Artist Q & A with Robert Lee Davis

Term: 1 Year: 2020

Robert Lee Davis is an international mixed media artist, who works in oil, found objects, acrylic paint, pen and ink, pencil and collage. His work is influenced by stories, conversations and experiences he has absorbed from people and places around the world.

Art as a child. How did art first manifest itself to you?

My first art memory was a drawing of Mickey Mouse I did for my grandmother for her birthday. I was eight and Mickey Mouse was one of her favourite comic strip characters. She loved it stating she would cherish it always. Although I was doubtful, she was true to her word, faithfully resurrecting it throughout my childhood. On the occasion of my graduation, I wanted to take back the faded and torn Mickey and draw her a better one, but she said, “No Baby! I know you can draw, but this is the first drawing you ever made for me.” It was at that moment I realized the power of personalized art making.

Do you think creative enquiry is innate or can it be nurtured?

I personally believe creative enquiry can be nurtured, but not from lecturing about it, rather by playing, making mistakes and learning and applying new ways of knowing and seeing.

Can you identify any major influences in your development as a creative person?

I can identify several: The work of JMW Turner, Cy Twombly, the author, Langston Hughes and the music of Philip Glass. JMW Turner’s use of atmospheric light is breathtaking, and his painting style fluid and poetic. I strive to create his atmospheric effects in my landscapes. The art of Cy Twombly, his use of abstract gesture to express feeling and emotions, affirmed that paintings could be inspirational and narrative. I attribute my desire to travel the world to the writer Langston Hughes.

I Wonder as I Wander details the many places, people and adventures that influenced and inspired him. His writings encouraged me to not just be a visitor, but an active participate in the life of a place. I was introduced to the music of Philip Glass by accident when tuning into a college music station. His repetitive minimalistic pattern was like a lullaby, creating lines and images that fed much of my early art. A few years ago, I had the honour of presenting him a painting inspired by the places around the world I listened to his music.

Nic Plowman (Zart Education)
in conversation with Robert Lee Davis