Deaf teen artist goes viral for Kamala Harris, Betty White paintings

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Tyler Gordon is a 15-year-old, partially deaf, self-taught painter, who has gone viral for his breathtaking portraits of celebrities such as Betty White, Vice President Kamala Harris, and LeBron James.

In 2020, his painting of James landed on the cover of Time Magazine after the Los Angeles Lakers star was named, “Athlete Of The Year.”

Gordon has been painting since he was 10-years-old, ever since he says he received a message from God. 

“When I was 10 years old, I had this dream of God telling me if I didn’t use my talent he was going to take it away from me. So that night at 3 in the morning, I ran into my mom’s room and told her about my dream. At first, she thought that I was playing around. Then the next night, I had the same dream,” Gordon previously said in an interview. 

And with that, his mother, Nicole Kindle, who is also an artist, gave him a canvas and in less than 20 minutes he completed a portrait of her in a style he dubbed “shadow painting.”

Gordon has since sold pieces to celebrities and athletes including Janelle Monae who commissioned a piece, and NFL star Richard Sherman, among others. Vice President Kamala Harris personally called him in November 2020 to praise his work and thank him for the portrait he made of her.

“You really have a gift, my goodness. I was so touched to see it,” Harris told Gordon. 

“She was just really humble,” he later said about Harris. “One thing that I really like about her, is that even though it was right before Thanksgiving and she’s the vice president [-elect], she was still at home cooking cornbread with her family. It really inspired me to stay humble and keep pushing forward.”

Gordon’s talents have led to appearances on Good Morning America and TMZ. 

“Here in the house he’s just regular old Tyler, who gets in trouble for pranking people and not cleaning up his room,” said Kindle in a 2020 interview. “He’s the grilled cheese sandwich master, he makes everyone grilled cheese or fried chicken.”

Gordon was deaf until age six when he underwent surgery that allowed him to have partial hearing. He was wheelchair-bound for two years due to a vitamin D deficiency and was bullied for his stutter.

Gordon told LX News Now host Jobeth Devera, that his art lets him “talk without speaking.” A typical piece takes him about 20 minutes.

One of his inspirations is President Joe Biden, who he created a portrait of.

“(Biden) stutters like me and he’s not afraid to do public speeches and use his voice and I’m really inspired by him,” Gordon told ABC 7 News. “He helps me accept my stutter….he showed me that speaking slowly kinda masks a stutter,” Gordon captioned the portrait on social media.

“Art has been a huge help in expressing myself and showing people my differences are only positive. Now instead of being bullied because I’m different, I can inspire others to embrace their own differences,” Gordon told Because Of Them We Can.

Last year, Gordon was a runner-up in Time Magazine/Nickelodeon’s Kid of the Year Award. He has also been featured in two Disney Channel commercials. 

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