Thaddeus Coates | Washington, DC
I am black and LUMINOUS.
Tell us who you are and what you do!
I am Thaddeus Coates, aka “Hippy Potter” a visual artist, dancer and all around creative. I’m a native Washingtonian born and raised in Washington D.C. I’ve been creating art since I was in the 1st grade, but started to develop and take it more seriously as I began to enter high school. I’ve always felt confident in pursuing art as a career because of the people that I was blessed with in my life. All of my art teachers were equally supportive along with one of my dearest mentors, Ms. Jessica from Martha’s Table Teen Program. Her non-profit program really helped hone my artistic skills and enable me to feel so confident behind purusing it professionally. I began illustrating in the 9th grade with a group of friends who were obsessed with Japanese anime much like I was. They would always push me to be better and get better. Seeing their growth is what fueled me. Growing up in a creative city like DC really helped me feel comfortable with expressing myself and being so beautifully unapologetic about it.
What is the inspiration for your work?
The inspiration of my artwork is African American culture with heavy influences of Afrofuturism. A movement that combines sci-fiction/superhero subculture with futuristic beliefs putting African Americans in protagonist positions of power. I began playing around with different color palettes and backgrounds and I finally found a category where my style fits. My vibrant patterns coupled with the different complexions of color is what makes me style unique. People always tell me they love my color choices and how cohesive they are. Creatives like Erykah Badu, Andre 3000, and Janelle Monae, also fit into this category, propelling new stereotypes of African American culture.
I have a few artists who inspire me artistically and visually. Markus Prime, Will Focus and Spiff Ellis. Local DC artists who inspire me are Linda Kuo and “OhnoitsJermaine”. I also have muses who inspire my movement and always move me, Tydryn Scott, Joshua Cummings, and Vincent Smith. These three individuals are aesthetically pleasing to me and all are of dark and rich complexions.
What would you say to prevent an upcoming artist from making the same mistakes you have made?
“No one can do what you do, how you do.”
I am still learning as I go along. Always be humble and know who you are. Know your worth and don’t ever feel like you charge too much. No one can do what you do, how you do. One mistake I made was creating pieces without receiving some kind of payment or deposit. As an artist, time is our most valuable asset and people often take it for granted. I created a logo for a guy and after I completed the project I sent it over to him never heard back from him. Now, I always ask for a partial payment because even if someone chooses to waste my time at least I’ll have a little change to compensate for the time I spent working on a project.
What obstacles have you faced as a Black Artist/Business Owner?
“I want to be that fortress for my people and my culture and I don’t see anything wrong with that.”
Branding as a black artist is sometimes looked down upon. Some might think it’s you limiting your demographic or audience. There were times where I wanted to do a series specifically geared towards Black people and some of my friends (whom were Black) themselves, felt as if I should expand. My art can be consumed by whomever it speaks to, but personally I don’t find an issue with wanting to provide a safe haven in my art of people of color. Since there are very few things that we can find solitude in, I want to be that fortress for my people and my culture and I don’t see anything wrong with that. In terms of relating to other ethnic groups, I feel like morals and values don’t have a specific race, so although my characters are Afro-American, things like humility, courage and discipline are all traits that are applicable in everyday life.
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