While many artists tend to be extremely well-connected, Chaz Guest may win the prize for being the most well-connected. He has painted numerous celebrities from all over the world, including former Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz; former Miss America Vanessa Williams; world-renowned singer Stevie Wonder; Gambian President His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh U.S. President Barack Obama, and countless others. Hanging on his refrigerator at home are photos of Denzel Washington, Sidney Poitier, and Quincy Jones, among others—big stars that he calls friends.
President Obama saw Guest’s painting of himself at a fundraiser at talk show diva Oprah Winfrey’s home in 2008. Various news articles report that Guest painted the president from his own mental image after being struck by his presence upon meeting him. Guest’s work also graces the walls of some of the world’s most popular and powerful people, including President Obama.
Photo Credit: Chaz Guest Art
In an article published in The Huffington Post, Guest shared a letter President Obama had sent to him when thanking him for the portrait of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, which hangs in his office. “He stated that it’s all about standing on the shoulders of those who came before us,” said Guest. “It gave me an unimaginable thrill that I, a boy who dreamt and prayed of one day becoming a respected painter, now can offer a comfort to someone that is the leader of the free world.”
So what’s behind Guest’s ability to capture the rich and famous in such a unique and lifelike way? In a statement on his website, he said he realized early on just how valuable his talent was and learned how important it is to pour passion into every single piece.
“After I sold my first major painting and realized that people were going to be digging deep into their pockets for my pieces, Guest said, “I vowed to match that depth by creating with all the strength and power I can muster… every time. And I never ‘sing the same song’ twice.”
The artist lists his inspirations as golfer Tiger Woods, the late pop star Michael Jackson, and legendary actor, singer, and civil rights leader Paul Robeson.
Photo Credit: African Ancestry
The stars who have been the subjects of Guest’s work often remark on his ability to capture their real essences in his paintings. Vanessa Williams called Chaz Guest “a true renaissance man,” adding that the first painting by him to draw her attention was of a boy trapped in slavery on an American flag background. The first painting of Guest’s that she purchased, however, was Dance Gallery, which she describes as depicting “a sensuous woman of color” with a “strong, statuesque horse.”