Meet the Artist Behind MLK’s Google Doodle
Posted On Jan 18, 2016
In commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, each year the third Monday of January is coined as a nationally observed holiday, acknowledging a pioneer who played a pivotal role in challenging and cultivating American History. Serving as a pillar within the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. King unapologetically tackled inequalities, racial complexities, and social injustices. Through his humanitarian efforts, nonviolent civil disobedience, and unselfish sacrifices, Dr. King established an indelible blueprint by making the ultimate sacrifices for posterity.
Google’s infamous doodles serve as a way of paying homage to prominent leaders within perspective fields, as well as recognizing holidays, anniversaries and birthdays. As we celebrate the life and legacy of one of the historic greats, today’s Google doodle features artistic whiz Richie Pope’s perfectly curated illustration of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Pope’s artistry has also been featured within the pages of many other prestige publications such as Time Magazine, The New Yorker, and New York Times. We had a chance to speak with the influential entrepreneur on landing the opportunity to have his work showcased on the homepage of Google, personal career journey and his intimate sentiments regarding his artistic brilliance being viewed throughout the world specifically on this momentous day. Happy Birthday Dr. King!
Can you provide us with a brief background as to how you began your career as an illustrator and cartoonist?
Similar to a lot of creatives, I’ve been drawing my entire life. I wanted to be an animator, children’s book illustrator, Andy Warhol. Once I began my collegiate career at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), I discovered the University’s Illustration program. Once I enrolled in a class with Sterling Hundley, I fell in love with his work and I ultimately fell in love with illustration. During this time, I also had that “This is what I want to do with my life” moment.
Which artists if any particularly influence your style of illustration? Why?
There are quite a few but I would say, Sterling Hundley due to his focus on personal voice and fearlessness in experimentation. Mike Mignola for his compositions and cartooning abilities, as well as his storytelling. Bernie Fuchs, Bob Peak, and many more 60s/70s American illustrators just for their sheer ability. Kanye West for his knack of reinvention. Basquiat for his raw expression, especially how much of his catalog of work was fine art, cartooning, jazz, and hip-hop fused together.
How did you land the opportunity to have your Doodle featured on Google?
It was actually fairly simple. I received an email pertaining to my work proceeded by an actual invitation to become a doodler for Google, so I said yes.
What does it personally mean to have your work featured on such a momentous day in history?
It’s crazy to believe or think that a certain number of years ago, someone like me would have never received an opportunity such as this. That African Americans had to own their publications in order to prop up black artists. People are taking more chances now and I am proud, and definitely honored because it symbolizes that you do not have to stop at benchmarks of societal expectations.
From your perspective, as an entrepreneur do you believe Dr. King’s dream has been realized? (If not, why? Or If so, in what ways?)
I would like to believe that Dr. King himself was not fully realized because his life was cut short, in his late 30s. Who would he have been had he lived twice as long? What else could he have been able to accomplish? How would his views have changed over time? Because of this, I do not believe his dream has been fully realized. It’s difficult to fix “Everything” after hundreds of years of systemic violence and dehumanization. On the other hand, as long as people continue fighting, we are steadily evolving and continuing his legacy of where he left off.
What is next on the horizon for you?
Definitely more illustration jobs, animation work, and character designs. I’m also working on a few personal comic projects and a comic that is premiering through Youth in Decline at Small Press Expo (SPX) in September. Additionally, I’ll be attending the Toronto Comics Arts Festival (TCAF) with many other Richmond, VA cartoonists. As you can see there are a lot of really good, good things happening.
In the words of the symbolic civil rights leader, “And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.” This dynamic illustrator and cartoonist truly exemplifies Dr. King’s historic message of pursuing the American Dream without restrictions or limitations. By being one of the chosen few to possess the artistic ability and creative freedom in order to utilize God-given talents that touch the heart of many.
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