KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Portrait artist Carl Hess II stood out amongst his peers at a young age.
“When I was in elementary school, my art teacher actually recognized that there was a difference between me and my classmates, and she was able to just really pull that out of me,” Hess said.
WATE’s Tearsa Smith first met Hess in 2009 at the University of Tennessee when he presented famed film director, Spike Lee, with a portrait. He says UT is where he learned to network, charting a path to becoming a professional artist.
“And when I presented to Spike Lee, which was just a great opportunity, again, just from people who believed in me, and invested in me, and wanted me to be a part of that historical moment where spike lee came to university.”
The Memphis native has grown quite the career, immortalizing some of the biggest names in Hollywood, sports and politics.
“So, throughout the years, I would say due to the last couple of decades, I’ve just been really blessed to connect with people such as John Lewis, Cicely Tyson, Bishop Jakes, Tyler Perry, Oprah, Pat Summitt. I mean, the list goes on and on,” Hess said.
Just last year he was commissioned to create portraits for the Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta. It is an impressive addition to his resume but a rendering of legendary Lady Vols Head Coach Pat Summitt before her passing holds a special place in his heart.
“It became just really a surreal opportunity for me. I remember going to her house and bringing the original painting to her and she was just overwhelmed. She was extremely grateful. She was accommodating to allow me to come into the home. And this picture actually ended up over her couch because I remember Ms. Robin [Roberts] from Good Morning America came in and did an interview with Summit and I was just so proud to see that painting sitting over her, just being a staple piece of my career,” he said.
For Hess, the future is bright and documented one painting at a time.