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Painting a tragic timeline: Jesse Raudales documents current events

Artist Jesse Raudales paints anything that moves him, and most times his creations reflect current events.

“I don’t paint just to paint,” Raudales said. “I try to tell a story. I want to document everything that happens around me while I’m still here.”

Raudales said that there are times when he goes several months without painting, but that hasn’t been the case in 2020.

“Not everything I paint are tragedies, but this year I have painted more tragedies than ever,” Raudales said. “I actually try to stay away from the news, but now you can’t really. I literally have to get up and paint, get it out of me. I work out my feelings. I paint things that inspire me, and, unfortunately, most of the time it is a tragedy.”

Raudales, who graduated from Wilson’s Fike High School in 1989, serves as the director of operations at OIC of Anne Arundel County, Maryland. He worked for OIC of Wilson before moving to Maryland in 2018.

His art career came to international prominence in 2006 when his work was selected for use by the U.S. Olympics team. Since then, his paintings have been showcased in galleries around the world and hang in homes of celebrities such as Terrence Howard, Snoop Dog, Dr. Dre, Robin Givens and Jasmine Lewis.

Raudales paints most of his work on the day or the day after an event makes the news, including last month’s death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

One recent portrait, however, took much longer than most — the painting of Elijah McClain, the 23-year-old black man who died in the summer of 2019 after police in Aurora, Colorado, restrained him with a chokehold. He went into cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital and later died. After a serious of high-profile deaths at the hands of the police, the McClain case came to prominence just this year.

“I was sobbing when I heard about Elijah and sobbing when I was painting him,” Raudales said. “It took me three weeks to paint; it was that upsetting.”

That particular painting is now featured by the greeting card company Cultural Greetings.

The mixed media portrait features several bold lines of color surrounding McClain’s face. Raudales said that the blue line represents police brutality. The red line represents the blood shed of the innocent, the black line represents the Black Lives Matter movement, and the yellow line represents the love and soul of Elijah McClain.

Around the same time the McClain portrait was completed, Raudales painted another well-known death associated with police brutality — George Floyd. Floyd died on May 25 while in Minneapolis police custody.

“With George Floyd, it was like the whole world was responding to his death,” Raudales said. “And we all saw it happen.”

Although not a death at the hands of someone else, the passing of U.S. congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis also had a profound effect on Raudales. His painting of Lewis is called “Good Trouble.”

“His life was a sermon,” Raudales said of Lewis. “From orator extraordinaire to the chickens of Troy, Alabama, to relentless fighter for freedom to the hallowed halls of the U.S. Capitol for decades, John Lewis’ life taught us to do what we are able to, wherever we are. To exercise voice and agency and stand for what is right. To be bold and courageous enough to get in ‘Good Trouble’ ... necessary trouble.”

His portrait of Lewis is heading to Atlanta, where the family of the former congressman will hang it in a yet-to-be-built school or library bearing Lewis’ name.

Not all of Raudales portraits are inspired by death or tragedy. He also paints people who inspire him on a daily basis, such as U.S. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg.

“I paint everything from abstracts to stills to portraits,” Raudales said. “Anything that moves me.”

Raudales often donates his work as part of fundraisers for non-profits. He has helped raise money for Make-A-Wish (Miami), the American Red Cross, Hands United Together and the United Way of Los Angeles.



Parting with a piece is bitter sweet. Annapolis Immigration Justice Network's 3rd Annual Fundraiser was moving and inspiring. It's great that they have the support of County Executive Stuart Pittman for this important work! (Olympic artist Jesse Raudales, Michele Gilliam Morrissey, County Executive Stuart Pittman, Laura Willoughby Perry, and Misti Mukherjee)

On Nov. 16, 2019 Olympic Artist Jesse Raudales will be creating Character Drawings for the Wilson County Department of Social Services Annual Adoption Awareness 20 year Celebration in Wilson, NC.

Olympic Artist Jesse Raudales speaks at Hillsmere Elementary School on October 25, 2019 the first Hispanic Heritage Celebration at Hillsmere Elementary today! Hispanic Leaders including Olympian Gladys Natali Quizhpi, Olympian Artist Jesse Raudales, Annapolis Leader Adriana Lee, and Journalist Ariana Perez was so inspirational to our student and teacher community.

The unveiling. of the "Maestro" by Jesse Raudales at the Carver Center in Culpeper, VA. Mr. Jim Gilliam was recognized with an installation at the museum for his work as the 5th band director of Carver High.

Olympic Artist Jesse Raudales receives the 2019 Trailblazer Award from the Prince Hall Freemason and Eastern Star Charitable Foundation at the 2019 A Night Under The Stars Awards Gala. Event took place at the historic Masonic Temple in Washington DC.

Olympic Artist Jesse Raudales receives a Citation from Mayor Gavin Buckley signed by him and all of the City Council members during my Grito Latino Exhibit presented by Art In Public Places.

Terrence Howard hosts Art Exhibit for Olympic Artist Jesse Raudales