Derek Smith 0:00
Hey everyone and welcome back to the Mississippi artists to artists podcast brought to you by the little yellow building in Brookhaven, Mississippi. This week, we have artists, Brandon Davis with us. And Brandon is an artist based out of Jackson, Mississippi who has this really interesting visual artwork, but has been developing this animation for the past several months that does just really, the snippets of life that I'm loving to watch. So, Brandon, thank you so much for being here with us.
Brenden Davis 0:37
No really, thank you for inviting me. I'm excited to be here. So to
Derek Smith 0:41
get this all kicked off, why don't you tell us a little bit about you growing up and your history with art?
Brenden Davis 0:48
Well, let's see. Cool. For those of you who didn't just hear what they're just, my name is Brandon Davis, I grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, pretty much my whole life. I don't think I was technically born here. But all my schooling was done here. I graduated mer, I graduated from our high school in 2016. I went up to New York briefly for two years at Marist College, studying computer science, but then I switched gears. And I changed my major to digital media. And then I transferred back down to Jackson in 2018 2019. And I went to Millsaps. And then I graduated from Millsaps in 2020. December, let's see. But our art was, I don't know, I don't know if I was really that much of an artists growing up. In high school I was really into I was really much more in science than anything else. Like I spent, like, I worked in a lab with my friend over at UMMC. In micro in the microbiology department working with bacteria and stuff, and I was really into that for a while. And then like, like I said earlier, I started college doing computer science. So it wasn't really until a while later that I discovered that I was really a lot more interested in, like creating art than I was like, analyzing data or doing math, stuff like that. But um, I started really paying attention to art when I started taking art history classes. My freshman year, freshman and sophomore years, I really started taking art history classes, and I got this I just got really interested in like, the process and like just the history, and the just the significance of just creating art and just the process of it all. And that was really what got me hooked in and making it for myself. Ever since then, I've just been experimenting with different styles,
Derek Smith 3:22
and different media, like, if you if you dig back on your Instagram, it's you know, you work on cardboard, you work on masking tape, you work on all these different really interesting surfaces. What when? Okay, so let me let me go back because you did you made a huge switch, you went from technology and database driven based education into an art media form. And you said Art History inspired that for you, which is really cool to me. Because, you know, I get to hear the stories so often where, you know, I had crayons when I was a baby. And that just led into this whole life of art. But you found it through the history of art. And that's a different take on on your beginnings, which I really liked. So when you found out what happened then?
Brenden Davis 4:11
Well, I mean, it was it was like mesmerizing, we took a class trip. I think I was I think I was still a freshman and went to the class trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And that's when that's when really that's when it really got me because I got to see it all in person. And just some things like, like, it looks good when you see it like in a PowerPoint presentation or in a textbook, but when you actually get to like look at it and like be in the presence of it and not not touch it because you're not allowed to touch it. But you can see it's so close. You can almost feel like you're touching it. And I think that's what really got me like hooked and that's what really got me knowing that I wanted to make art for myself.
Derek Smith 5:00
Hmm. So were you able to go in and study physical art while you were still in school?
Brenden Davis 5:06
Yes, yeah. I and Millsaps I took a lot of studio art classes. I took sculpture classes with Kristin, Tortola Williams, I took some digital media classes and animation classes, some scary drama and stuff like that, you know, but it really got there. And they really gave me a good opportunity to, like, cultivate some of these latent interests that I had. And I got to pick up a lot of different skills that I didn't have before. Yeah, but I guess I mean, that's the point. That's the point of going to school, you know,
Derek Smith 5:46
yeah, having that little bit of time in your life where you get to concentrate, you know, an uninhibited concentration, it doesn't. The results are life and death. And it's not going to really take away from anything, if you don't produce this great piece of art. It's not going to not feed you, you're in college. That's what this is for experiment and play. Now, that's brilliant. So what happened after school?
