Hanna Willich, CNN • Updated 8th March 2019
( CNN ) — Could politics and art really be that interlinked?
Elijah Cummings, the US congressman from Maryland and the subject of a portrait currently on display at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, can certainly say that.
The portrait was a high point in Cummings’ career, one he has been working on for years. And thanks to his newfound popularity, it has snowballed.
“It’s just created a lot of interest for my work, which I kind of like — I’m pretty happy with that,” Cummings told CNN.
If you head to his shop, the Washington-based artist — who has painted several high-profile Democrats and Republicans — can remind you of all the work he’s put into this portrait. He even has a small cardboard cutout of President Donald Trump in the shop.
From high school years to painting congressman
“One of the first jobs I had was at a photography studio and I always wanted to do art. It’s been a long process,” said Cummings, who had originally planned to go to law school.
But when a painting teacher suggested he give a portfolio of photos to a college in Maryland, Cummings took up painting in college. Once his wife was diagnosed with a rare form of arthritis, his focus turned to public art.
“I used to sleep with oil paint on the wall behind my head, and I was the master of my domain,” he said. “It was my passion — and ultimately my painting — so it kind of came full circle.”
Cummings is a regular at the National Portrait Gallery, visiting Washington, DC, to see the latest portrait of Barack Obama hang.
“When I first saw the Muhammad Ali portrait that was on view, I made it my personal mission to see what was on display here,” he said.
Cummings wouldn’t reveal the inspiration behind the image of himself, but said he was inspired by his graying hair and dark complexion.
“I have a different look,” he said. “It’s a change. I don’t think I look like the way I did when I was in high school.”
Going up, not down
He released the final painting three weeks ago and has said that he’s ready to let it go.
But according to a statement he made available to CNN, he will “start touring the portrait” next year.
The painting will probably be a part of future outings for his art, he said.
Cummings said he appreciates the support he’s received since the portrait went on display, with more than 15,000 views on Facebook so far.