Artists have had side gigs or day jobs since art patronage went out of fashion. Joseph Cornell was a salesman by day and artist by night, Jeff Koons was a commodities broker, and Jasper Johns did department store windows (with Rauschenberg). Artists are endlessly fascinating, complex, and hardworking. We'd like to introduce one of our most hard-working artists - but you probably already know him from the Charleston music scene.
Please meet, or say hey to, Jeff Davis.
Jeff isn't just a musician, he's an abstract expressionist with a distinct style and a unique eye for color and movement.
We (barely) caught up with him this week to get a sneak peek into his life and art:
Q: First let's talk about music. You play all over town. Talk about that.
A: I play guitar in bands in town called Guilt Ridden Troubadour, Red Dog Ramblers, Rik Cribb and The Problems, Malin Wagnon, and The Possums. I guess most of these bands fall under the Americana/rock/country kind of thing. Music and playing music has always been an important part of my life and in the past I''ve kind of 'ping ponged' between them. When the music wasn't as busy I'd paint and vise versa. Guilt Ridden Troubadour has been playing on Thursdays at the Southern Bar and Grill in Mount Pleasant for over five years now.
Q: Let's talk about painting. How would you describe your style, and how did you come to be a visual artist?
A: I guess you would call my painting style some sort of abstract expressionism. I really try my best for avoid any recognizable forms but they do tend to creep in especially with the more complex works. i guess that's OK as long as they're not obvious Our brains are programmed to recognize faces, supposedly as an evolutionary survival mechanism, so it's real hard to keep the faces at bay.
I first got inspired to paint about 20 years ago when i saw a black and white Jackson Pollock on the back cover of a Reader's Digest. It blew me away and i couldn't stop looking at it. I'm pretty sure i tore it out of that magazine and still have it somewhere. Don't you just hate it when people tear pages out of magazines? I was painting within a year.
(Note: We know there are people who are deeply moved at first sight when they see Pollock's work so it's always good to run into one.)
Besides a few private art lessons in the fourth grade time frame, I have no formal training. Self taught sounds kind of academic, like i taught myself something. Painting for my purposes is much more intuitive than that. I suppose I've learned a little about how the paint goes onto the canvas, the mixing of paints, and some perspective and composition stuff. But to me, it's just me, the canvas or board, the paint, and the brush. Its not about any fancy techniques or making 'studies'. Each painting is a total improvisation. I work on one painting at a time, often for many days, until I get something that thrills me. Why else do it? And yes I hang my own work in my own house! I actually write down all the dates worked on the back of each painting.
Q: What's inspiring you right now?
A: Museums and galleries inspire me but so do the shapes of the grain in a piece of wood or the clouds. The most mundane things can inspire if you're paying attention. Sometimes I'll be laying in bed thinking about the most amazing image and thinking how i'm going to paint that but it never makes it to the canvas. Planning is not part of my art. I have a hard enough time keeping stocked in white paint!
Q: What's your work space like?
A: My kitchen is my work space. I move my kitchen table over to the wall and throw a sheet on the floor and go for it. So far no major spills or splatters! Of course my kitchen is close to my stereo which is of utmost importance! I'm currently playing a lot of Radiohead and Bill Frisell when I paint, and a little Bjork. Sometimes I'll be so focused on something that I'll forget to change the cd though!
Q: Radiohead is always a great shortcut to get out of your mind. Agree! What's a typical day like?
A: A good day for me is guitar in the morning, some sort of exercise around noon, eat something delicious for lunch, nap, then painting around 5ish lasting about 3 hours. Then sometimes I'll have a music gig after that.
Stop by and check out Jeff's incredibly beautiful, vibrant paintings, then look for him on the stage around town.