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.
Internationally known artist, author and educator, Marilyn Sholin creates paintings about the artistry of the spirits from beer to martinis, wine and more.
When her incredible 25 years as an award- winning portrait photographer took a turn to painting in the 90’s, she developed a passion for mixed media. We caught up with her this week to find out more about her art and what a typical day looks like:
Q: Marilyn, let's talk about the pink elephant in the room. You only paint wine, beer, and spirits - correct?
A: At the moment and for the past few years my topic is wine, beer, cocktails, liquor brands and coffee. It is such a broad but under painted category. I just started also painting bars with people in them because I’m enjoying adding the atmosphere of bars, breweries, wineries and restaurants. Many times the subjects choose me by inquiries for commissioned art for home bars and then they become part of my inventory of paintings. Other times we like to check out the many new breweries and wineries here in North and South Carolina and I get inspired by what I see will eventually turn into a painting. I take my reference photos quickly with my iPhone as I just need to be reminded what I saw. I love creating the twist to these paintings and seeing how far I can push the image to do different curvy paintings that lead the subject to splash and spill. I have a great interest in abstract painting and what are called “pour” paintings and hope to explore how to incorporate them into my line in the future.
Q: You are a mixed media artist with a very interesting process. Tell us about that.
My background is over 25 years as a professional portrait photographer with a studio in Miami, Florida. With that background I am very visual and need to work from a photo to begin, but that’s where everything begins and changes. I start with an image and then I add other images manipulated and integrated with the original image and changing and resizing elements until I have the composition and the “reference” photo as my starting place.
Then using a Wacom tablet and art stylus (like painting with a brush but digitally) I paint the image by hand into an underpainting I can work with. Sometimes it’s barely a sketch and other times I paint an entire underpainting. I let the art lead me as I paint.
Once I have my underpainting it is printed on artist quality giclee canvas with archival pigments. This means the printer is using archival inks and printing with an increased resolution and color gamut. The unfinished canvas is then painted using acrylic paints and mediums, dyes, pigments, and a variety of other materials. This method creates many layers of texture to each painting. Once finished it is sealed so it can be touched and it’s exciting to see and feel the different textures that the layers create.
Now that the painting is finished I have it professionally photographed to create a digital file that I can reproduce on archival prints, infused metal prints and canvas reproductions. There is really only one “original” and the rest are reproductions of that original. I do different versions of originals also but only photograph the first one to become reproductions. I produce many products from pillows to scarves and gorgeous metal prints and canvas.
Q: University or self-taught?
A: For this process I am mostly self-taught but in 2013 I applied and was accepted into the Golden Artist Educator Program and spent a full week in New Orleans being trained in Golden Paints non-stop from morning til night. It was a deep educational experience that I enjoyed and left being a certified Golden Artist Educator. In 2001 I took a five day course in New Jersey to learn the software I use to paint digitally. It was life changing for me and I started seeing things differently. I was already a well trained professional photographer but with this added to my photography I was able to “See What Isn’t There” and grow as an artist. By 2003 I was honored to become a Corel Painter Master Elite for my ground breaking work in digital painting and became a Corel Certified Artist Educator. As a professional photographer I had a great deal of professional training and I learned that the only way to learn is to go to the masters of their craft and learn from them and then do it myself to form a style of my own.
Q: Where do you live and work?
In December 2007 we moved to Asheville, NC and have never looked back. We bought a house that had a mother-in-law suite that we renovated to be a master guest bedroom and a full workshop/studio for me. My art studio is converted to workshop space a few times a year complete with a permanent screen in the ceiling to teach workshops and also occasionally to host other artists teaching here. The master bedroom is the mountain home for artists to visit me plus my family and friends visiting. We love the vibe of Asheville and the change of seasons call to me artistically. I feel lucky to live here and be able to do what I do.
Q: Your work is on display in some great public spaces. Tell us where else we can see your art.
A: Right now I am represented by Art Mecca of course which is very exciting for me to be seen in a fresh new market and to have a good excuse to visit Charleston more often.
I am still looking for the right coffee venue to feature my coffee paintings exclusively.
When I find the right one I’ll know it when I see it!
Q: What's a typical day in your life look like?
Is there such a thing as a typical day? I start my days early as that is my most creative time to work. After enough coffee and petting the cats that own us I go into my studio and lay out my work to start on my list of new paintings and what needs to be replaced in our inventory in the galleries. I like to paint many canvas at once so I wait until I have around four or more new canvas to start painting them. I work on tables because I like to move around my canvas to see them from all different angles. I try to work on my website every day to get something done on www.marilynsholin.com to keep it up to date and stay in touch with my web designer for changes and additions.
By the afternoon it’s the usual errands and deliveries and shipping out orders.
Because I also teach in the professional photography industry and speak all over the world I stay very busy and am never bored. My down time is precious to me to spend it with my way too many cats and my partner in trouble, Michael, who also works in the studio with me doing all the printing and packaging for the galleries.
Michael and I love traveling and I speak all over the world. We have gone to London UK for me to speak at the largest professional photography convention in Europe many times and I also have taught in Venice and Tuscany multiple times and last year in Greece. Anytime I can book travel is a good time for seeing new ideas. The whole idea of the curvy paintings with a twist came from multiple trips to Venice and watching the reflections of the buildings in the Grand Canal. That was an “Ah Ha” moment for my change in my style. I am forever grateful for being an artist and being able to meet and reach so many people with my crazy bar art paintings.
Thanks for giving us a peek into your life and creative process, Marilyn! Welcome to Charleston, and welcome to Art Mecca. Cheers!