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Traditional Portraiture: Celebrating Black Artists

Over the past year the Great Big Canvas curation team has made great strides in expanding our social awareness and, in turn, expanding our Art collection to include captivating imagery from more diverse points of view. This is Part One of our three-part series to highlight unique perspectives from Black artists coinciding with the celebration of Black History Month 2021.

“An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.” – Nina Simone

Representational art, or realism, can hold a mirror up to both its subject matter and culture in which it is created. To create a great piece of representational art the artist applies the unique lens of their own perspective, transforming an everyday scene into a poignant piece of fine art. In part one of Great Big Canvas’ 2021 Black History Month series, we wanted to highlight Black artists in our collection who bring a unique eye to this style of traditional art:

side by side artwork by Colin Bootman
Featured Art: Martin and Rosa Up Front, Harlem Jig by Colin Bootman

Colin Bootman

Meet New York, by way of Trinidad, artist and illustrator Colin Bootman. He uses traditional painting techniques to create scenes capturing his experiences of childhood & life experience growing up across two cultures. Keep up with the artist at his studio page here.

Artwork depicting a black woman and two children riding a train
Featured Art: Road Trip I by Tom McKinney

Tom McKinney

Tom McKinney, an illustrator, designer and watercolorist, paints what he loves in life. In his art you will find images from the black community, gentle portrayals of neighborhood people, drawn with a poignancy, compassion, warmth and familiarity.

Painterly artwork by Dane Tilghman. Left: families outside of a church Right: musician waiting before his performance
Featured Art: Going to Church, Before the Gig by Dane Tilghman

Dane Tilghman

Fine artist Dane Tilghman’s work straddles the line between realism and surrealism to create vivid portraits filled with motion. In his own words his art “is a compilation of lives past for their contribution to the human experience.” Over his 36 years as an artist, Dane has exhibited work at the African-American Historical and Cultural Museum in Philadelphia as well as several solo exhibitions.

mother and daughter portrait next to father and son portrait
Featured Art: Mother Love, Father Love by Dexter Griffin

Dexter Griffin

Dexter Griffin began his artistic career at the age of five in Chicago. Dexter developed a style using rich colors and stark contrasts, making each painting feel warm and alive. His work is known for  his life-like skin tones and rich textures that give the finished product a sense of beauty and strength.

Left: three children waiting on sidewalk Right: woman leaning to look out a window with her dog
Featured Art: Three boys on the sidewalk in Harlem, A woman and her dog in the window of their apartment in Harlem by Gordon Parks

Gordon Parks

No discussion of portrait art would be complete without including photography. Gordon Parks is one of the most celebrated photographers of the 20th century. His extraordinary pictures allowed him to break the color line in professional photography while creating expressive images that explored the social and economic impact of poverty, racism, and other forms of discrimination. His work and impact are carried on today by The Gordon Parks Foundation - read more about their mission here.

Portrait art remains a timeless trend in both the fine art world and interior design. To get inspiration on how to incorporate this style into your home and more décor inspiration, follow us on Facebook or Instagram!