Honorable Mention: Earnest Snell
I don’t consider myself an artist. I don’t know, maybe you could call it my hobby. My ability is God’s gift in me. He blessed me and I have to pass my blessing to others.
I realized around nine years old that people liked what I drew. I even helped my 7th grade art teacher teach the other kids when she had to have a meeting with a parent.
I dropped out of school in the 11th grade. Got my GED and joined the Job Corp. Showed them my drawings and they sent me to apprentice at a print shop. The people there saw my drawing skills and sent me to do drafting at an advertising firm. On the side I would do little commissions for co-workers and friends.
When the Job Corp time ended I joined the Army, before they could draft me. This was during Vietnam and I was 17 and a half years old. Since I signed up, I could choose to go to Germany instead of being sent to ‘Nam. I got extra assignments drawing maps with the tank locations. The Army also had me doing lettering and creating pamphlets besides my regular duties.
After two years in the Army, I left and signed up again at the Job Corp. This time they sent me to Texas and another print shop. Then in the early 1980s the boss died and the Texas economy got really bad from the oil bust. I ended up on the streets. Got gigs here and there designing t-shirts, small painting commissions, that kind of stuff. Went to jail for marijuana. Even there the inmates would pay me in commissary notes to draw something for them. I’d draw on handkerchiefs, or maybe paper if someone had that. Had a prison guard commission me to draw his pit bull next to his truck. He bought me a really nice canvas and a magnifying glass to see the photo better. I was really proud of the details I captured.
God has always been by my side and brought good people into my life. I could tell you stories of Him saving me a few times when I almost died. I messed myself up by getting on crack. Lived on the streets and “one foot in/one foot out” at friends’ apartments when I had some money and could help with rent.
Different artists and galleries in the Houston area helped me out and I helped them by drawing, painting and doing odd jobs. I never begged on the streets. In 2005 I first worked seriously in clay when I met Foelber and his wife Judy. They liked my work and showed me how to work the clay to avoid cracks, how to use the stain colors and stuff like that. I don’t use the pottery wheel so Foelber would ask me what shape I wanted. I would draw it out and he would make it on the wheel. Then I would do the sculpting and stains from there. Other times I would get commissions to sculpt a famous person like Miles Davis or a Buffalo soldier.
I got off crack around 2018. Got housing through the Veterans programs.
I have always liked movies, and fantasy or sci-fi TV shows. As I kid I loved movie posters and would draw my own with a story from my head. If I’m making art just for me I like to create things from my imagination or dreams. It might be people or creatures or new worlds. Other times I’ll create from Revelations or the End of Times. It’s more fun and less stress than commission work.