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Nacogdoches artist uses artwork to create 'Senseless Series' to honor 25 lives lost to violence

"God gave me the name senseless and so I just put my head down and just started drawing, researching various people, their lives, their life story, who they were."

NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Through the years, we've seen many lives taken from senseless acts of violence. From the latest mass shootings to individual lives taken too soon. 

One Deep East Texas artist is paying tribute to those lives lost in his artwork and series known as 'Senseless,' where he highlights 25 men and women killed by acts of violence.

Credit: KYTX CBS19

(Sandra Bland, Melvin Rogers, Jr and Richard Collins)

Gary Roberts, a Nacogdoches native, was inspired to create this series last year and within a year, he created 25 portraits with charcoal and paper.

"God gave me the name senseless and so I just put my head down and just started drawing, researching various people, their lives, their life story, who they were," Roberts said. "Talking with some of the family members and getting to know them."

Credit: KYTX CBS19

(Philondo Castile, Ronald Greene, Tamir Rice and Laci Patterson)

Roberts' drawings date back to the 1920 lynching of Elijah Lige Daniels, to faces we've seen in the headlines like George Floyd, Breeona Taylor and Trayvon Martin.  

Credit: KYTX CBS19

(Right: James Bryd Jr. Left: George Floyd)

Before he picked up his pencil, he reached out to almost every family member to get permission to draw their loved ones and get their personal perspective. 

"In essence, I wanted to come alongside the family, and just to help keep their legacy alive, because before they were black, before they were white, they were human," Roberts said. "It was so surreal and talking with the family members and just getting their perspective of their loved ones."

While drawing these portraits, Roberts made sure to focus on every detail, focusing on their smile and their eyes to bring meaning and depth to each portrait. 

"I want to focus on the eyes because the eyes are or do or the soul," Roberts said. "Getting to know them, who they were and the facial characteristics of each drawing just trying to put a smile on their face because there again, they were happy, they had families that loved them." 

Roberts said one of the most challenging portraits was the Emmett Till piece. Re-drawing his tragic and graphic lynching of when his face and body was brutally beaten and thrown into the Tallahatchie River in Mississippi in summer 1955. 

"I want to get every detail of the bullet holes to where they cut his ear off," Roberts said. "A 14-year-old child that went to Money, Mississippi, to spend a summer with his family, not knowing when he got on that train, would be his last train ride alive."

Credit: CBS19 KYTX

(Elizah McClain)

Each portrait represents a life gone too soon, but their mark still remains with us. 

"All of these individuals are still making change, even though they're not with us anymore. They're making positive change," Roberts said. "So they are fulfilling their purpose even through death."

Roberts is working on another series highlighting the lives lost in the recent mass shooting. It will include the victims lost in the Buffalo, New York mass shooting and the 21 lives lost in Uvalde. 

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