strict vegan, but I'm conscious about what i let my body consume.  So when i didn't feel well the other week, I thought it couldn't be more than a bad cold.  Then briefly I thought maybe I had a respiratory infection.  I had never had one, but I was feeling something in my chest that was unfamiliar.  As it turned out, it was something far more serious that a respiratory infection.  I entered the Urgent Care thinking I would be there in less than an hour, get whatever medicine they could give me and return to my family in time to enjoy the weekend.  The sickness took me away my childrenand i spent a few days in a hospital with needles in my arms.  I longed for family, rest, peace, health ..... So many things i saw that could be taken away from me in a blink of an eye.  You would think that my mind would be dominated by my condition.  Can I tell you what a large portion of my thoughts centered around?  ART

I lay in a hospital bed, uncomfortable, often times in pain.  I prayed.  I laughed.  I listened to my family and friends encouraging words.  AND MY MIND WOULD DRIFT towards ART.  I kept thinking about the art I created - the art i needed to created.  I thought about the upcoming projects and everything i needed to paints and draw.

My father told me once how he snuck cigarettes into the hospital for my grandfather.   I could just imagine this old man with his weak heart, stealing a puff or two.  There I was in the same position.  I didnt crave cigarettes or wine or whatever devices others seek.  I requested my multimedia sketch pad and tin pan full of Micron pens and watercolors.  Art is what God gave me and Art is what eased my mind.  I had to keep my arm at a certain angle so the IV drip still worked and the machines didnt beep.  But there i was in a hospital robe, painting and drawing.

I have been unable to be in my real studio and do on serious painting, and I look forward to that time.  But I am grateful that ART is there for me in my times of needs.  It is my gift from God and I try not to take it for granted.  One of the last things I did before I fell ill was hang more art at the Chicago Theological Seminary.



Whats Important about Art

I have been creating art for nearly 30 years.  Lately I’ve been thinking about what is the most important thing to me as an artist.  I’ve always hated the word “thing” – It’s so generic.  It doesn’t equate to anything of value.  So in this case, the word “thing” is not what I meant to say.  Let’s keep it as what is most important to me as an artist. 

When I was a young man I believe I held recognition as a high standard of who I was as an artist.  Whether it were art awards or just a classmate telling me how fresh my art was.  The word “fresh” should give you a context clue of the era in which I speak.  I was quiet – and in some ways my art was my form of communication and often times my validation.   I played sports, but I was never the star on any team.  I hung out with all types of students, but I was never the most popular kid.  But it was something about art that made me stand out.  With a pencil in my hand I felt like I could do things that nobody around me could do.  There was a small amount of power in that.

In my 20’s I was introduced to the business aspect of art.  Commerce was the topic of choice when I would talk to some older artist when trying to navigate the Chicago art scene.  Well that’s not true.  It was the topic of choice with some artist, while others nurtured me in different ways.  At that point I had young children, and if my art helped pay a few more bills then it sounded good to me.  But money had never been the driving factor of WHY I create.  And truth be told, the recognition part had faded in my 20’s.

I totally understand the concept of business.  I get that we live in this capitalist society.   My mind factors in that portion of life – especially when I have a family to support.   The love, the admiration, the money that comes infrequently – none of that is the force that MAKES me sketch everyday – think of paintings every minute – get excited about collaboration projects.

The other day I was tagged on a comment under a picture in Facebook.  The picture was of someone’s front room in their home.  On the far wall hung a piece of my art that stood prominent in place – anchoring the entire space.   THAT is what motivates me a lot.  I think THAT is what is most important to me.  Every single piece of art I create, regardless of the size and dimension, it is a part of who I am.   AND PEOPLE LIVE with these pieces EVERYDAY.   I LIVE with these people EVERYDAY.   I am part of hundreds of people’s LIVES through my art.  In some case I start their day or stir some emotion or thought.  What I created with my hands touches lives.   How in the hell would commerce ever be as important as that?  It can’t be.  No award would ever top a painting hung in someone’s personal space that speaks to them daily.   It’s not a mix-tape that you play for a few weeks until you get tired of the music.  This is with this person for the rest of their LIFE…… and often times gets passed to their children.   It is my legacy.  Through the talent that God gave me, my physical body is here but a moment, but my mark is here always.   



From a very young age, I have been attracted to the arts and wanted to involved in that world.  I am fortunate enough to have a family that not only encourages, but nurtures personal development.  The only downfall was that I come from a family of blue-collar workers and educators.  There weren't many walking and breathing artist in my midst.  There was no hands on mentor.  There was only a tiny fire within me that burned everyday and lead me in a certain direction.  So how does one grow if they are not in a community that cultivates them?  Do you have to be extracted from the environment in order to get the developmental nourishment you need?

My oldest child once expressed interest in architecture.  So I found 3 professional black female architects to talk to her.  My son once expressed interest in archery.  So I drove him to the north side of Chicago to the archery club.  My other daughter expressed interest in being a doctor.  SO .... you get where I'm going?  Although my family didn't have direct knowledge in what I had a passion for, they allowed me to seek that knowledge from people and places that had it.  It was the beginning of my growth as an artist.

A long Way from 79th but not really

A long Way from 79th but not really

Growth doesn't stop at adolescence - not if you desire to be GREAT.  Growth continues throughout your lifetime.  One of the greatest attributes of a human is to have continuous growth and still maintain the strong foundation from childhood.  I work on that all the time.  Regardless of how high I soar, I'm the same kid that played piggy in West Chatham Park - I'm the same kid that cleaned my grandmothers yard on 110th and Wentworth - I'm still the same kid, and yet I've gained this vast amount of knowledge.  It comes out in my art.

My work continues to reach back to Chicago streets

My work continues to reach back to Chicago streets

 At the beginning of 2015 I was mainly focused on the art space APLOMB and the art collective 4 of a Kind.  Paul Branton, the individual artist, took a back seat.   This year is different.  I have already committed to two Solo Exhibits; one of which, 16 BARS, opens this week at NYCH Gallery (643 W 18th st, Chicago).  I must continue to grow as an artist.  Does that mean that I abandon collaborative efforts?  Hell no ..... There is a project I need to finish with photographer Reisha Williams.  This year I'm doing a project with Louder Than a Bomb.  My film partner Skee Skinner and I are working on some things.  There may even be another gallery in the near future.  

Personal growth is very important.  I just don't think it means you totally forget where you came from and abandon some of those ideologies or the people that helped you get to the level where you are.  Stay consistent - Stay positive - Stay true to whatever it is that you do - and never stop growing.