It can take years to develop the skills and technique to create paintings that capture the eye, and even longer to become well known. Tyler Gordon, a San Jose native who, at 14, has a fan following of celebrities and art lovers, wasn’t ready to wait that long to make his own (acrylic) mark on the art world.
From the age of 10, Tyler has been creating portraits of people and characters. His first portrait was of his elementary school’s principal. His mom and fellow artist, Nicole Kindle, instantly recognized his talent and knew how important it was to encourage Tyler to pursue his talent. Little did she know how quickly Tyler’s work would garner national attention. His first sale was a portrait of Kevin Durant, whom Tyler met in person. “I think the most special celebrity that I met [was] Kevin Durant,” said Tyler, who loves to play and watch basketball. “He’s actually really funny and really tall as well.”
Tyler uses bold acrylic colors to achieve contrast, often only needing to use a few shades to create one striking piece. He brings people and characters to life by emphasizing shadows and negative space, a skill that many artists work years to develop, but which came naturally to him. Whenever people approach Tyler with new techniques they think he should learn, he doesn’t hesitate to politely decline. “I remember that a lot of people [have tried] to get me to do art classes and change the way that I do my art,” said Tyler. “But I always turn them down, because that’s the way that I paint, and I like my style.” With the steady flow of commissions coming in for portraits, it’s clear his fans agree with Tyler.
“That’s the way that I paint, and I like my style.”
Even in the midst of COVID-19, Tyler has had a lot to keep him busy. Between painting commissions, meeting celebrities on talk shows, keeping up with his school work (something his mom, Nicole, is careful to make sure never slips), and taking time to play sports, Tyler has also been hosting free online painting classes every week on Instagram. His manager had the idea before COVID-19, and the pandemic was the perfect time to give it a try. “It’s actually really fun,” said Tyler. “I do talk to the [painting participants] and ask them questions, and in the chat they’ll answer back, and it’s a really fun experience.”
Recently Tyler has also been adding his voice, and his paint, to the fight for racial justice. As a young Black man himself, and with protests taking place in his hometown, San Jose, it’s a unique moment in history for him. Not only has Tyler attended two peaceful protests, he’s also painted portraits of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Elijah McClain. Tyler recalled his experience while painting them: “Doing these paintings…I [felt] sad because what happened to all three of them, and maybe more, they didn’t deserve what happened to them. So when I do these paintings, I do them so people can remember them, and so I remember what they were like.” In particular, hearing the circumstance of the murder of Breonna Taylor affected Tyler. “She did not deserve what happened to her,” said Tyler. “So I want people to always think that she was a magnificent person.”
Earlier this year, Tyler was a recipient of a Global Child Prodigy Award, an accolade only a handful of kids earn. “Only 100 kids in the world are chosen in each category, and he was chosen for the art category,” explained Nicole.
Tyler is also on a personal mission to help fight bullying, something he’s experienced firsthand because of his stutter. He and his mom recently formed Tongued Tye’d, an LLC with the goal of hosting art classes for kids with speech impediments. “He speaks through his art,” said Nicole. “He wants to teach other kids to speak through theirs, and we want to bring in people…to help these kids.” With so much talent, personal drive, and great family support, this is only the beginning of his amazing career.
Article originally appeared in Issue 13.1 "Discover"