Reflecting on the work on O'Don J. McClaine III

Reflecting on the work on O'Don J. McClaine III

Growing up I was submerged in a creative environment, with a den filled with paint, pastels, plastic models, books, and Vietnam memorabilia. My father was always creating, inventing, and designing a project. O'Don J. McClaine III was born in Des Moines, Iowa in 1948, and was raised by his grandmother, Rhoda Bass. McClaine’s grandmother would give him paper, pencils and crayons to draw her pictures to keep him busy. This would later prove to be the catalyst for his interest in art.

"I would draw my grandma pictures,” McClaine laughed. “I loved to draw horses and then show her my work, and she would always suggest that I add more to my pictures. I can still remember her saying ‘baby draw some trees, or a sun.’"

McClaine has always viewed himself as a socially conscious artist after roughly six decades of work. In recent years, he has been deeply touched by the Black Lives Matter movement.

"I call myself a visionary artist, because most of my recent works are inspired by dreams,” McClaine explained. "Seeing all of these young men and women lose their lives in such a senseless matter, really affected me."  

McClaine has been creating pieces with political statements in hopes of recording injustice and inspiring hope for decades. In his youth, during the early 1970s and well into the 80s, McClaine did several portraits of people, however, his work from this era doesn't necessarily focus on the face, shifting the attention depending on the meaning he wanted to project in each piece. For example the face of a subject could be used to convey a particular emotion that would accent the overall composition in making a bold statement.

In recent years, McClaine has focused on his new project which is the called the Angel series. In years past black angels in the mainstream art world have shown to be in somber roles and at many times inferior to their white counterparts.

 Fallen, by O'Don J. McClaine III

Fallen, by O'Don J. McClaine III

“The "Angel" series are multiple paintings of black angels, McClaine stated, “With all the lives lost to excessive force and gun violence, I wanted to create artwork that could demonstrate strength, faith, grace and restoration of our community.My goal was to show that God doesn't see color that it is possible for angels, arc angels included, to be of color."

McClaine was inspired by many of the greats, including Salvador Dali and Michelangelo, but he credits his grandmother Rhoda Bass for encouraging him to draw and use his imagination and his third grade teacher, Mrs. Motts, who taught at Nash Elementary in Des Moines, Iowa.

“Before I met Mrs. Motts I assumed everyone could draw, I didn't realize I had true talent until she told me I already drew better than her, and Mrs. Motts was an art minor in college." said McClaine. He also recalled the influence of fellow artist Ron Wiley, who opened an art store during their time in Wichita in the 70s “It was in the hood near 13th street, and he positioned it there and did so much to better our community. He was a talented artist and I learned so much from him, may he rest in peace."

Before the internet, his focus was staying relevant. He would go to several art galleries a week and hotels attempting to sell or promote his work.

"Many times were feast or famine with my art as a young man,” he admitted. ”At one gallery in Wichita, Kansas called Gallery G, I brought a painting in to be viewed. The curator instantly became angered by my piece. She said the work was too good to have been painted by me, and accused me of painting my name over the "real" artist's signature. I was flattered and insulted at the same time.”

 O'Don J. McClaine III with one of his daughters. Courtesy photo

O'Don J. McClaine III with one of his daughters. Courtesy photo

Later, McClaine went on to have a successful business called O'Don's Classic Signs and Murals, but now at 70 years old, he uses technology to advertise his work and services as an artist. His more recent work can be seen on his instagram. Althought he is currently finishing his Angel series, he is available for commission.

Donny is an aspiring political scientist that writes with zest and a love for life and all things creative. A Texas transplant by way of Kansas, she writes content with Midwestern flavor and a southern twist. She loves to learn, loves her kids, loves tacos, and all things spiked with a good top shelf spirit.