Davia King’s art is all about the human connection she makes with her subjects while painting live.
In the late 19th century, Southern California attracted misfits, idealists, and entrepreneurs with few ties to anyone or anything. Swamis, spiritualists, and other self-proclaimed religious authorities quickly made their way out West to forge new faiths. Independent book publishers, motivational speakers, and metaphysical-minded artists and writers then became part of the Los Angeles landscape. City of the Seekers examines how the legacy of this spiritual freedom enables artists to make creative work as part of their practices.
Live painting can be a tricky endeavor, especially when it involves blind contour drawing, as is the case for Davia King. When she renders people in public, King makes sure she's looking strictly at her subjects, and not her canvas. Only when she's finished will she find that she may not have put the eyes inside a face, or that she's made certain features way out of proportion. But in the end, it's all about facilitating a deeper connection between the artist and her audience.
It's easy to understand why King considers herself an abstract expressionist: her bright, swirling, hypnotic inkblots are evenly unified and contained within the bounds of a frame, giving each work an ordered presentation. This comes from a method that involves applying coats of acrylic and aerosol paint, which often leads to the layers taking on a watercolor-like look. Yet while her backgrounds are abstract, the actual drawings are done in the aforementioned blind contour style. That's because the technique is a reflection of King's work itself, which is all about human connection and the natural flow of energy.
"I don't want to feel like I'm trying or controlling, but rather, to reside in a space of curiosity where I remain open enough to allow this creative energy to come through," King tells The Creators Project. "I think it's similar to an athlete being in the zone. When I am drawing people, I have to surrender. My eyes are focused on lines and shapes, and they communicate that to my hand, while my eyes stay glued on the subject. It's an intense focus, and at the same time, it feels very natural."
The subject's experience informs a large part of King's unique representation of them, simply because it's not the way people are used to being seen. "It can be very intimate or very uncomfortable, depending on if the person is open or not," explains King. "In the beginning, when I start to draw someone, I can sense their discomfort, but by the end, most people have surrendered into the experience with me, and a connection is felt."
While much of her work is generated before an audience, many of King's commissions have been murals, which are often replications of what's created before an audience. This year, she's done five. "Murals are like shouting your art," King says. "It's bold and physical and can completely change the feeling of the space it's in."
Whether she’s painting live or creating murals, for King, her creative and spiritual philosophies are one and the same. She's particularly interested in the human experience, and the nature of leading a meaningful life. "I feel most alive when I create and connect,” she says. “I have noticed I feel like my existence is most meaningful when I am doing these two things in balance."
King was raised in the Mormon town of Orem, Utah, about 40 minutes south of Salt Lake City. She earned a degree in business management at Brigham Young University and a master’s degree in spiritual psychology at the University of Santa Monica. With an early obsession with bright colors, King took art classes as a kid, but didn't take it up again until the last year of her master's program. "I finally followed my own heart and it felt like I was at home," she says. "It felt like the most natural thing for me to be doing with my life, and I couldn't believe that I had negated it for so long."
Moving to Los Angeles helped King grow both as a spiritual being and as an artist. Through a better understanding of her own psyche, King believes she's been able to evolve spiritually while expressing herself creatively. "Art is sharing a part of one's soul, and it can be very uncomfortable to do. It takes a lot of courage to share these ideas and see how the world responds. It can become much more easy in a supportive environment. LA has given me open arms, in many ways, to lay out a path of opportunities for me to share my expression and support me for doing so."
Davia King will be live painting at 9pm, Thursday, November 17 in Painters: a Street Art Series, presented by 4AM at The Library at The Redbury Hotel in Los Angeles. Follow Davia King on Instagram and visit her website here.