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COCA Spotlight: Tavani Williams “Self-taught artist seeks emotional connections”

By: Amanda Sieradzki, COCA | March 05, 2018

Artist Tavani Williams proudly says that he can paint anywhere in his home, however, it’s been a long road to his first major showing at Creative Tallahassee this March, presented by the Council on Culture & Arts at the City Hall Art Gallery.

“I’ve even painted in the bed with a flashlight,” laughs Williams admitting to his art insomnia. “I’ll wake up and try to finish something while it’s on my mind.”

Williams used to draw a picture a year at most but never set out to pursue a career in painting.

He was fearful of the brush and its bristles, not allowing the same amount of control he could wield with a pencil. In 2011, he and his wife sat watching the famous televised painter and teacher Bob Ross, when he joked about picking up a brush. His wife told him he should, which sparked a memory of a late friend who questioned why Williams rarely, if ever, finished any of his work.

“I went home and looked at all my pictures,” says Williams. “I noticed if it got too difficult for me, if I had to draw a hand or feet or something of a challenge, I would put it to the side. That’s how I felt about painting until I remembered what Bob Ross said about doing whatever you put your mind to. I’ve wanted to quit a couple times, but I kept doing it until one day I was just painting relaxed and it just started coming to me.”

Prior to his painting revelation, Williams’ artistic skills blossomed with nurturing from his schoolteacher Joyce Keuling who first identified his talents in drawing. She supported his art education, steering him towards a multitude of styles — abstract art, animation —and providing him with opportunities to show his work. Williams says he owes a lot to Keuling, even though he ended up pursuing football over art at the time.

“She invested in me and kept trying to encourage me,” recalls Williams. “I think about her often, and the influence that she had on me without really knowing it.”

Cartoons and comic books were standard fare for Williams. He was drawn to the human frame and musculature, especially in his favorite superheroes. He would collect body-building books, focusing on how to sketch muscles, and followed Dave Stevens’ “Rocketeer” comic books and John Byrne’s illustrations for the “X-Men” series.

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