Institute selling Obama prints

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, November 6, 2008

Since becoming a presidential candidate, Barack Obama has been captured by thousands of photographers’ lenses.

However, few artists have taken it upon themselves to draw a portrait of the president-elect.

That’s just what local artist Sherman Watkins did. The U.S. Air Force veteran and accomplished artist created the pencil-and-charcoal portrait of Obama at the request of Southeast Virginia Art Institute’s director, Peter Mooz.

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“Blessing: A Portrait of Barack Obama” is available from the institute, located at 112 Franklin St., Suffolk. The prints, available in 8-by-11-inch or 20-by-22-inch, are each numbered and signed by the artist. The portrait shows Obama as a presidential candidate, with an inset portrait of him as a young boy.

“After I drew him, I decided to put him as a young boy,” said Watkins, who is best known for his portrait series on the life of Martin Luther King Jr. “When young people see adults, they don’t look at us and conceive we were young once, too.”

Watkins, who lives in Hampton, said he hopes the portrait will inspire young people to believe that they can become the president of the United States.

Watkins’ paintings have been displayed everywhere from the Smithsonian Institute to Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. In the Air Force, he worked with the space shuttle program, and he served at the VA Hospital after his retirement.

He’s now content to be an artist, he said. The Obama portrait is the latest in an extensive collection of black leaders.

Only 260 of the prints were made, so they’re likely to run out now that Obama is the president-elect. They may be ordered by calling 925-1077.