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Russell Powell

For Russell Powell, creator of the “handstamping technique,” the two most prophetic art tools are attached to his very wrists. His hands personify and shape the message he hopes to share through his art – the theme of connection and togetherness regardless of backgrounds and identities.

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Season 1 · Oil Painter

Russell Powell

Russell, Virginia-born and California-raised, teaches first grade at his alma mater, Old Orchard School – where his passion for art was born and continues to grow. As a young student at Old Orchard School years ago, Russell balanced a colored pencil in one hand and a skateboard in the other, developing his two crafts alongside his closest friends. Having left home at seventeen, Russell's days were spent at the skate park until he accepted a job at the Old Orchard School. Now older and wiser, the hallways he used to walk and chairs he used to sit in felt different and new, and his immersion into the school environment inspired him to return to canvases, paints, and pigments.

For Russell Powell, creator of the “handstamping technique,” the two most prophetic art tools are attached to his very wrists. His hands personify and shape the message he hopes to share through his art – the theme of connection and togetherness regardless of backgrounds and identities.

His novel “handstamping technique” began at a rather peculiar place: the Adventure on Wheels summer camp he led at the Old Orchard School. At the camp, bikes and skateboards met art projects and classes. There, Russell began painting the students’ faces, and in between activities, he started painting on his own hand.

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His very first work was an eyeball and what followed was a pivotal moment in his art career. Russell painted a portrait of Robin Williams shortly after his death in 2014, and, in looking at the then temporary piece, he thought about what it would be like to stamp it. Little did he know these thoughts would change the trajectory of his career, and his life.

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Russell’s career is animated by his role as an art teacher and First Grade Aide, where he finds new life for his art in the laughter of his students, and great potential in their classroom conversations. He says, “I know I could pursue full-time art, but I just love working with these kids.” His makeshift studio – just a brief walk from the classroom where he teaches – is filled with his early pieces and remnants of trials with different papers, moisture applications, and paints. For Russell, each day is a new canvas, where his daily mop paintings are a new journal entry in his diary. In between teaching classes, Russell intuitively paints with a mop outside on a large canvas and films the process, which adds to his growing collection on Instagram @PangaeanStudios.

 

Though the Old Orchard school is home, Russell’s artwork has taken him far beyond Campbell, California. Guided by the success of his original handstamping technique, Russell traveled to New York City for the 2014 Global Citizen Festival. There, he painted them a hand portrait of Nelson Mandela. The portrait was then displayed in Beyonce and Eddie Vedder set during their rendition of the “Redemption Song” – a powerful visual for resistance, equality, and connection. Russell also created a personal stamp for Malala, signed by Beyonce, Jay Z, and Coldplay’s Chris Martin.

 

No matter which roads Russell travels, events he attends, or projects he completes, he finds great value in the therapeutic capabilities of his craft. He finds grace, originality, and congruence in what a canvas and a set of paints can accomplish. For him, art is all about connection, with the name “Pangaean Studios” symbolizing our organic, meaningful connections with one another. His hands help him spread that very message. They’re the hands that have wiped his student’s tears, created lesson plans, fixed broken pieces, and created authentic pieces that, time and time again, speak the language of togetherness without saying a single word.

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