San Jose artist, 14, finds himself in national spotlight
Tyler Gordon stands next to his portraits of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Image courtesy of Tyler Gordon Instagram.

    Tyler Gordon, a 14-year-old San Jose artist, has hit the national stage with kudos from none other than Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and Time magazine.

    After recently tweeting a time-lapse video of himself painting a portrait of Harris, Gordon received a surprise phone call just before Thanksgiving from the vice president-elect recognizing him for the work.

    “When Vice President-elect Kamala Harris called me, I was so shocked. I was happy, excited and didn’t know what to say,” Gordon told San José Spotlight.

    His portrait of Harris along with one of President-elect Joe Biden are being featured in the “Heirs to the Throne” exhibit at the Lost Warhols Museum in Los Angeles.

    The W.C. Overfelt High School freshman said he started painting at the age of 4, and his subjects of choice are people who inspire him.

    According to Gordon’s website biography, he was born deaf and went through an experimental surgery to regain some of his hearing.

    He then struggled with stuttering and bullying at school, which has shaped who he is today, he said.

    “I inspired to paint because it was a way of me being able to speak without speaking. I was able to paint what I wanted to say without saying it. People weren’t going to laugh at me if I didn’t talk. They would smile when they saw my paintings,” Gordon said.

    Tyler Gordon next to his portrait of the late Kobe Bryant. Courtesy of

    In addition to Harris and Biden, Gordon said some of his inspirations are his mom, basketball star Kevin Durant and former President Barack Obama.

    Gordon said most of his family members like to paint and draw, including his mother, sisters and brothers.

    His work led to Gordon being named one of the top finalist for Time magazine’s first-ever 2020 Kid of the Year.

    According to the magazine, the finalists were selected from a field of more than 5,000 Americans, ages 8 to 16, who “have already achieved positive impact, in all sizes.”

    The magazine selected Gitanjali Rao, 15, from Lone Tree, Ohio, as its Kid of the Year. Rao invented a device that detects lead contamination in water.

    According to Time, Gordon found his artistic voice at 10 and won first place in a school art contest after watching his mom paint.

    “When I found out I was nominated by Time magazine, it was a complete shock. I felt so honored and blessed to be a part of it,” said Gordon.

    Gordon said his most proud painting is “My Worst Nightmare,” which took two days to finish in 2018. The painting depicts a male in a yellow shirt with his hands up, reflecting a fear of being stopped by police as the acronym ‘USPD’ is shown in the background.

    Other than planning to go to college to study art, Gordon said he has not looked far into the future of his journey.

    “I’m not sure what’s next for me, but I hope it’s good,” he said.

    Gordon is now represented by Mecca Made Media, a New York broadcast agency and has made the TV circuit. His paintings of Biden and Harris will be on display at the Los Angeles museum until the end of the year.

    Contact Eugene Luu at [email protected] or follow @StoriesOfEugene on Twitter

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