The Black artist William “Bill” Traylor was born into slavery in 1854, on a cotton plantation in Alabama. After the Civil War, he worked for others as a sharecropper. Rural life was mercurial, and at age 70 Traylor found he was homeless. It was then, as an infirm old man, that he started drawing. Traylor would gather up anything he could find—usually discarded pieces of cardboard—and draw from memory in pencil. The resulting works are irresistible, executed with the tenderness of a child, yet carrying the emotional baggage of old age. Forty years passed before people took notice of the thousand works he left behind. In a new film that casts light on Traylor’s life in the shadows, interviews from family members and experts tell of his compelling and emotional journey. —E.C.