Bryan Blue a.k.a. Blue The Great is a multi-talented artist who does everything with a lot of heart. Whether he’s painting, DJing, designing or creating last year’s Air Jordan 1 SE x Blue The Great, he operates with intention, versatility and compassion.

Those who follow Blue on social media have probably witnessed his friendship with an 11-year-old artist named Tahj. The two memorably connected on an Instagram Live Q&A, back in April, where Tahj excitedly shared that Blue is his favorite artist. They’ve kept in touch, and Blue recently showed support for Tahj’s art show and live painting session in Dallas.

Tahj and Blue The Great in Dallas

“I met Tahj when I was signing Jordans in Dallas,” says Blue. “He showed me his work, and I started following him. He is one of my favorite people in the world. Tahj will be bigger than me. I just hope that he remembers me when I’m old and washed up!”

Showing up to support a young artist, as well as the opening of his mother’s new art store, is just who Blue is. We helped Blue gift Tahj some fresh Air Jordan III “Denim” shoes before school starts, and also asked him to share some words with today’s young people ahead of the challenging moment that is “back to class.”

I remember going back to school like it was yesterday. I was one of the quiet kids. Both sports and art kept me on track.

I remember having the outfit I’d been planning to wear all summer, laid out on my bed. I played football and ran track, so I couldn’t wait to get back into it and see all my homies. Playing sports helped me focus on getting good grades. My favorite class was Art, of course, but I also really loved writing stories in English class.

Back then, one of my favorite ways to learn was by doodling in my sketchbook. I drew every day in school. I was always listening and following along with the teacher, but I was also creating giant pieces around my notes.

I always knew that I would end up either playing professional sports or being a creative director. I knew that I’d be doing something with my art. I’ve made art since as far back as I can remember. My parents weren’t rich, but they always pushed my brothers, my sister and I to follow our dreams.

I didn’t go to art school. I actually learned most of what I know from trial and error, YouTube videos and my friends. My friends always pushed me to keep going, even when I didn’t think that I was very good at painting. I started a shoe customizing business when I was in high school, and that was my first job. It showed me that I could be my own boss if I had a skill and a plan.

When I look back, I realize that I’ve been doing the same thing my entire life — investing in myself and making art. It continues to pay off. That’s the best advice I have for anyone: Invest in yourself and keep learning.

Blue The Great’s painting on the Jumpman LA Store basketball court

We have arrived at a very interesting and difficult time. I couldn’t imagine getting ready for the school year, as if there isn’t enough already happening in the world. During times like this, I try to see beyond the negative — what else can come from this? What could I do with this extra downtime? I like to put my head down and create. I use it as fuel. How can I voice how I feel right now?

I’m very inspired by how the youth are using their voices to be heard. It’s amazing to see so many kids at the protests, standing up for their rights. I also love how technology is being used to communicate helpful information.

I feel like my job is to show kids, especially minorities, that it’s possible to make art for a living. I didn’t know you could sell paintings in order to live and thrive in this day and age. If I can be someone who inspires those who come after me, then my job is done.

To all the kids out there figuring out how this next school year is going to go, you got this. I’m cheering you on.