Brenden Davis 6:10
Let's see after school. Well, okay, so before I'll go before I go after school, I guess I'll backtrack a little bit. And look up. So after I left Maris college, I took a little gap. Semester gap year was like, the summer and then also a fall, I took that semester off. And I didn't start back school until January. But I took a job when I got back from New York as a server out hibachi restaurant. And I paid the bowls for a little bit. But after that, I spent about a year as a barista coffee bros. It's a coffee shop in Midtown. It's actually around the corner from where I am now. And after that, I worked as an intern at the Mississippi Museum of Art doing graphic design. And that was my first art really job. And I really met some really great people like working at the Mississippi Museum of Art, even though I didn't get to because all of this was like in the middle of COVID. Yeah, so I didn't actually even get to work there physically, we work remotely during that time. But I still like it cultivated a lot of like, long lasting, like connections that I still have to this day. So I'm really grateful for that experience. But um, after that, I was actually graduated, I was done with college at that point, because that was the my senior year internship where I worked at the Mississippi Museum of Art. But after that, I worked as a manager at the founder and Art Gallery owned by Richard McKee, it was on North State Street. I don't know if you've ever been to it. But if you go on State Street, there were across from the picking paint restaurant. Really good barbecue there. There were these big like blue heads like the statues. They used to it used to just be one statue of Barack Obama from when he was elected president. But then they got painted over blue and then they added in Moorhead statues and that was called Mr. Fondren. And I used to be the manager there, while the owner, you know, was enjoying his time, you know, his burgeoning retirement years, and his band and whatnot. And then after that, or I am now is I'm the motion graphics artists at Adobe. Oh btw I do they're like, on air news, graphics and stuff like that.
Derek Smith 9:04
That's really, really cool. That's a really great trajectory. Like that was yeah, you
Brenden Davis 9:11
know, in hindsight, we went really went smoothly went pretty smoothly. Not a lot of people can say that they like as soon as they got out of college to get a career in the exact thing they got a degree in. So I'm really grateful for that.
Derek Smith 9:32
I think it also would help your case that you found your your passion and your degree later in your education and you didn't like you didn't hold firm in the early parts of your education. So you didn't go and going, I'm gonna be a lawyer and make it all the way through law school and then be like, I wanted to pick flowers, you know? So that's really like I find it extremely interesting that you you found that inspiration, where you found it when you found it. and how it worked into the end of your education. And you seem like you've had so much passion, you know, you were kind of on fire where a lot of people may be on the, I want to rest after college stage, but you were you were it. I mean, in that the internship, I know that it was during COVID. But a really cool side effect of being during COVID is that people are recognizing your name, because they're always seeing your name, every time they have to talk to you every time they have to do anything. Like it's a visual indicator. So people know people's names a little bit more than they know their faces right now. Which is interesting.
Brenden Davis 10:40
Yeah, it was, it was a definitely a trip seeing a lot of their faces, like in person for the first time. And like being able to, like, be in a room with them and like go to museum events and stuff like that. So really, yeah, the point you made about like, the name first, I think that's really, really important. And really interesting, because I guess, I mean, I guess I never really thought about it that way. You know, because when you when you see a person, like every day, but you don't necessarily talk to them, you may recognize them, but you don't really know who they are. You don't know their name. So yeah, I think that's really important.
Derek Smith 11:26
So let's switch and talk about your art. Because you have this raw style to your art that I really like, because in a world of a ton of Polish, you know, yours is just pure energy. And I feel like whenever you go and set to do you know to create, you're creating with intention, you have a story, I feel like with your animations, I can see snippets of life and with your, your imagery that your your pictures, I can see moments, again of a life that are building stories all together. So I really enjoy watching your work, because I feel like it performs a narrative for me, why don't you tell me a little bit about your process and how you come up with your ideas?
Brenden Davis 12:11
Well, the way I start my still image, my stole works, and my animations are pretty much the same. Like it'll start, like I'll draw with any kind of like, if the closest objects I mean, I'll try to make a mark on it. And if that Mark looks interesting, again, the mark reminds me of anything, then I'll keep it moving from there. And that could be that could be Sharpie, and this paper towel that could be a crayon, and what is this brown paper bag with a dog treat it. Like it could really be anything. But from there, I just, I like to play with textures, and patterns, and stuff like that. And if I really like it, I'll make it bigger. And I'll do it again. And then I'll make that bigger. And then I'll do that again. Until I think until I think I'm finished, really. But for animations, a lot of my animations start off as like physical like pieces of paper. Because I think that's like a while I do most of the animation work digitally. I'm really drawn to the idea of stop motion. And a lot of my earliest animations were like, just pure stop motion. But I found ways to like really streamline my process. So like when I come up with an idea, I can get it done in an amount of time that like, doesn't destroy the rest of my entire schedule. And it can and I can still have a look that I'm more than satisfied with like something that I think was like I can make work now, in short, in a shorter time that I'm more happy with than what I could make in a month when I first started doing it. And I think that is like one of the surest signs of progress.
