The Photography of Bill Davis
by Marianne Wilson Stein
Two years ago it happened. Bill Davis picked up a camera for the first time. Like many artists, he has another life outside of his art. Bill commutes to work via the train every day because parking is at a premium at his work. This turned out to be a blessing. For the first time, Bill opened his eyes to the world and noticed the beauty around him while commuting. It was here that he started seeing what was hidden to him before. When not working, he travels around the city to photograph up to OHSU, the East Esplanade, sunsets out on the west side of town and the industrial area.
Bill was a navy brat, grew up in the south, then joined the navy and traveled the world. Since 2000 he has called Portland home and a beautiful place to live. He told me this is the longest he has ever stayed put.
As we were discussing his life, Bill told me that he works with disabled Veterans and he has heard so many heart wrenching stories. I also asked him about his favorite movies, he loves Johnny Depp films, Lemony Snicket - A Series of Unfortunate Events. He also loves Steampunk themed movies. His experience with the disabled and his sense of style are truly reflected in his art. Bill captures so much brooding emotion in each photo, melodramatic and escapist. I once told Bill that his photos have a lovely haunting quality. He is the master of capturing the juxtaposition of light and shadow.
He sees things in a way that feels heavy like a weight on the soul.
When viewing Bill’s photography you notice that he is capturing a unique perspective – influenced by angles most people don’t think of. He told me that he loves shooting clouds because they are in constant change. He definitely has an eye for the dramatic sky. Sometimes he gets so engrossed in shooting that he doesn’t even notice the details in his photos until he looks at them on his computer.
What does the future hold for Bill behind the lens? To capture the destruction of historic Portland, old buildings and the character of the city. He hates to see Portland change, and like many artists, he is priced out of buying a home. Seeing Portland’s homeless, he would also like to photograph them and call attention to their suffering.
His five-year plan? He is not looking that far out; wherever the camera leads him is where you can find him.
See more of Bill's work online, or stop by Artistic Portland.
How long have you been a part of Artistic Portland, and what appealed to you about joining the Co-op?
I've been involved with Artistic Portland from when it was an idea that was brainstormed with a group of artists in somebody's living room to participating as an artisan at the previous location and our current downtown store. I enjoy being with such a terrific variety of talented artists. Everybody is so helpful with providing ideas, critique, support and knowledge --so as a Co-Op and as individual artists -- we are successful.
What jobs have you had other than being an artist?
Prior to becoming a jewelry designer, I was part of creating a private, non-profit corporation in Redmond, Washington that enabled organizations and commuters in Redmond and the greater eastside of Puget Sound to achieve transportation demand management goals. I directly created and managed 19 out of 24 innovative programs that received international/national award recognition and developed and implemented broad-based marketing campaigns which included creating a board game and professional playing cards.
I worked for the City of Redmond, Washington coordinating the Planning Commission and worked directly with the Planning Director and City Planners.
I was a computer programmer at Schnitzer Steel back when there weren’t very many women in the field.
What do you think about when choosing the specific stones and material you create with?
I get excited to see a strand of semi-precious stones and have a vision of what the piece of jewelry will be before I get started. I call myself a “gem nerd”. I love researching stones and their meanings. It’s rewarding to see jewelry designs I envision become a reality – especially a design that leads to a new jewelry collection for my business. It keeps things fresh and helps me grow as a person. I look for gemstones that are unique so clients have one-of-a-kind pieces.
Where do you create?
I work in my office.
What inspires you?
My clients and people who stop by at events and comment on my work makes me want to work even harder to create new designs to keep them coming back for more. It makes me feel good to have a customer purchase something for somebody special and they – or the person on the receiving end – contact me and tell me how perfect the piece was and how much they enjoy it and the compliments they receive. It makes me happy to have people feel good when they wear my jewelry. I always say glamour is an inside job, but I can help make people sparkle on the outside.
What is it like designing jewelry for the Rose Festival Court Princesses and how did that come about?
I was asked to design jewelry for the Princesses ten years ago and have been doing it ever since. I feel these young women are our future business women and entrepreneurs and it’s an honor to design something special for them. They have worn my designs for Queen Coronations, Grand Floral Parades and Knighting Ceremonies. I get excited to see how they grow as individuals from the time they are first selected to represent their school until crowning of the queen.
I understand some of your jewelry sales also go to raise money for specific causes. Tell us about that.
I design bracelets that represent five different cancers where part of the proceeds go back to their foundations. I also design a line of jewelry that the purchase of stones goes back to Nairobi tribal women in Kenya. It’s rewarding to help others, and that’s why I continue my work since I feel that is what life is supposed to be about
If you could wake up tomorrow with a new artistic skill, what would it be?
I used to watch Bob Ross when he had his television show The Joy of Painting. He made painting beautiful landscapes look so easy – especially painting “Happy little trees”. I want to attempt painting in the future. My husband’s grandma started painting when she was in her 80s and painted from memories of their ranch. I have some of her blank canvasses in storage just waiting for me.
What do you like to do when you're not creating?
I like helping colleagues grow their business and giving back in the community.
