Theadis Reagins Jr. Will Draw Your Soul on the Page
Theadis Reagins Jr., a 17 year-old senior at the Cleveland School of the Arts, is a graphic artist with an eye towards portraiture. Using pencils, he explores his subjects from the inside out under the tutelage of artists like painter Antwoine Washington and the esteemed Edward Parker. Reagins Jr. talked with CAN about experimenting with paint, selling his art from an early age, and making a Lebron James-style announcement of his scholarship choice.
JIMI IZRAEL: Tell me about the first time somebody recognized your drawing.
THEADIS REAGINS JR: Okay. So yeah, I’ve been drawing since I was like a little kid. I remember I used to bring drawings into church. That’s the first time I actually, I was selling drawings. I used to staple my drawings to a paper, like make a book, you could say. I would sell them to people in church for, like, for a dollar. So that was the first time. Yeah. Since a really little kid. Yeah. That’s the first time.
JIMI IZRAEL: How old were you?
THEADIS REAGINS JR: I would say I was about seven, eight years old.
JIMI IZRAEL: What inspired you?
THEADIS REAGINS JR: I was into, like I said, animals. So I had a lot of books about animals, and I would just draw for them, and then me and my grandad would go back and forth, about different just random facts about, “Okay, how fast would a cheetah run?” or something. And then, he was surprised I would know it off the top of my head. I would just list random facts. So I guess, I would just draw the pictures and list the facts there, stuff like that. I used to like Ninja Turtles so I used to draw that, the action figures. So yeah, I was just really inspired about the toys I had and the books that I was gifted or however they came to me.
JIMI IZRAEL: When did you start getting into portraiture?
THEADIS REAGINS JR: I was doing that early on, too. I would actually draw pictures of my family. I put that in a book together too, where I would draw the family and I would list their month for like birth month and I’d be like “Her sign is the Aries” or something. Like my mom was Aries and then I’d list it. I would be “She likes to do this.” And then the next person would be the same way. So I was always drawing the faces, too, from an early age.
JIMI IZRAEL: Were you using mainly pencils?
THEADIS REAGINS JR: Yeah.
JIMI IZRAEL: I’m curious, how come you didn’t start out using a lot of… I mean, because I’m no artist, but in art class that they always give us the big pencil box of Crayolas, with 135 colors in there.
THEADIS REAGINS JR: Yeah.
JIMI IZRAEL: And how come you were less intrigued by that, but more intrigued by just using the pencil?
THEADIS REAGINS JR: That’s a good question. I mean, I don’t know. I guess I was just interested in like, I really don’t know. I mean, I guess I was just drawing with a pencil because, it was just simple. I could do it anywhere. I don’t have to think about “Okay, I need this color. Then I need this color on top of this color.” I really could just… With a pencil, you always got a pencil everywhere you go. So it’s just easier and just more convenient, I guess.
JIMI IZRAEL: I’ve only seen your work in portraiture. Why is that?
THEADIS REAGINS JR: It’s something about the human face. When I looked through art history or my favorite pieces of art, they were mostly like portraits. So I was drawn to that naturally. Yeah. I mean, I always thought of that as the hierarchy art: portraiture. So that’s what I was drawn to.
JIMI IZRAEL: What artists inspired you coming up?
THEADIS REAGINS JR: Coming up, I really started looking at artists during my tenth-grade year, and I was drawn to artists like Charles White. He really inspired me. That was probably the first person I really looked into. And his style or the way he worked influenced one of my drawings I did, called Grandad Knows, which had won the Scholastic Art & Writing Award.
JIMI IZRAEL: What was it about what he was doing that you found something in it for yourself to take?
THEADIS REAGINS JR: His work was really like, it was different from all the other work I was looking at, because prior to that, I was looking at European art, Renaissance Impressionism and all those topics. But then when I looked in Harlem Renaissance, I was mostly drawn to his work because I liked the figure. And when I saw how he drew it, it was more stylized and it was just different from everything else I saw. And it was the most powerful, the way he made his marks and his lines and the proportion. Like they might have big arms or big hands. So I was really attracted to that.
