Tyler Gordon has been through a lot. But as an artist, that struggle and adversity has shaped who he is. He was born deaf. At the age of six, he underwent an experimental surgery and regained some of his hearing, so then he had to learn to speak. This left him with a bit of a stutter, which led to bullying at school. In fifth grade, he told his mother, “Mom, I want to paint.” His mom—a painter herself—knew that Tyler liked to sneak up at night and watch her paint, but he’d never shown interest in trying himself. She gave him some black paint (which she had enough to spare) and left him to work. Twenty minute later, Tyler had painted a portrait of his school principal that blew his mom away. His mom quickly got him more paint and canvases to work on. He was a natural. Tyler posted some of his paintings on Facebook and was encouraged by the response. He painted a portrait of Golden State Warriors basketball star Kevin Durant, and Durant’s mother offered to buy it for $100. Soon he was commissioned to paint portraits of the entire team. Then he auditioned for Steve Harvey’s show “Little Big Shots,” which led to him being featured on numerous morning shows, including Good Morning America. He painted a portrait of J.Lo and A-Rod and gifted it to them when J.Lo played a show in his hometown of San Jose, and this was a huge hit. So he continued painting (and gifting) celebrity portraits, including ones for Janet Jackson, Ellen Degeneres and Bruno Mars. But Tyler still had struggles to overcome. Last year, he was diagnosed with a Vitamin D deficiency after his femurs broke while he was just walking. He spent a year and a half in a wheelchair, but continued painting, progressing and evolving. At a recent “Juneteenth” festival, Tyler sold 40 paintings in a single day. And this year, he was awarded the “2020 Global Child Prodigy Award” for his art. Through it all, Tyler remains humble, grounded and resolved to make the world a better place. While the celebrity portraits, news shows, and big sales are all nice, his favorite thing to do is sharing what he’s learned through his “Paint with Tyler” videos online.
My earliest influence is my mom. She paints really well, too. She also started painting at a young age. I like her style, it’s like mine, except that she paints upside down. And more slowly. I paint really fast. I definitely get my style from her, but I’m also influenced by Floyd Norman, Basquiat, and Bob Ross.
It was just the sound of the hospital, like the beeps and announcements. Then I heard my mom’s voice, and when I reacted to it she screamed my name and started crying.
I actually learned to read lips really well. For a while my mom didn’t even know that I couldn’t hear because I could read her lips so well. Then one time she got mad at me because she was calling to me when I wasn’t looking at her and she thought I was ignoring her. That’s how they found out I couldn’t hear.
If someone says something mean to me, I’ll usually say something back to them. Bullies like to pick on people who are weaker than them, so if you stand up to them they’ll always move on to someone else. But if it keeps happening after that, then it’s time to talk to a teacher or an adult about it.
I would say not to worry what other people think. It should not matter what the color of your skin is. I’m pretty sure god didn’t create us to mistreat each other. He created us as one community. So when people are treating other people the wrong way, I get really mad and upset. This is not the way it’s supposed to be.
(Question submitted by Shin )
San Jose, California
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