By Brady O’Neel
Robert Coleman was punished for using his left hand when he was younger. He was punished because his mother did not want to have two left-handed sons, so she forced him to use his right hand because her other son was already left-handed.
“My mom called my school and specifically told the teachers to not allow me to use my left hand,” said Coleman. “If I was caught using my left hand I was punished when I got home.”
Coleman discovered his artistic skills when he was seven-years-old after being thrown away by his birth mother when she dropped him off at the local police station. He watched in bewilderment as she drove away, and in an instant, he was orphaned.
At his first orphanage, Coleman saw a drawing by artist Robert Escher that inspired him to do black and white drawings.
Coleman, being an African American male, did not have a positive look on life as a seven-year-old.
“Being seven does not give you as much incentive of making something of yourself,” he said. “You have people around you saying you won’t make it past the age of 18 or you’ll be in and out of prison for the rest of your life.”
Being a believer of a self-fulfilling prophecy, Coleman decided to change his lifestyle.
Coleman had a very serious foot injury at the age of 36 while working as a maintenance and apartment caretaker that required a major foot reconstruction. When Coleman was going to go to the doctor’s to treat his foot he was given drugs and was advised he needed to find something else to do or he would be a junkie before his foot surgery.
After talking to the doctor Coleman went home and had his girlfriend at the time go out and buy him a pad and pencil so that he could start drawing.
Coleman keeps going because he enjoys showing off his talents to other people and it also helps him distract his mind.
“If I’m in bed and I feel like painting I will get out of bed and paint for like three minutes,” said Coleman. “Then I’ll put it away until I feel like painting again.”
Now that Coleman is 48 years old and has been drawing since his foot reconstruction at the age of 36, he has not had anyone punishing him for using the wrong hand. Coleman prefers to use his left hand over his right hand while drawing but writes with his right hand.
While drawing, he can draw with his left hand and shade at the same time with his right. He’s not sure how he does it. Being able to draw with both hands comes naturally to him.
He recently had a piece of his art in the AFA portfolio/art show that began on April 16th up in the T Skyway.
“Some people are never going to be happy with what you do and at some point you have to say, ‘enough is enough’, and you stop caring what people say,” he said. “If you’re happy, it doesn’t matter what people say.”