JIMI IZRAEL: Talk to me a little bit about your method.
THEADIS REAGINS JR: Okay. So my method early on, I was really into detail which probably is not the best when you start drawings, because right now, I start with seeing basic shapes first, before going into it, which is better in the long run. So my method basically is I might draw a hatch, I do hatching. And then I might use a stump, a blending stump. So you blend the hatch marks and then you go over it again with more pencil hatching. And then you repeat that until you get the desired effect you want.
JIMI IZRAEL: You’re still mainly working in pencil, but you’re venturing out into painting.
THEADIS REAGINS JR: Mm-hmm. My first painting that I ever worked on was in school, and it was before the pandemic, so I didn’t finish it. It was a project. We was working on a project for our science class. So we had to do paintings based off of different molecules or it had something to do with chemistry class. It was a joint project. So I was painting like, the thing I was talking about… I did a study too in high school, I think of a volcano. Well, other than that, I really didn’t paint. So after that, I started painting. Really, I was going to say here, I was in Cleveland Institute of Art pre-college program I went to.
JIMI IZRAEL: Tell me about that program.
THEADIS REAGINS JR: So okay. That program was actually this summer; last summer, actually. Excuse me. I applied for the drawing course, but it was suggested I should go into painting because I didn’t have a lot in my portfolio. So they moved me to a painting program. And so yeah, we went through a series of paintings. We did still life, the landscape portraiture. So that’s the first time I really honed in on painting. And actually, I didn’t really like the first painting that I did at the course. But as it went on, I got more comfortable and I actually started liking it and made a few paintings afterward. So yeah.
JIMI IZRAEL: Okay. A lot of artists are searching for something in their work. What are you looking for? You know what I mean?
THEADIS REAGINS JR:In my work… I’m drawn to like the psychology of the person, or I’m really looking for ways to… either I’m expressing something that I’m interested in through other people, or I’m really looking for just something meaningful to say or even if it’s not meaningful, just aesthetically pleasing, in my opinion.
JIMI IZRAEL: You’ve been offered a lot of opportunities post high school. Tell me about that.
THEADIS REAGINS JR: Okay. Yeah. So high school, eleventh grade, I was in the MOCHA teen program, which I put together a program I taught called Symbols in Art, where I talk about different symbolism in artwork. After that, I was in the Morgan Conservatory show called Cross Generations; bridging the gap of artists, which is put together by Morgan Conservatory and Museum of Creative Human Art. That was my first show. I was in two Ed Parker shows that me and my family went to. Well, we attended his class and then after the class he put together a show and that was the first time I’d shown anything.
JIMI IZRAEL: You have some shows coming up.
THEADIS REAGINS JR: Yes. Yeah. I [was] in a group show [at Loganberry Books Annex Gallery] for Black History Month with Antoine Washington, Terry Joshua, Aaron Williams, and my sister Bobbi Reagins. And then another show at Worthington Yards on March 10, if I’m not mistaken.
JIMI IZRAEL: I understand you’ve been offered a few scholarships … so, are you going to go to Cleveland Institute or you don’t know yet? Is it going to be like LeBron? You find out and it’s going to be a big thing on cable, and you’re going to come out and be like “I’m taking my talents to Chicago?”
THEADIS REAGINS JR: Yeah. It’s going to be something like that. I don’t know yet. I don’t know exactly where, but I really like CIA, so it’s very likely.
JIMI IZRAEL: So, what’s in the future for you? What are you working towards?
THEADIS REAGINS JR: I’m trying to branch onto other subjects. And also I’m putting together a senior project for school at Cleveland School of the Arts.
JIMI IZRAEL: The future, I guess I meant when you become an adult and you graduate from college.
THEADIS REAGINS JR: Okay. So yeah, when I graduate, I’m looking to have more shows. I really want to do more commissions possibly, and actually draw more portraits of people outside of my immediate circle. So I want to branch out to that.