Thursday, May 03, 2007

Sketch Art: Sam Fuller Jr and Laban

Colored pencil and graphite drawing

Today, I want to share some of my art collection with you all. The featured artist is African American sketch artist, Sam Fuller Jr. I met Mr. Fuller in the Fall of 2005 at DuPont Circle Park here in DC. It was autumn, so the weather was still fairly warm. I took daily walks during my lunch hour near Dupont Circle; one afternoon, I observed Mr. Fuller in the park selling his art. I didn't bother him that day, but I noticed him the next day as well, so I decided to approach him to take a closer look at his work. He sat quietly on the park bench while sketching one of his upcoming pieces. As I walked closer, I noticed that he wore jeans and a starched white shirt that appeared very bright in the sunlight.

I introduced myself and asked if I could take a look at some of his artwork. He showed me his work and also shared works in progress. I visited with him the rest of the week at the park during my lunch hour. We talked about his career as an artist and his journey in life. He told me that he lived in Texas, but he was in town visiting his sister somewhere in Prince Georges County, Maryland. He also mentioned that he was incarcerated as a younger man, and honed his skills as an artist during his time in prison. The most touching and personal story he shared with me was about his son named Laban, whom he hasn’t seen for many years (he spoke about the son’s mother, but I don’t remember the details). Sadly, he had no idea where to find Laban, who is a young man today. So, in honor of his son, Mr. Fuller signs all of his work with his signature and Laban’s name in hope that Laban will see it one day. It is his hope that Laban's discovery will spark a reunion between father and son.

The featured piece is wonderful to me. I purchased it from Mr. Fuller on the last day we talked. I wish I had more to show, but this was the only piece I could afford at the time. It’s a tribute to Jazz and the famous Savoy Ballroom in Harlem. African American culture and music seems to be the overriding theme in most of Fuller’s work. I like this piece because it screams ecstasy and hot Jazz! Funny, the men in this piece seem more subdued than the women.

By the way, thank you all for reading my Women and the Blues series. There is one post left in the series so stay tuned.

Note to Sam Fuller: Mr. Fuller, this is my way of contributing to your efforts while showcasing your wonderful talent as an artist.

Best Wishes~
Stephen Bess

Latest news on Sam Fuller


Cergie said...

Maybe someone knowing Laban and reading your blog will allowed the reunion of the father and the son
It's so sad not to know where is somebody so close is living and even if he is dead or alive

I like the colors of the painting though, they are so joyful !

Anonymous said...

Sensuous lines and color. Absolutely beautiful! Stephen this brought tears to my eyes, for one, the beauty and joy this piece represents, and secondly, the deep connection this man has for his son whom he hasn't seen in many years. It touches home because I was out of touch with my father from the time I was a toddler until I was 20. He found me and I am so grateful for that. I thought I was okay about not having him in my life, but in retrospect, I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to bond with him as an adult. He has since passed away and I miss hearing him call me "darling", but I have those memories and love we shared. I will pray for Mr. Fuller and Laban's reunion. His art is stunning. Thank you.

Dance_Soul said...

Stephen -
Tell Mrs. Bess that she is sweet as pie. The first thing I'm gonna do when I get to Detroit on Saturday is give my dad a big ol hug and a kiss - courtesy of your wife. I see that you really did pass my kisses on - GOOD MAN. In fact - I'll bet you got extra smiles because of them too. :-)

Love the art. Its something about all the color that makes me think of summer when I see it. Maybe a summer outdoor jazz festival.

Dance_Soul said...

Hmm. I know a Laban. His last name isn't Fuller - its King. He's in New York now. Anyway - I hope mr. fuller finds his son. :-)

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful painting, the colors the story of you and Mr. Fuller chatting everyday for a week... touching. I also hope and pray that he finds his son soon. There are SO many "Fathers" that want nothing to do with their children, makes is especially sad to see a true Dad that cannot be with his son...

Crankyputz said...

Love the painting, Hope he finds Laban.

Stephen A. Bess said...

That would be great if he found his son. It would make me happy. :)

Thanks for sharing the story about your father. Touching. I hope that Mr. Fuller and his son will have a similar story one day.

I will get that msg to her if she doesn't read it first. Yes, I am more than happy to deliver kisses. It just means extras for me. *wink* :)Give your father that masculine hand shake + embrace from me. :)God bless all of you and Mr. Fuller + Laban. Peace~

Yes, a father who wants to be a good father but can't find his son. God help him. Have a great weekend Faith and peace~ :)

Hello. Yes, I hope so too. Enjoy your weekend.

NML/Natalie said...

I thought that the story behind the artist was so sad yet touching. I hope that meet one day.

Stephen A. Bess said...

Yes, it was. This post was long overdue. Thanks.

Bougie Black Boy said...

Hope you aint causin' too much trouble in DC! Miss talkin with you.

Stephen A. Bess said...

Who me? :)Yes, we'll have to talk soon. Peace~

Rethabile said...

The painting is true. Fantastic expression. I hope he finds Laban. And have a good weekend.

Stephen A. Bess said...

Thank you sir. I really hope he does. Enjoy your weekend brother.

Brea said...

It is so rare to have the pleasure of meeting the artist of a piece of work that speaks to you. What a great day for a walk in the park that was!

Stephen A. Bess said...

Hello! Good to see you. Yes, It was a nice walk in the park. :)

barbie said...

