George F. Baker III | Artist Sketchpad Feature

For this artist feature, we had a fun conversation with artist, muralist and sneakerhead George F. Baker III. Here’s what he had to say about life, art — and his ultimate dream project…

Teachers change people’s lives. The best teachers inspire their students to learn more about the subjects they are passionate about. And sometimes, even when they have an off day and say something critical, they can unknowingly inspire a child to pursue their dreams.

I was born in Omaha and lived in several other places as a kid, including Detroit and Hilton Head before settling in Atlanta. I’ve loved drawing ever since I can remember. One day in an elementary school art class, a teacher told me I couldn’t become an artist because I didn’t draw “realistically.”

My parents always told me to challenge incorrect assumptions, so I went to the library, checked out a book on artist Keith Haring and became more motivated. Later, I went on to earn a degree in graphic design at Georgia State and pursued a career in art.

At heart, I’m still that same curious kid. One common theme across my interests is tapping into things I loved as a child, like Legos, which I still play with, and my obsession with sneakers, which I still collect. I’m interested in anything that humans make. Connecting with things I loved as a kid and still love today is a theme often expressed in my artwork, too. Children have a natural sense of curiosity, and for some of us, that never goes away.

I was recently asked what I would tell my younger self if I could go back in time and give myself advice. I’d tell myself to be patient. I’ve still got the journals I kept when I was a teenager, and now I can see that the things I wanted to do back then, I’ve been able to do now as an adult.

I wanted to be an artist, and I became an artist. Although art is my career, I got into mural work more recently. I didn’t plan to be a muralist, but I ended up falling more in love with each and every project. Mural art aligns perfectly with my beliefs. I believe in making art for everybody and I believe in using simple materials to maximize the impact that art has on people in their communities. Murals have allowed me to do just that. It has been a wild journey, but that would be another piece of advice for my younger self: love the journey. Don’t worry so much about the destination.

Murals can be intimidating because of the scale, but if you have the right support system and team, you can make magic. It’s a team effort too, even if you’re mostly a solo artist. On a huge mural project, assistants can make all the difference. And even if I’m painting alone, I keep in mind that other people make the project possible. I didn’t create the wall I’m painting. Somebody else did. I didn’t create the supplies I’m using. Somebody else did.

Even the work that I’m creating, I’m pulling from all these different people and experiences I’ve gained over a lifetime that have influenced me. I am merely standing on the shoulders of giants, and the things that I am able to see, I see because of them.

I recently completed an enormous mural — three stories tall and almost 50 yards wide — in Adair Park ll in Atlanta for SafeAuto, a neighborhood I chose because of its significance to me and the community.

It was my second mural project for Muros, and it had the elements of a great project because it was a challenge I could use to stretch myself and push my art further. Muros is great to work with because they trust the talent enough to let artists express their creativity, and they provide a lot of support.

So, about that dream project: I’ve been a huge sneakerhead since I was 12. I’ve got 78 pairs of sneakers (an exponentially larger collection of shoes than my girlfriend’s). My dream project would be to design a pair of sneakers — to design an experience around sneakers to express my love for them.

It would be my dream project to work with a brand like Nike, a company I admire for its collaboration with and support for artists and for taking a stance on controversial issues, like standing by Colin Kaepernick. It would be awesome to build a sneaker design collaboration with a brand that ultimately benefits a nonprofit like L.E.A.D. here in Atlanta, an organization that mentors young Black boys, teaching them baseball skills and also life and leadership skills.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep following my curiosity and finding inspiration in unlikely places. I’ll keep making art because communities need to see their intrinsic beauty reflected back at them, especially in times like these. And I’ll keep applying what I learn, with patience as I go.

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