Eric Velasquez: How a painting of Juan de Pareja showed me that I could be an artist

Award-winning author and illustrator Eric Velasquez talks about the power of seeing a painting of Juan de Pareja in the Metropolitan Museum of Art as a child -- an experience that opened up the possibility of being an artist in his mind and taught him that representation matters. You can see the full interview with Eric in our Meet the Author section.


Seeing the painting of Juan de Pareja, by Diego Velazquez really, I guess put in my mind the notion that I too can be an artist. Once I read the caption that said that Juan de Pareja had become a painter in his own. And so what's interesting is that if the exhibit, there are no works of Juan de Pareja, but yet, just hearing that he was an artist just was so validating for me. And it just allowed me to dream of those possibilities. And the fact that the idea that a man of African descent can become a painter was that the 1600s, 1700s was just so inspirational to me as a child.

So once again, the importance of representation, seeing yourself, I think what we underestimated is when you don't see yourself, what happens is that you're not, then you don't even allow yourself to dream these possibilities. So once you dream the possibility, then the reality can come about. And I guess that's what that painting did for me.