"Mending the Sox"( The Artist Grandmother)
In 1914 he attended college at the School of Art Institute of Chicago. During the early part of his career Motley did a series of work documenting racial catergories of women of mixed heritage, accepting the racial catergories of the day, documenting the physiognomic of women of mixed race ( dealing with the variety of color in African American skin tones).
Motley developed a strange logic to his approach, he would begin each painting with abstract pencil sketches. He thought every object in the picture plain should have a reason for being there. Nothing was left to chance in his work. By choosing to depict the modern black life of 1920's and 30's documenting the middle and upper class socialites, " The New Negro".He was also one the major contributers of the Harlem Renaisanse. He also delt with social dynamics and interacial issues with in African American Culture in his work. He always adhered to painting African American subject matter also validating negros in the western art tradition as an artist.