What a thougtful and beautiful gesture Stephen and what a story....Just goes to prove what I always say. We all have stories within us. Mr. Fuller's story deserves to be told. I wish I'd met him.
D.C. (I've never been) seems to be a treasure, exploding with culture everywhere. You are fortunate to be there a nd obviously make the most of it....

neena maiya (guyana gyal) said...

Makes me think of Jazz fantasia, by Carl Sandburg.

Jazz, the Blues, Stephen, I saved it all for this weekend, so I can take my tiiiiiime and reeeeead sloooowly.

What a treat.

That's heartbreaking about father and son. I hope Laban finds Mr. Fuller.

Now I want to run out and buy jazz and more blues, I have a pile of Blues CD's, but mostly men.

Unfortunately, I can't run out and buy...only pirated cd's are sold here, I'm trying reeeeally hard to resist.

Writing on Board said...

Beautiful story, beautifully told.

Analía said...

nice post and beautiful colors. I know they will find each other some day.
How have you been? Wow it's been ages since I came here last time!!!
Take care Stephen, hugs and kisses

black feline said...

beautiful piece...and a poignant story...pray for a reunion :)

Stephen A. Bess said...

Yes, it was a pleasure to meet such an honest and wonderful artist and human being. Thanks and good to see you.

Thank you for taking the time to read it slooooowly. :)I appreciate it and good to see you.

Thank you sir.

I believe he will find him too. Good to see you and thanks for the love. :)

Yes indeed. Thank you. :)

Anonymous said...

I love that's easy to relate to. We've all heard music that makes you wanna get close to the one you love (or like or lust).

Fabrizio said...

Hey, those pictures are great. Mr. Fuller should have a URL. He would sell a lot of stuff this way!



Anonymous said...

C'est beau!!!

Anonymous said...

On women / blues, there's also Ma Rainey. Someone sent me a message on her birthday April 26, said I should post something, I have not done it yet, but here is what they said:

"It's the birthday of blues singer Gertrude Pridgett, better known as Ma Rainey, born in Columbus, Georgia, in 1886. She helped popularize the blues among a wide, racially mixed audience in the U.S. She was known for her ostentatious outfits covered with sequins and diamonds, and she always wore her trademark necklace made of gold coins.

The popularity of women blues singers declined dramatically in the 1930s, and Ma Rainey returned to her hometown of Columbus, Georgia, where she managed two theaters and became active in the local Baptist church. When she died from heart disease in 1939, the obituary in the local paper listed her profession as 'housekeeper.'"

Stephen A. Bess said...

Yes, that are a lot of people out there who are in :) Thanks.

I agree. I know that I would buy more.

Thank you. That's a great story about Ma Rainey. Thank you for that! There are so many great artist and musicians who would meet a similar fate. Zora Neale Hurston and Jazz great, King Oliver come to mind. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Hey check out this sampler - it has a little bit of Louise Bogan and Shave It Dry on it, and quite a bit of other interesting clips of women singing blues (including Ma Rainey)

Stephen A. Bess said...

Yes, I saw this video during my research. I love it. Thank you.

Kyra said...

Thanks for sharing your artwork - lovely picture! Does your collection also include quilts? Would you also share those?

Thank you!

Kyra in VA
African American quilting

Anonymous said...

I met Mr. Fuller today and also had the opportunity to speak with him. I as well bought of piece of his artwork and just love it! I can't wait to hang it!

Stephen A. Bess said...

What city? I hope he comes back to the Washington area.

Unknown said...

This artist was shown this evening (1/25/2010) on a new television show on MTV called "The Buried Life" on the episode called "#41 Make a Toast At a Stranger’s Wedding". ( )

While in Dallas, TX they set out to help Sam Fuller Jr find his son Laban. Needless to say they were able to help them reconnect and it was touching. I can only hope their relationship will become as beautiful as Sam's artwork. There is a video on the site showing the reunion, but have not found it yet.

Something tells me that artwork may have just increased in value too.

Lindsay McClain Opiyo said...

Sam and Laban's reunion

Unknown said...

This is truly and inspiring story. Sam just recently met his son due to a group of young men on the MTV Show The Buried Life. This is a group of guys who drive around the country trying to complete a list of 100 things they would like to do before they die. For every one they complete they make someone elses possible. Watch these both in order and make sure you support an actual worthy television show by tuning in to MTV and watching it.



Stephen A. Bess said...

Thanks Augie, Lindsay, and Matt. I will check it out. It's great to hear that he was reunited with his son. I thank God for that.

Anonymous said...

I was just watchign the MTV show and saw the artists work and immediately searched his name. Your blog seems to be the only info about him. I really hope the artist gets word that his work is beautiful and there are lots of people out here willing to pay a good amount for his collections. Mr. Fuller please set up a web-site.:)

Anita Palmer said...

I am a friend of Sam Fuller's and live at Southside on Lamar in Dallas where Sam's small loft and gallery is located. A group of small businesses have joined together to help Sam become more commercially successful in this 21st Century business environment. Honestly, Sam would welcome you to visit his brand new website and to come back often. If you are so inclined, there are some wonderful pop art items and jewelry as well as prints and t-shirt (coming) that are incredibly affordable. Once you go to Sam's site, I hope you feel like you have become a friend of Sam's. We thank you in advance for your time. And Mr. Bess, if you felt so inclined to blog about Sam's "next step," I know he would be very grateful. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at or to contact Sam at Thank you for this wonderful blog!

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