“Rock the Lyceum” portrait artist has his eyes on greater success


Studio art senior Telvin Wallace considers himself an “artist of all trades.”

From digital graphic design to painted portraiture, Wallace has experimented in a variety of art styles since first showing an interest in art at age two.

“I feel it’s (an) artist’s job to notice and create things other don’t see or know can even exist. We as artists share what would otherwise go unseen,” he explains.

During his four years at N.C. Central University, Wallace’s work has attracted attention from multiple student organizations. Organizations like the Student Activities Board and Student Government Association have commissioned Wallace multiple times, with one of those orders being a colorful portrait of Chancellor Johnson O. Akinleye.

Despite his current on-campus success, the confidence that comes with notable commission orders wasn’t always there for Telvin.

Prior to committing to NCCU and deciding to pursue a career in studio art, Telvin was fearful that his decision might have some unaffordable consequences—graduating with an art degree, while a feat within itself, doesn’t typically guarantee a job after college. Competition from other artists and comprehension from buyers about his own art style are only two concerns that Telvin, like many other young artists, face when striking out on their own in the industry.

Despite the doubt, Wallace decided to bet on himself and now proves he made the right decision with praise from his peers to his professors.

One of the things that made the senior stand out, according to NCCU art professor Chad Hughes, was his above-and-beyond work ethic.

“He asked questions, came in after hours; the fact that he was doing his assignments, but he was doing other (projects) too,” Hughes said. “You knew that he wasn’t in it for the grade. He was in it because he was loving what he was doing.”

Wallace has participated in various art shows and events on campus and in the surrounding Durham community, but his biggest claim to fame has been attending each Rock The Lyceum (formerly “Rock the Mic”) lecture with a portrait of the evening’s speaker in hand.

His most memorable Lyceum portrait encounter was with actress Phylicia Rashad last spring. According to Wallace, Rashad’s hands flew to her face and her mouth dropped in awe when she saw her likeness on the canvas presented before her. Moments like that have encouraged Telvin to continue his work throughout the 2018-19 Rock the Lyceum series.

Wallace, who cites famed artists like Caravaggio, Rubens and Barkley Hendricks as some of his role models, wants new art majors to know that all of their success is on them: “you just have to do the work.”

“Everything will happen in time. If you expect to be a great painter, it might not happen in days or weeks. It takes time; time is the only luxury,” Wallace says. “You’ll eventually grow to realize what’s for you and what you’re comfortable with, but the more important part is once that happens, you start believing in yourself, loving yourself and figuring out who you are.”

As for what the future currently holds for him, Telvin hopes it’s a Master of Fine Arts in Painting from one of several institutions he has his eye on. Right now, he’s getting ready for the application process by building his resume up with internships, more personal projects and a website on which to showcase his current and upcoming work.

Do we have the next Ernie Barnes in our midst? Only time will tell, but one thing NCCU can count on is Wallace continuing to hone his craft with every new work of art.

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