Student View
a boy smiling while standing in front of painted portraits

Rising Star
Tyler poses with some of the many portraits he’s painted.

Dai Sugano/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

His Art Does the Talking

Tyler Gordon, 15, has a stutter, which can make it hard for him to talk. So he found another way to share his message with the world.  

    One day last year, my phone rang. “Hello?” I answered. 

    “Hi, Tyler. This is Kamala Harris.” 

I couldn’t believe it. Harris had just been elected vice president. And she was calling me! It turns out she had seen a portrait I painted of her. “You really have a gift,” she told me. “People you’ll never even meet are going to be touched by the work you do.”  

    I was so shocked! Painting had always brought me so much joy. But I never would have imagined that my art would be noticed by Kamala Harris—or that it would inspire people around the world.

    One day last year, my phone rang. “Hello?” I answered. 

    “Hi, Tyler. This is Kamala Harris.”

    I couldn’t believe it. Harris had just been elected vice president. And she was calling me! She had seen a portrait I painted of her. “You really have a gift,” she said. “People you’ll never even meet are going to be touched by the work you do.”  

    I was shocked! I loved to paint. But I had never thought that my art would be noticed by Kamala Harris—or that it would inspire people around the world.

    One day last year, my phone rang. “Hello?” I answered.

    “Hi, Tyler. This is Kamala Harris.”

    I couldn’t believe it. Harris had just been elected vice president of the United States—and she was calling me! It turns out she had seen a portrait I painted of her. “You really have a gift,” she told me. “People you’ll never even meet are going to be touched by the work you do.”  

    I was astonished! Painting had always brought me joy, but I had never imagined that my art would capture Kamala Harris’s attention—or that it would inspire people around the world.

Hard Times

    It hasn’t always been easy for me to do the things I want to do. I was born deaf. Then I had surgery when I was 6. After that, I could hear out of one ear, but then I had to learn to talk. When I did, I stuttered. Stuttering makes it hard for me to get words out. Sometimes I get stuck trying to say a certain word or sound.

    In elementary and middle school, I was bullied because of my speech disorder. It was hard being seen as different. I didn’t have many friends. I didn’t talk much. And I dreaded getting called on in class. 

    Then, when I was 10 years old, I discovered painting. I woke up one morning with the feeling that I just had to paint. My mom gave me a canvas to paint on, and 17 minutes later, I had my first piece of art.

    It hasn’t always been easy for me to do the things I want to do. I was born deaf. I had surgery when I was 6. After that, I could hear out of one ear. Then I had to learn to talk. When I did, I had a stutter. My stutter makes it hard for me to get words out. Sometimes I get stuck trying to say a certain word or sound.

    In elementary and middle school, I was bullied for my speech disorder. It was hard being seen as different. I didn’t have many friends. I didn’t talk much. I dreaded getting called on in class.

    Then, when I was 10, I started painting. I woke up one morning with the feeling that I just had to paint. My mom gave me a canvas to paint on. Seventeen minutes later, I had my first piece of art.

    I’ve faced a number of challenges in my life. I was born deaf, and I had a surgery at age 6 that allowed me to hear out of one ear. When I learned to talk after the operation, I spoke with a stutter. My stutter makes it difficult for me to get words out, and I sometimes get stuck trying to say a certain word or sound.

    In elementary and middle school, I was bullied for my speech disorder. It was hard being seen as different. I didn’t have many friends. I didn’t   talk much, and I dreaded getting called on in class.

    Then, when I was 10 years old, I woke up one morning with a powerful urge to paint. My mother gave me a canvas to paint on, and 17 minutes later, I had created my first piece of art.

Hidden Talents

    Still, things were tough. When I was 13, I broke both of my legs. I was in a wheelchair for a year and a half. I had to stop playing the sports I loved. 

    All the hard things that happened to me made me angry—especially the bullying. Life felt unfair sometimes. But when I sat down in front of a canvas, I felt better. I let all my anger out in my art. Feelings that I couldn’t express with my voice I could express through painting.

    I painted people who inspired me, like President Barack Obama. I painted my favorite athletes, like professional basketball player Kevin Durant.

    I never could have imagined that Kevin would actually see my painting on Instagram—but he did. And he loved it! After he saw it, he asked me to paint more portraits of his family. That’s when my life really started to change.

    Still, things were hard. When I was 13, I broke both of my legs. I was in a wheelchair for a year and a half. I had to stop playing the sports I loved.

    I was angry about the hard things that happened to me, especially the bullying. Life felt unfair sometimes. But when I painted, I felt better. I let my anger out in my art. Feelings that I couldn’t express with my voice I could express with art.

    I painted people who inspired me, like President Barack Obama. I painted my favorite athletes, like NBA player Kevin Durant.

    Kevin saw my painting on Instagram. He loved it! He asked me to paint more portraits of his family. That’s when my life really started to change.

    Still, things were tough. When I was 13, I broke both of my legs. I was in a wheelchair for a year and a half, and I had to stop playing the sports I loved.

    All the disappointing and frustrating things I’d experienced—especially the bullying—made me angry. Life seemed really unfair sometimes, but I felt better when I sat in front of a canvas. I released my anger through my art, using a paintbrush to express emotions that I couldn’t easily express with my voice.

    I painted people who inspired me, like President Barack Obama. I painted my favorite athletes, like professional basketball player Kevin Durant.

    I never could have imagined that Kevin would actually see my painting on Instagram—but he did, and he loved it! After he saw it, he asked me to paint more portraits of his family. That’s when my life really started to change.

Courtesy Tyler Gordon (Paints); Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images (Today)

Artist At Work
1. Tyler feels happy when he paints portraits of people who inspire him.
2. Tyler and his mom got to go on TODAY.

