Roots of Our Love: A Tribute to Illustrator Tom Feelings

Zamani Feelings on the shoulders of Tom Feelings (father) next to Muriel Feelings (mother)

My father, Tom Feelings, was one of the few and fortunate Black creatives from his time who was afforded the ability to sustain himself with his craft as an illustrator and sculptor throughout nearly all of his life. He was not only given the time and opportunity to pursue his passion and aesthetic conception of Black America through imagery, but also had the notoriety and support of the public and his peers. I realized more and more over the years that my father had been mentoring me in the process and lifestyle of being an artist, long before I stumbled onto my creative purpose as an adult.

Zamani Feelings on the shoulders of Tom Feelings (father) next to Muriel Feelings (mother)

Despite my parents divorcing and me growing up as a kid in Philadelphia while living apart from my father, he remained in touch with me consistently and seemed to have a deep need for me to understand his vision for his life, his process as an artist and the philosophy behind his creativity. He would write to me regularly, send me his latest illustrations, publications and books.  He also gave me insight into what he was doing at the time, thoughts on the creative process, how politics of the time made an impression on his work and the personal challenges he was experiencing as an artist. 

During the holidays, I would visit him at his loft in Manhattan, an art studio where he lived for more than three decades. I got to see the lifestyle of an artist, his social circle, how he interacted with clients, and how he managed the business aspects of life as an entrepreneur. I also witnessed his personal creative challenges, how he dealt with fear, creativity, racism in the industry and most importantly, why remaining true to his artistic vision was more important than appeasing the fleeting trends and desires of the public. 

Most importantly, I got to see how success could come to someone who was focused on his passion and dedicated to seeing his vision of African American life come to fruition in an environment where the images of us had become so distorted. 

I didn’t find my calling while my father was still present on this earth, but I realize he was consciously giving me the insight, tools and a live example of how to navigate the world once I found the medium to utilize the talent I inherited from him. 


Zamani Feelings is a portrait, events, and sports photographer based in Philadelphia, PA. Learn more about his work at

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