I enjoy motorcycle rides. My husband and I go for a long ride every year to explore different states. We just got back from Yellowstone and Cody, Wyoming. This included a trip to my husband’s family homestead from the olden days where lots of items his family used on their ranch is in a museum in Thermopolis. The Mayor came out and spent the afternoon with us showing us the history and telling us tales of the families who were there. At Yellowstone, it was amazing to have buffalo walk at arm's distance from us and seeing the beautiful country. I like to also fish, travel and help the elderly.
Stop by Artistic Portland to see and purchase Lea's work in person!
This week's blog post is written by local painter, Jennie O'Connor.
How do I know when a painting is finished? That’s a question I ask myself repeatedly, as do many artists.
“For some artists, a work is done when it leaves the studio. Others keep tinkering in the galleries. One waits for a piece to ‘cry uncle.”- Author Unknown
Making a painting is unlike most other tasks where there is a distinct beginning and end to a project. For example, I know when I’ve finished the dishes or finished writing a letter; however that may not be so true when I am gardening. After all gardening is an art form.
I find that as much as I may want a piece of art to be finished, it may not be so. I stress over what the painting needs to be spectacular, because, oh my gosh, all my paintings must be spectacular. I find it helps to poke fun at myself because of the need not to take myself so seriously is important in my process.
I think every artist, or at least most artists, want each piece to be great. However, in the real world it doesn't happen that way, at least in my world. I’d like to say one in three, but in reality it’s probably closer to one in ten paintings end up as ‘good enough,’ and the really great paintings are few and far between, if ever. That’s just my guesstimate anyway.
Getting back to the problem of when is a painting finished, sometimes I think a piece is finished, only to set it up for a day or two and realize, no, there is more work to do. That shape or color isn't quite right or I need to add bit of color in another area. Too much texture, not enough texture, too dark, too light, or oh no, have I overworked it? This is a very real problem. I find that the best paintings have a certain freshness and spontaneity to them which is easily destroyed. A saying I once heard was, “It takes two people to make a painting: The artist and someone to kill the artist before he ruins it.” It’s not hard to become obsessive over a painting, worrying that maybe I just need to add or take out something. That’s when deciding whether or not the painting is completed becomes even more difficult.
Looking at the image of the painting above, is it finished? I’m not so sure, but I haven't decided how to change it yet, or if I should.
Peer groups are wonderful help dealing with this issue. I belong to a couple of critique groups where I meet with my artist friends to talk about our paintings. Each of us brings some of our current work to be critiqued by the others in the group. Having one’s art viewed with fresh eyes can be so helpful in identifying areas of a painting that are not working and getting suggestions. And once in a while, the blessed words, “Don’t change a thing” are spoken.
Knowing when to stop is a very real talent, and hopefully a skill that can be learned over time. Sometimes I know just what a painting needs as a finishing touch, but other times it just not so easy. And so I struggle along with this age-old problem.
“You can paint only what you are. You must be what your experiences, your environment, and your heredity have made you. [...] For better or for worse, you must play your own little instrument in the orchestra of life." — Dale Carnegie
This week's blog post was written by mosaic artist June Martin of Moth and Twig.
“Without the studio, however humble, the room where the imagination can enter cannot exist.” -Anna Hansen
Whether it’s a beautiful space in the corner of your garden, a sprawling live/work space in a bustling city, or a humble corner in your flat, the art studio is a sacred space. A space to dream, create, and to explore; a space where time stands still yet flies by, simultaneously.
I moved from San Francisco to Portland about a year ago (I apologize for being another California-Portland transplant). In San Francisco, space was at a premium, even more so than in Portland. My fiancé and I shared a 650 square foot rent controlled one-plus bedroom apartment in the heart of the vibrant Castro District. My “studio” consisted of a farm table planted in the corner of the tiny living room. Luckily, my fiancé didn’t seem to mind that I took over the living room, especially since the apartment was solely his for about 15 years before my cat and I invaded the space. Though not an ideal space, I made it work, often times spilling out into the kitchen, especially when grouting mosaic pieces was called for.
Before moving in with my fiancé, I lived across the bay in the town of Emeryville where I occupied a 1200 square foot live/work space. Without defined spaces, I was able to set up or transform my art space to suit the needs of the day. Those needs toggled between working on small mosaic projects to hosting large art parties.
I confess to being somewhat of a nomad. For me, the act of moving has always been a source of pleasure, partly because whenever I move, I get to create a new space, not only to live in, but to create in as well. I am highly influenced by my immediate surroundings so each space I have occupied holds a special place in my heart and has been interesting, often unusual, and inspirational. My art space is as much a part of my art as other environments that also influence my art. It is the space where I feel happy, complete, and safe.
As I mentioned previously, my fiancé and I moved from our small apartment in San Francisco, to a cottage in the John’s Landing neighborhood of Portland. I purchased the cottage 13 years ago with the intention of moving to Portland. Life happened and it took 13 years to finally make the move. The cottage is a 100 year-old Cape Cod-turned-loft, tucked away at the end of a forested cul-de-sac. Though compact, the house serves our needs. I am no longer relegated to a corner of the living room to create art. I have a separate art studio complete with chartreuse and red walls that send a spark through me every time I enter the space. Though not a sprawling loft or a cool space in SF, my Portland studio is unique and it is my sanctuary. A place to dream, explore, and create. A safe space. A sacred space. The art studio.