Chuck Styles Paints “The Greatest” in Black History Month Stamp Edition

Chuck Styles is a multidisciplinary artist from Philadelphia who has dedicated his career to expressing the beauty, strength and excellence of black culture in his artwork. In his new die-cut edition for “Most of My Heroes Don’t Appear on No Stamps”, Styles portrays Muhammad Ali as a young fighter conscious of his own greatness. Read our exclusive interview with the artist below.

1xRUN: Can you tell us a little bit about the piece, and what’s happening in this scene? Is there anything you would like to highlight about this image?
Chuck Styles:
THIS PIECE IS OF THE GREATEST: MUHAMMAD ALI. I LOVE THIS IMAGE! It was when he was young, fast, confident, and unbothered. It was the visualization of swagger. With Ali’s political stance on the war as well as his religious name change, I feel like this image captures that strength that he possessed. The kind of strength to tell the government “I’m not fighting your war” or during a time when civil rights were being fought for, say “Call me by my name, Muhammad ALI”.

1x: How did the idea and execution come about for this image?
THIS IS A POPULAR PHOTO IMAGE FROM HIS TIME PERIOD THAT I USED FOR REFERENCE TO PAINT FROM. The paint style and color choices were decided because I felt like they give off energy. Some badass energy. The colorful silhouettes almost feel like radiation. I wanted that feeling to exude from the art in a way that whoever would look at it would feel instantly confident in their day and take on the world.

1x: Why is it important for people to see this image on a stamp?
IT IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE IN A TIME LIKE THIS, WE MUST STAND FOR WHAT WE BELIEVE IS RIGHT. Ali was not only loved in sports but his charm outside the ring was very appealing, which he was able to lean on during those very challenging but necessary statements. I see many athletes and popular celebrities utilize their platforms to do the same thing. The cool ones HAVE to make the uncool but necessary stances to help shift the crowd.

1x: What is unique about this piece compared with your other work?
THIS PIECE IS UNIQUE BECAUSE I’VE INCORPORATED A LOT OF SKETCH WORK THAT ALSO HIGHLIGHTS HIS LEGACY AS WELL. Many of my pieces are very straightforward. I wanted to give the audience early sketches and quotes from him to help really digest this piece.

1x: If you could honor a historic African American with their own national holiday who would it be and why?
LEBRON JAMES! I KNOW HE’S YOUNG AND IT’S TOO EARLY BUT I SEE HIM AS THE NEW ALI. A champion, a social advocate, community leader, and forward thinking! He may not get a National Holiday soon but I know for sure with all the work he is doing in Akron that it will start with a Lebron Day there.

1x: If you could have dinner with any African American from past or present who would it be and why?
CLARENCE AVANT. MANNNN. THAT DUDE… THEY DON’T MAKE THEM LIKE THAT ANYMORE! I had no idea his incredible involvement he had on the entertainment industry until I saw Netflix’s BLACK GODFATHER. To be able to have a career and impact like he has with little formal education, all muscle and hustle . . .  Geesh. I would sit at the dinner and probably not even eat, just listen and soak up game.

1x: How did you first get into art?
I STARTED DOING ART AS EARLY AS 3. I drew Ninja Turtles and Peter Pan images on my wall as a kid. I didn’t get beat because my mom thought I was good enough to have it be left there. Funny enough I did not want to be an artist. I wanted to be in the NBA. Lol. I fought my destiny for so long after high school I just said “ let me actually pursue this gift I keep taking for granted”. I went on to study at Art Institute of Philadelphia paying out of pocket with my barber money from haircuts. That didn’t turn out how I imagined with me dropping out due to finances. So with all the student loan debt I made a vow to myself and Sallie Mae that I was gonna show up and be successful as an artist without a degree!

1x: Did your parents or family approve/support you becoming a full-time artist?
Yes! My family has always been supportive. I wouldn’t be here without their support. There were times I was dead broke and depressed. Their love and support allowed me to not give up on myself. I’ve also always been a go getter so it wasn’t hard for them to see that I wasn’t going to stop until this dream was accomplished.

1x: What would you consider a dream collaboration?
A DREAM COLLABORATION WOULD BE THE SUMMER OLYMPICS. An event that has always been with black households because of how athletic we are with track and field and basketball. That’s the world stage. I would love to depict black gold medalists for the whole world to see.

1x: What artists inspire you now?
HEBRU BRANTLEY, TRISTAN EATON, EZ DEVLIN, LENA WAITHE, RYAN COOGLER, BEYONCE, so many people from different art backgrounds.

1x:Any big shows or events coming up that you’d like to share?

Follow Chuck on Instagram at @chuckstyless, and view the collection here.