Derek Smith 14:31
That's, it's something that I have to keep reminding myself whenever I play with something new. Is that okay, here's the first go. And I have to remind this my students, you know, we, especially the younger ones, because they want everything perfect the first time they, you know, they go to play with it. And I'm like, no, no, no, this is this is the ideas and this is us getting used to it. Like now how do we here's our next page, how are we going to develop that? And it does, it takes it takes hours to start Aren't developing those skills and whatever new media you're going after? And it does, it starts flowing, the ideas start sparking when you get used to what something does. And how does. I like that that's an eye the one of the stop motions. But now that you mentioned that you did a lot of the stop motion film, paper drawings? Was the it's one, I think, a walk at night, or let's take a walk at night. Like that way. Yeah, it's
Brenden Davis 15:29
one of the one I did, I did that recently.
Derek Smith 15:33
I love the loop on it. Like it's just, it's a, I could leave it up for a long, long period of time and have it around me and really enjoy that you've got several better level lots, Luke perfectly and they just, I enjoy it.
Brenden Davis 15:51
That has really become a staple of my animation. And I think that that is mostly a product of just the way I display them. A lot of schools, a lot of social medias, if you post a video, it'll just autoplay, it'll keep looping. So I think I naturally just responded to that. Because if a video is just looping over and over again, and you can't tell when their video actually ends, then you're just gonna keep watching it. And I think one of the reasons I love art and museums and galleries as much as I do as as you can just get lost in the art. And you can just sit there and you can just stare painting for what feels like hours. And if you have a video, if you have an animation that loops in such a way, then it's almost like, you can sit there and you can watch it that for hours even though it's it might as well just be a painting. It's not really like it doesn't move beyond the parameters of that five second loop.
Derek Smith 17:01
I found myself in several of them, I would watch it over and over and over. And I kept looking in your negative spaces because you have these little color shifts. Especially if what's the one it's it's like a sun and the rest is dark and there's stars just lightly twinkling. But I kept yet all of the dark in the negative space to see how that was just slightly changing in every frame. It was really, really interesting. And I got lost in that watching that.
Brenden Davis 17:34
I did. Oddly enough I don't know if this doesn't get me in trouble with corporate but oddly enough, I did both of those at work. You would think that going from a gallery job to like just like a regular nine to five, you would really be creatively like stifled you'd feel like exhausted and worn out. Creatively drained. Like, especially if you just make a bunch of graphics every day that are just like this crime happened and just place all these people are injured, everybody feels awful. But like, I feel like I've just the amount of time I spend doing that. It's gotten me more skilled at making the animations that actually want to make.
Derek Smith 18:26
Do you find those topics seeping into your work? Like, are you so over? Like, is it around you so much that it's it's bleeding into your work?
Brenden Davis 18:36
I think what has been bleeding into my work is just this idea of not apathy, or or almost just like, what, what what's the point of it all? Like, what is it that we're all doing everyday? Because I like I've only been at the station for like, it's been like three or four months at this point. But I feel like there's just a cycle of stories that are just repeating over and over again, the same things are happening over and over again. And we're all just kind of getting like numb to it. Like this is all just like background noise. Because this is I mean, it is our it's our nine to five job, but this is just what is the information that we have the things that are happening, this is what we have to put out into the world. So I think that's definitely seeping into my art art in a way. But, I mean, I've always let the outside world influence the art that I make because I think that's just an important aspect of art. It's just reflecting the world that the artist is in. So yeah, it does influence the way that I make my art but it's not because I don't want it to I let it
Derek Smith 19:55
you were part of the Mississippi Invitational and 2021 like I had previously mentioned that was when I first got to see your artwork, and immediately went to Instagram found out who you were like, watch the little interviews that they did, because I do I find it extremely interesting. Where do you think you want it all to go? Like, is this just something that you're able to really good question? When we have the nine to five, we're lucky, you know, especially if we can make it balanced with our artwork, because then we have the pleasure of creating art that we just want to feel fill the world with. And then when you make it, your nine to five, you kind of have to make sure that things are selling, and you don't have as much freedom as same sometime. But if you're finding that comfortable balance, where would you where do you think you want to see everything had?
