Artist Profiles

The Brilliant Art of Kadir Nelson

The Brilliant Art of Kadir Nelson

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Masterful Figure Paintings from One of Today’s Top Artists

I can and have spent hours studying the work of Kadir Nelson. He makes it easy. His figure paintings combine history, expressionism, power and technical ability.

Like many contemporary artists today, he has a background in illustration — blending commercial, cultural and personal interests in all the pieces that leave his studio.

The Power Behind Kadir Nelson’s Work

Nelson’s imagery of the Negro Leagues for Major League Baseball and accompanying stamps for the United States Postal Service honoring the “Father of Black Baseball” Rube Foster brought him recognition early in his career.

He has depicted dozens of historic, political and pop culture icons. Moreover, Nelson has illustrated and authored children’s books as well as created iconic covers for The New Yorker.

Bringing History to the Now

In an interview with Ed Gordon for Bounce TV, Nelson points out documenting history and putting paint and brush to African American narratives that bring the past to the present is a powerful motivating force for him.

The artist jokes he has to “nail the likeness” when he does historical figures as well as pop icons because he will hear about it otherwise. But beyond that, he creates work that is meaningful to him.

Nelson trusts his own connection to his subject will allow his narratives to be just as meaningful to his viewers.

As we all continue on our own journeys as artists, it is good to look to the art that inspires us and ask, “why?”

Because that answer proves to us what matters to us as human beings and also as artists.

You can learn more about Kadir Nelson and his remarkable art by visiting his website,

And, for more resources to help you along the way, consider Nancy Reyner’s guide on how to Create Perfect Paintings: An Artist’s Guide to Visual Thinking. You’ll find how to draw viewers to your work and sustain their attention so that they have a meaningful experience with the art.

A tall order, yes, but this resource may just allow you to deliver all that and more. Enjoy!

Watch the video: I Have A Dream by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. paintings by Kadir Nelson (June 2022).