By Ray Johnson/DW Photojournalist
“God does not make mistakes, He puts people here for a reason and He will make a way for them,” World renowned painter Desmond Blair recalls a quote of encouragement his late mother would often recite to him, when he was growing up as a youth with no hands (limb difference) in Pleasant Grove, area of Dallas.
“There was always that initial hurdle I would have to overcome when entering into a new space, and my mom was really good at preparing me for it. Early on I was really shy about the way I was born, I would try to hide my hands, I would try to do stuff really quick so people couldn’t see my hands, and then you do have people that will talk about you and say things about you, but I just learned early on, to focus on the things I loved to do.”
Desmond told DW that he learned how to draw at about five, by first tracing images from his coloring books. After many dedicated hours of continuous practice, he was able to grip and balance his pencils with the tips of his forearms, and develop an uncanny accuracy and coordination, which is a technique he still utilizes today to paint spectacular, gallery portraits, using oils on canvas.
Desmond was first inspired to draw by watching cartoons of his favorite superheroes. His favorite was “Nightcrawler” from X-men. In that he also had a disability with his hands, however the superhero was able to be clever and strong enough to be triumphant over his foes.
Desmond credits and gives a lot of gratitude to the Dallas Art Cultural Center for assisting him since childhood in the training and the launching of his career. He had a lot of positive things to say about Vicky Meeks, known to the community as “Mama Meeks,” who was the director of the center at the time.
Desmond said Meeks encouraged him to explore and express himself through various art forms, and to be a serious student of Black History, especially the Black History of Dallas.
“She was one of those adults that commanded attention, because you knew she wasn’t coming to play, but it was in a loving way. She wanted to pull out the best in us.”
After placing 3rd place in a city art contest at nineteen, by submitting a painting of the late RB vocalist “Aaliyah,” Desmond conveyed that it gave him the confidence to train and purse his love of art at a higher level.
Desmond attended UTD (University of Texas at Dallas) and obtained his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Fine Arts, and received the 2017 Undergraduate Alumni Achievement Award.
Desmond now works in the IT department for the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital, where he was once a patient, and has just recently launched his own art gallery business titled Pencil on Paper. You can contact Desmond as a speaker or for business at www.pencilandpaper.com.