Ken Laird: Jack of Hearts
My name is Kenneth Laird and I am an artist, illustrator, designer and creative director from High Point, North Carolina. I received my Masters in Illustration from Syracuse University in 2002 and was taught and trained by many of the men and women in this show. The piece was created using graphite pencil, an actual inlayed photo reproduction and Photoshop for pre-press. As a visual communicator my work has always been representational and very realistic.
The statement heard so much about our vets from friends and family seems to revolve around the notion that “He or she returned home “A Distant Shadow” of their old self after war.” My personal piece called “ Jack of Hearts – A Shadow” examines this reality.
The actual color wallet sized photograph held by my subject represents the vigor, youth and pride associated with the early days of entering the army as well as clinging to the past. After two terms of duty and returning home with many different mental issues, alcohol, drug dependence my subject struggles to fit in society. He is now even reserved to a homeless shelter or the streets. I drew this portion in graphite because I felt it was the most compassionate medium to represent the subtle black and greys of this now distant shadow.
“My goal is to have you to tell this veterans story as you view the work.” – Kenneth Laird
When you look at the statistics that ironically come from our own government about PTSD, mental health, substance abuse and war related disabilities it is easy to understand some of the root causes of veteran homelessness and depression often times caused by these important issues.
Veterans & Homelessness:
• On any given night, more than 300,000 veterans are living on the streets or in shelters in the U.S.
• Approx. 33% of homeless males in the U.S. are veterans.2
• Veterans are twice as likely as other Americans to become chronically homeless.2
• Veterans represent 11% of the adult civilian population, but 26% of the homeless population, according to the Homeless Research Institute.
• Veterans are more at risk of becoming homeless than non-veterans
• The number of homeless Vietnam-era veterans, male and female, is greater than the number of soldiers who died during the war.1
• One in ten veterans is disabled, oftentimes by injuries sustained in combat.
• The number of disabled veterans is increasing; more than 20,000 veterans were wounded during service in Iraq and Afghanistan.
• About 70% of homeless veterans suffer from substance abuse problems.1
• 45% of homeless veterans suffer from mental illness including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). 1
• 19% of Iraq veterans report a mental health problem, and more than 11% of Afghanistan veterans.
• The incidence of PTSD and suicide rates among veterans is rapidly climbing.
1 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
2 National Coalition for Homeless Veterans
Kenneth Laird is a native of Millington, Tennessee, a suburb north of Memphis. Laird graduated from the Memphis College of Art in 1992. He was named Illustrator of the Year by the faculty and received three scholarships while in attendance. Later in 2002 he received his Master of Arts degree from Syracuse University in Illustration and graduated top of his class.
Mr. Laird is now an accomplished Creative Director and a passionate traditional artist at heart. Laird has worked with over a hundred advertising agencies and his clients throughout his career have included award winning jobs for Walt Disney, NASCAR, Keebler, Topps, Upper Deck and The New York Times. Many of Laird’s portraits are in private collections though out the Southeast. He now resides in High Point, NC with his wife Pam and son Eric.
Laird considers himself a draftsman, but says like all artists he is constantly trying to improve his basic drawing skills of quick gesture and foundation studies. Laird has used many mediums in his work but has always gravitated back to his artistic roots by drawing with graphite pencil.
Laird states: “There is a big difference between drawing and rendering! Rendering is compared to technically playing a musical instrument extremely well, drawing is like great jazz music; it can happen by improvisation and beautiful accidents. I personally believe that if any serious artist can master the pencil any other medium can be done as well. Drawing and sketching is the essential foundation for all great creative endeavors.”