Path to Fame

    Soon, more and more people were noticing my work. I posted portraits on Instagram of people like basketball player LeBron James and singer Janet Jackson. Celebrities asked to buy my portraits of them! Some even ordered original portraits from me. 

    My proudest moment came when I was invited to a professional basketball game by my favorite team, the Golden State Warriors. I did paintings of the coach and of every player in the starting lineup. I also got to meet the whole team! I couldn’t believe that my art had led me to meet my heroes.

    Then, in December 2020, my art was displayed at a show in New York City. I was amazed to see my paintings hanging in a big, fancy gallery! I couldn’t stop staring at them. I felt like a real artist.    

    More and more people noticed my art. I painted portraits of people like basketball player LeBron James and singer Janet Jackson. I posted them on Instagram. Celebrities asked to buy my portraits of them! Some even ordered original portraits from me.

    My proudest moment came when I was invited to a pro basketball game by my favorite team, the Golden State Warriors. I did paintings of every player in the starting lineup. I got to meet the whole team! I couldn’t believe it. My art had led me to meet my heroes.

    Then, in December 2020, my art was in a show in New York City. My paintings were hung in a big, fancy gallery! I felt like a real artist.

    Soon, the number of people who noticed my work began to grow. I posted portraits on Instagram of famous people like basketball player LeBron James and singer Janet Jackson. Celebrities asked to buy my portraits of them, and some even ordered original portraits from me.

    My proudest moment came when I was invited to a professional basketball game by my favorite team, the Golden State Warriors. I did paintings of every player in the starting lineup, and I got to meet the entire team! I couldn’t believe that my art had given me an opportunity to meet my heroes.

    Then, in December 2020, my art was displayed at a show in New York City. It was an incredible feeling to see my paintings hanging in a big, fancy gallery! I couldn’t stop staring at them. I felt like a real artist.

My Message

    Today, I’m 15 and still painting all the time. Painting lets me express myself without talking. I paint about good times in my life when I’m feeling happy. I paint about hard times when I’m upset or angry. 

    I’m so grateful for all the attention my paintings have received. But that has never been my goal. More than anything, I want my story to inspire other kids who have speech disorders or who feel different for any reason.

    Everyone has a story to tell. And there are many ways to tell your story. For me, it’s painting. How will you tell your story? 

    Today, I’m 15 and still painting. Painting lets me express myself without talking. When I’m happy, I paint about good times in my life. When I’m upset or angry, I paint about hard times.

    I’m grateful for all the attention my art has gotten. But that’s not my goal. I want my story to inspire other kids who have speech disorders or who feel different for any reason.

    Everyone has a story to tell. And there are many ways to tell your story. For me, it’s painting. How will you tell your story? 

    Today, at 15, I still spend a lot of time painting—it’s a good way to express emotions without talking. I paint about good times in my life when I’m feeling happy, and I paint about difficult times when I’m upset or angry.

    Although I appreciate all the attention my paintings have received, fame has never been my goal. More than anything, I want my story to inspire other kids who have speech disorders or who feel different for any reason.

    Everyone has a story to tell, and there are many ways to tell your story. For me, it’s painting. How will you tell your story? 

ACTIVITY: 
Cause and Effect

You’ve just read “‘His Art Does the Talking.” Now it’s time to do this activity” It’s time to try this activity!

You’ve just read “‘His Art Does the Talking.” Now it’s time to do this activity” It’s time to try this activity!

You’ve just read “‘His Art Does the Talking.” Now it’s time to do this activity” It’s time to try this activity!

Tip: A cause is what makes something happen. An effect is what happens as a result.

Tip: A cause is what makes something happen. An effect is what happens as a result.

Tip: A cause is what makes something happen. An effect is what happens as a result.

What to do: Fill in the missing causes and effects below by writing your answers on a separate sheet of paper.

What to do: Fill in the missing causes and effects below by writing your answers on a separate sheet of paper.

What to do: Fill in the missing causes and effects below by writing your answers on a separate sheet of paper.

Cause: Why did something happen?

Effect: What happened?

Cause: Why did something happen?

Effect: What happened?

Cause: Why did something happen?

Effect: What happened?

Cause: Tyler was born deaf. At age 6, he had surgery.

Effect:

Hint: How did Tyler’s hearing change?

Cause: Tyler was born deaf. At age 6, he had surgery.

Effect:

Hint: How did Tyler’s hearing change?

Cause: Tyler was born deaf. At age 6, he had surgery.

Effect:

Hint: How did Tyler’s hearing change?

Cause:

Hint: In elementary and middle school, how did other students respond to Tyler’s stuttering?

Effect: Tyler dreaded getting called on in class.

Cause:

Hint: In elementary and middle school, how did other students respond to Tyler’s stuttering?

Effect: Tyler dreaded getting called on in class.

Cause:

Hint: In elementary and middle school, how did other students respond to Tyler’s stuttering?

Effect: Tyler dreaded getting called on in class.

Cause:  Tyler discovered that he loves to paint.

Effect

Hint: How does painting help Tyler deal with difficult feelings?

Cause:  Tyler discovered that he loves to paint.

Effect

Hint: How does painting help Tyler deal with difficult feelings?

Cause:  Tyler discovered that he loves to paint.

Effect

Hint: How does painting help Tyler deal with difficult feelings?

Cause: 

Hint: How did Tyler share his art with the world?

Effect: Celebrities saw Tyler’s art and wanted to buy it.  

Cause: 

Hint: How did Tyler share his art with the world?

Effect: Celebrities saw Tyler’s art and wanted to buy it.  

Cause: 

Hint: How did Tyler share his art with the world?

Effect: Celebrities saw Tyler’s art and wanted to buy it.  

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