Brenden Davis 20:48
That's really hard to say, Yeah, because I didn't think I want to go into news media, when I took this job. Like, I thought it would be a really interesting job. But it's not exactly what I had planned, I actually applied to a different job at the station with their marketing department, because I was technically the Online Sales Manager at the art gallery. But I did all the social media and all that stuff, too. And I was making videos and all that. So I'd be perfect fit for their marketing position station. But I went there. And I interviewed. And I ended up making an impression with the news director, who was brought into the interview I was having with one of their marketing team members. And I ended up working in his department in the news. At the end with the new statement, I met a lot of great people were there. And I found out that I mean that I'm actually pretty good at making this graphic. So like I don't want to, I don't really want to say that I want to, like abandon this career in favor of a more traditional, like artists, like route. Like I could see myself working for more like larger stations in the future, or doing similar work in the future. Maybe I'll do freelance I don't know. But um, on the other hand, I don't want to become so focused on that side of my work, that I no longer make these animations that I make, or do the paintings or the exhibitions that I do on occasion. Because like, I want to make sure that I can like I want to thrive in both of those fields. I guess I don't know, if there's a review of me.
Derek Smith 22:45
I think it's a SMART goal, like I really do. And I again, can't stress the fact that having something that you're actually enjoying as a day job, and that you could fulfill as a career like that's Oh, that's that's a brilliant setup. You know, you're set up to have comfort in your life instead of, you know, a lot of sometimes hard I can struggle when you're really doing art as your full time goal. You know, that's professional artists are still professional artists, even if they have other jobs. So I think that that's brilliant. So are you are you planning on leaning a little bit more into it sounds like you're enjoying your animation more. Right now.
Brenden Davis 23:33
My animations, I think I've been leaning into more because I've been I've been spending just so much time at the computer. And it's just so much easier for me to open up after effects and Photoshop and like, sketch out some doodles on small pieces of paper than it is for me to like get out all my paints in my pastels in my spray paint cans and work on these giant pieces of cardboard or canvas and stuff like that. It's not that I don't enjoy painting like I'm working on painting right now. I've got a couple of half finished pieces in my studio right now. But I just think it's a lot easier for me to get started on an animation than it is for me to get started on painting.
Derek Smith 24:23
Brenden Davis 24:25
definitely a lot easier on the cleanup.
Derek Smith 24:28
So you can find Brendan on Instagram at Brendan dot Ely. It's br e in di N period e l dI where else can they find you?
Brenden Davis 24:42
Well, I do have a website Brendan davis.com br e n d n da vas.com. It is currently it's usually up but right now I'm working on a little website maintenance. So it's actually down right now. But social media wise, that is pretty much it. I'm really bad at online marketing.
Derek Smith 25:09
For any artists that are coming up behind you or for you as a younger self, what would be some advice that you would give to them?
Brenden Davis 25:18
Don't ever think that you have to do whatever it is that you arbitrarily decided to do. At some point in the past 18 year old me 18 year old you should not have control over what it is that you're doing when you're 24 or 25. Follow your dreams.
Derek Smith 25:43
That is, yeah, you're allowed to make a U turn.
Brenden Davis 25:48
You're allowed to make a U turn, you're allowed to drop the Bunsen burner in the beaker and pick up the paintbrush in the Sharpie.
Derek Smith 26:00
I love it. Yeah, that's your your educational journey is just so interesting from going from data driven science into fine art, your inspiration for it from finding it in art history. I think we'll add continue to add just another you know, component to your art where your your focus may be on things differently than you know someone who grew up with art in their lives the entire time would be and I'm excited to see that on your journey. So I appreciate you coming on here and sharing all of this with us.
Brenden Davis 26:32
No, it was great. It was great talking to you.
Derek Smith 26:35
For everyone, go and check out Brendan's work and make sure to follow him on Instagram, the little animations you'll they're just charming and I enjoy that glimpse into your life. So thank you for putting that out there. For everyone else. Thank you for joining us and we'll be back with another artists next week. And a special thank you goes to our members the Friends of the little yellow building. Beth Breeland Mary Hardy Gwen fury, Mary Adams, Jenny Howard, Jenny Moke. Evelyn PV. The Evans Family Janet Smith, Buffy Jordan, Jennifer Drinkwater, the Smith family, bopper Zak and Hannah Hester, thank you for all the support
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
The Little Yellow Building is the creative art studio of Mississippi artist Derek Covington Smith. TLYB was established in 2018 to help grow and promote visual art in the state through opportunity, exposure, and education.