El Davo is a Kent based freelance illustrator, painter and mural artist who doesn’t want to be solely defined by these labels as he believes he is capable of doing anything. His pumpkin carving skills are pretty sharp and he built an impressive sand castle once.
Many people ask me when I started doing art – ‘as a toddler’ I reply, I just never gave it up. Despite the calls to ‘go get a real job,’ or being told, ‘you won’t make any money doing art’, my stubbornness prevailed and I chose to go to art college.
After doing a Foundation Diploma at the Kent Institute for Art & Design, and being told, “illustration is your weakest point”, by a tutor with a mullet (mullets are untrustworthy), I went on to study Graphic Arts & Design at Leeds Met Uni with a focus on illustration. It was here where I produced some of the worst work I’ve ever done and the best advice they could offer was to quit the course and go study Creative Writing instead, but at a different uni. I didn’t take this advice. Instead I gave up trying to impress tutors and created art purely for my own enjoyment which, coincidentally, did impress the tutors. Neither college or uni made me better at art, but they did provide me with the facilities to do ridiculous things with my work such as build big 3D installations that sat firmly outside of the genre’s boundaries. In particular, ‘Jungle Fever’, where I built a jungle in a spare room, filled with sculptures of demonic creatures and, to contextualise it, wrote a poem about Mother Nature reclaiming her land stolen by mankind.
Leaving uni felt like how a crumb might feel as it’s swept off the table onto the floor, with no real or tangible advice on how to proceed from here. After an attempt to live in the adult world, the crushing responsibilities of paying rent, bills, council tax and staying alive without a student loan cushion was all too much; I fled back to the parents house on the South East coast, hiding from the threat of debt collectors.
Like every artist ever, I found full-time work in a coffee shop and tucked my degree away somewhere to be forgotten about. After sacrificing all of my time in exchange for money, I soon had too much money and moved into my own flat in Folkestone’s Creative Quarter. Thanks to meeting some cool people, I got involved in some exciting projects which were vital stepping stones to help me progress and develop my skills as an illustrator and mural artist. It helped me realise what I wanted to achieve from my art and it gave me a clear direction to head in. It was then I decided to sacrifice all of my money in exchange for time and became a full-time hungry artist.
About El Davo’s Work
My work has always been heavily influenced by street art, nature and characters. I love the non-conformity and rebelliousness of nature, where it disregards the rules of the man-made system and abides by its own. And in much the same way, it’s why I love street art too. And drawing characters helped me create a narrative and a sense of purpose in my work and has been an important aspect of creating a signature style.
At uni I was introduced to the vinyl designer toy culture which helped me discover most of my favourite illustrators and street artists. It gave me a real burning desire to refine my style into something exciting and energetic. I find creating a style is a vital part of being an artist – it gets me fired up inside and I want that same excitement to be relayed to those who view my work. My constant desire to improve and better myself is fuelled by the satisfaction of exceeding my own expectations. And it also prevents all future work from becoming a boring regurgitation of overused ideas sapped of all originality. This way it keeps it fresh and exciting for everybody.
I love well constructed concepts behind a piece of artwork and in the last few years I’ve focused on developing stronger ideas in my work as they keep my brain well oiled and free from rust. I use visual metaphors so more people can engage with my work as a form of non-verbal communication. Although, if I ask the viewer what they think, I’ll ask for a verbal interpretation ‘cos I haven’t got time to wait for them to draw up a response.
The ideas have been mostly fuelled by my anger at the injustices of the world, and so I use art to provide social and political commentary, usually in a satirical manner, because I don’t want humour to be excused, no matter how serious the issue. My main theme, continuing on from my Jungle Fever project 8 years ago, is Mother Nature versus Humanity; looking at our devastating impact on the environment caused by the toxic lifestyles promoted by consumerism.
My next big project will be looking at nature’s habit of balancing any imbalances and how in ‘correcting’ itself, will lead to the extinction of humanity.
I also like to paint happy things.