Adrian Brandon paints portraits of Black lives lost to police violence

Katie Mather
·2 min read

In November 2019, Brooklyn-based artist Adrian Brandon released a new project to the public. The series was called “Stolen,” a gallery of portraits Brandon drew of Black lives that had been taken at the hands of police.

“I just want people to stop and remember these lives and to honor them in the way that they should be honored,” Brandon told In The Know.

What stands out about “Stolen” is Brandon’s coloring, which differs from portrait to portrait. Brandon only colored each individual picture for the number of minutes that corresponded to how old the person was when they died. For example, Tamir Rice was 12 years old when he was killed, so Brandon only spent 12 minutes coloring in his portrait of Rice.

“I want the viewer to see how much empty space is left in these lives, stories that will never be told, space that can never be filled,” Brandon wrote on his website.

Brandon researches every person he draws before sitting down to sketch. When it’s time to color, Brandon sets a timer, which he says instills in him “a sense of urgency” to bring the portrait to life.

“As soon as that alarm does sound, it’s just kind of like a wave of sadness or pain of understanding, again, how short this life was cut and understanding that this piece was taken from me just like this life was taken from their families,” Brandon explained.

Even though Brandon has been working on this series since late 2019, he said it really took off following George Floyd’s death in May 2020. His growing audience on Instagram means that more and more people will read about his subjects’ stories.

Aside from “Stolen,” Brandon also works on pieces that showcase the joy and magic of the Black community.

“I think it’s really important to have visuals that show how positive and beautiful the Black community is,” he said. “I’m hoping some of my art can inspire them to continue doing them and be proud of their skin.”

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