While Miradieu Joseph sat in a work meeting, he doodled on Starbucks coffee cups to pass the time, giving him a five minute “mental” break. The elaborate doodles attracted the attention of his coworkers, and he purchased four blank cups from Wal-Mart, painted them and sold them within an hour.
He kept painting and selling to “keep the monster fed,” thus fueling his art career.
Encouraged by his coworkers and his employer, Nationwide in Des Moines, the company held a Black History Month celebration where Joseph was featured as a live artist painting a mural.
Since then, he’s sold numerous colorful paintings — on canvases and cups — and he is now focused on his artwork. His immigrant parents inspired him to “live the American dream.”
Joseph emigrated to the U.S. from Haiti at age 5, ending up in Florida. Both his parents worked, and as a latchkey kid, he had time to admire the brightly painted murals in his neighborhood. In addition, he says, “We didn’t have a lot of money, so I’d spruce up clothes with patches to find a way to stand out.”
He did stand out — by running track and playing football.
He moved to Iowa in 1997, attending Wartburg College. There, he was a seven-time All American athlete, a national 400-meter hurdles champ, held 14 school records and was named to Wartburg’s athletic hall of fame.
His mom is proud of his accomplishments, but she doesn’t understand abstract art.
“It’s hard for her to fathom why someone buys art,” he says. “Culturally it doesn’t relate. It’s not a photo realism picture of Jesus or (I can’t be) pigeon-holed as a Black artist. What makes it Black art is because I’m a Black artist.”
He excitedly sold his first painting for $35. He knows not everyone can afford original art, saying, “I don’t want to give it away. I’ve learned over the years, it’s my self worth as an artist to say no. I’ve put my heart and soul into it. If I don’t sell it, I know someone will eventually want it.”
The process of creating art begins when Joseph needs to purge thoughts from his head.
“I use it as a coping mechanism to de-stress,” he says. “The art process doesn’t start until the anxiety is high and I need to think. My art has saved my life.”
In addition to being an artist, Joseph is a men’s and women’s assistant track and field coach at Grand View University. His athletes often request artwork, and he’ll oblige for motivation.
“I told one athlete that if she made the finals, I’d paint her spikes,” he says.
He jokes with friends that they better buy his artwork now while they can still afford it.
“I want people to look at a painting and say, ‘That’s a Miradieu,’ ” he says. ♦