My work primarily consists of portraits. There are few things I find as compelling as looking into the eyes of the person and attempting to see what they see and feel what they feel. Portraits can convey so much about a person; however, for every one thing a portrait reveals, there are countless things that remain unknown. My work is an attempt to get the viewer to realize this truth. The objective is presenting viewers with an image that may make some of them a little uncomfortable and then subsequently challenging them to reassess their preconceived notions through use of titles that reflect characteristics of the person that cannot be perceived just on outside appearance alone. 

Black males, a group that is often looked down upon by society, are most frequently my subject. Scale is a key component of my work: the large scale monumentalizes the subject. The portraits offer a sly rebuttal to the viewer, looking down upon them, and returning the gaze so often used to judge them.

Current events and the personal experience of being a black man at a majority white university have significantly impacted the development of my work. Color and shadow are the principles relied upon in the creation of these paintings.

An accurate descriptor of the theme running through my work would be "misconceptions" and this extends to other series I work on as well. I'm currently in the process of developing a series of landscapes focusing on cities that are often misunderstood or looked down upon as irrelevant/dead. The idea is to create a sense of hope emerging from a place that is often regarded as hopeless.


Waleed Johnson is a recent graduate of the University of Notre Dame’s Dual Degree Program. Waleed graduated with a BS in Computer Engineering, a BA in Studio Art, and was selected as a 2015 Reilly Scholar— a special honor given to exemplary dual degree students at Notre Dame.

Waleed's concentration for his BA was painting. He received the 2015 Barbara H. Roche Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Painting as well as the Mabel L. Mountain Painting Prize at Notre Dame. Additionally, Waleed served as an officer of the Voices of Faith Gospel Choir for three years including serving as President in the ’14-’15 school year.

Although painting is his main focus, he also enjoys photography. In 2014, Waleed created a poster featuring buildings in Detroit, using photographs he had taken, that was displayed at the Detroit Historical Museum  along with an accompanying postcard.

As a passionate native Detroiter, Waleed decided to return to his hometown after graduation to be a part of the ongoing change.