John Pannell: Spellbinding Visual Artist

Visual artist, John Pannell returns to Kansas City with a renewed creative palette.

It’s hard to deny (and describe) how much I miss basketball. Sometimes more than others but certainly, right now. Those coaches I’ve had were not just teachers of the sport. They spoke through care and morality, which brought on many lessons. They were people who seemed to have an inside look at this crazy thing called life. Sharing their knowledge in a myriad of ways. In high school, I used to wonder to myself if my generation would grow with the wisdom that I felt was being poured into us. Turns out, it’s a definite yes after speaking with visual artist from Kansas City, KS, John Pannell.

Monday, Feb 3rd-

It’s been a shocking and unpleasant week to say the very least. Exactly 8 days prior to this date, the world lost a beloved hero; Kobe Bryant. Those days were full of deep bouts of thought for many of us, I would say. People around the world are trying to sort out their feelings and now also, our lives. It’s one of those times where I’m grateful to share a conversation with a fellow Kansas City artist. Meeting humble visual artist John Pannell opened my ears and eyes to the importance of keeping momentum during heavy times.

John Pannell: Spellbinding Visual Artist
What do you tell yourself on those low days? “I think of what my grandmother would say, Live, Laugh, Love”. -John Pannell

Our conversation takes place in a surprisingly-quiet food court of the Oak Park Mall. I sit across from John and his no more than 2 year old daughter, watching a warm bond between the two. In light of the current events, this was a significant starting point for our meeting. When asking about his most pivotal moment in his artistic career thus far, the answer was clear. “I would say the birth of my daughter. She came at a time when I was overwhelmed with commissions. She gave me a lot of motivation to keep going“, he stated while glancing down at her in his arms. Digging deeper, he expressed how his family has always played a role in his growth. “All of my uncles were very artistic. Art and basketball were just, life“, he spoke frankly.

Like many artists we’ve featured, he of course encompasses many talents. He defines himself as a Visual Artist, producing work that includes everything from mix mediums to photography. Currently he is looking to take on a more literal hands on approach as he begins to explore sculpture and pottery. He even mentions consideration for creating flower pots that are sure to be made with his distinct flare. You may also remember seeing his wildly intuitive visuals on his website, Nostalgia Clothing Co., from our last series interview with his business partner, Matthew Robinson.

John Pannell: Spellbinding Visual Artist
“nwo” By John Pannell
Check out Nostalgia Clothing and Merch: HERE

Up until recently John and his family lived in Illinois, where he attended The Art Institute of Chicago shortly after graduating high school. He spoke about his appreciation for a roommate from St. louis who gave him a laptop, which prompted his self-teachings in digital artwork. After 13 years, the evidence of his boundary-breaking work proves his evolution and skill in each piece he creates. Taken back by the amazement I felt with his pieces, I asked what does he hope his audience will take away from his work. “I want people to see that it’s cool. To see that I represent Black people and that I represent our style and culture. You’re going to see a lot of color in my work“, John said. There was color, indeed as I became instantly enthralled with each new piece he shared.

John Pannell: Spellbinding Visual Artist
“af1 boy” By John Pannell
John on his Brand:Just trying to create the most creative shit ever“.

Undoubtably, his work is speaks for itself with the careful building of layers and eye-catching distortions. Each piece holds strongly on its own and has a haunting way of creating a demand for your attention. John Pannell’s work reflects such a unique rawness that it caught the attention of American Rapper, Swae Lee for possible work on an album cover. Although, the exchange took him by surprise, I am sure that there will be many other opportunities within various spaces. When asking what he looks for in a successful project, he stated, “It’s once I get to the point where I can’t go any further, I’ve taken it to it’s limit.”

John Pannell: Spellbinding Visual Artist
“Black Sunflower Mag” By John Pannell
Key piece to John’s creative process:It has to have a cool factor. It doesn’t attract me without it“.

Those words affirmed the magnitude of being all of yourself through your expression. When you let your work of art set the limit, you realize how boundless and free you could feel and/or become. To create, to innovate, to explore, to seek understanding and much more. Now, returning home to Kansas City, John coaches each of us through a personal challenge. Just how far can we take our gifts once we fully see how strong we can be when we stretch ourselves and imagination? The question renders much appreciation for an artist that purposefully represents Kansas City in all it’s boldness and color. Thank you John Pannell for doing just that.

Join us next Sunday for our upcoming artist review: Ryan C. Hamilton

Michelle L. Hill
Michelle L. Hill

Explorer of new worlds. lover of Black music, art and culture. Writer and Editor for The Black Sunflower.

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