Tyler Gordon, the 14-year-old who painted cover of LeBron James for Time magazine

Ama Nunoo December 21, 2020
Tyler Gordon painted the LeBron James cover for Time magazine. Photos: Time/Tyler Gordon - Instagram

14- year-old Tyler Gordon began putting his brush to a canvas at the age of 10 after he had two consecutive dreams urging him to use his talent or risk losing it altogether. His works have caught the eyes of many including Time Magazine, which commissioned him to paint its 2020 athlete of the year, Lebron James, for the issue’s cover.

“When I was 10 years old, I had this dream of God telling me if I didn’t use my talent he was going to take it away from me. So that night at three in the morning, I ran into my mom’s room and told her about my dream. At first, she thought that I was playing around. Then the next night, I had the same dream,” he said.

Gordon idolizes LeBron James and attests to the fact that he is one of the Greatest of All Time. It was an honor to paint him for Time, he said.

“Working hard makes you a contender but believing in yourself makes you a champion,” said Gordon about James.

This may seem like the crescendo for a young artist like Gordon but this work for the magazine is one of many recent successes Gordon has chalked in recent times. He received a surprise call around Thanksgiving from Vice President-elect Kamala Harris after a painting of her and Joe Biden went viral on social media. Altogether, Gordon has painted over 500 portraits of Black icons of which some have sold for as high as $100,000.

One of his biggest inspirations is the very talented painter Jean-Michel Basquiat and getting to hang his work by his idol in the Beverly Center in Los Angeles is one of Gordon’s all-time highs.

The other person is Nicole Kindle, his mother, who is an artist herself. Gordon believes his mother is his greatest competitor and cheerleader and approval from his mother on any of his artworks is worth more than an endorsement from any celebrity.

Gordon’s style of painting is what he refers to as “shadow painting” and it takes an average of 20 minutes for him to complete a piece. Before an interview on The Today Show, he pained 13 pieces in a night because his artworks did not get to New York on time for the show.

According to Time, Gordon got the world’s attention in 2018, after a portrait of Basketball star Kevin Durant made waves online. The portrait caught the attention of Durant’s mother who purchased it for $300. Soon after, other celebrities like Janet Jackson, Alex Rodriguez, Kevin Hart, Jennifer Lopez and very recently Janelle Monae, came knocking at his door for portraits of their own.

Gordon has not always been this confident in his craft and had to overcome some difficult hurdles very early on in his life. He stutters because he was born deaf and after undergoing major surgery at five, his hearing got better. The vibrant artist we see today was once wheelchair-bound for two years because his hip and leg bones were broken due to a Vitamin D deficiency.

According to his mother, the bullying at school was intense due to his stutter and art was a means for him to express himself. “Sometimes I can’t talk and get words out, so I speak through my art,” he said in an interview with Time. The magazine for the first time created Kids of the Year category and Gordon is an honoree.

“(Biden) stutters like me and he’s not afraid to do public speeches and use his voice and I’m really inspired by him,” Gordon told ABC 7 News. “He helps me accept my stutter.”

Gordon has accepted his stutter. He hosts Instagram Lives, “Tongue Tye’d,” where he shows people how to paint Disney characters from his ‘studio’. The painting genius hopes to inspire children to overcome their own challenges with art as well.   

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: December 22, 2020


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