From New York City to Florida, artist Joe Davis has lived a storied career. Although some may disagree with his age-related classification, he says, “I’m an old artist with a perspective going back to the ’70s.” When he started painting out of college from a studio on 42nd Street in Midtown Manhattan, Davis could not have predicted he would end up in Delray Beach, Florida, 16 years later with a following for his large-format, overhead beach scenes.
When he left New York in 1995, he took a break from painting and moved south to Delray Beach, where he had family. He took a job in a publishing company, where he learned much about digital prepress processes and wide-format printing. These skills would play into Davis’ work when he finally returned to painting in 2006, opening his gallery and custom framing shop, DelrayART, to introduce his large-format original art to a town that was just beginning to become the foodie and art mecca it is today.
Long before the days of drones and their aerial views, which give us glimpses of new ways to see life, Davis became fascinated with painting from this bird’s-eye perspective. Inspired by both a real estate photo of the beach and his days in New York when he often traveled by plane and saw the view from above the clouds, he painted his first overhead beach scene in an abstract expressionist manner. When he had a few pieces under his belt, Davis decided to put them in his gallery window to see what would happen. “They sold right away, and that reawakened the artist in me,” he says.
From that day forward, Davis has focused on painting overhead beach scenes in an inventive, creative process, combining acrylic paint and resin. His mixed-media artwork takes weeks to complete. First, he prepares a wooden board on which he paints to “lay down the bones” of the water and sand scene, texturizing the sand with a palette knife so it contrasts with the glassy, shiny waves. Then he builds multiple layers of resin to form waves, later painting figures, beach umbrellas, cabanas and beach towels separately and then incorporating them into the artwork. “It’s a unique part of this organic process. Since I cannot paint on top of the resin waves, I paint the people and activities of the scene separately and then cut them out and ‘float’ them in the resin water. Resin is unpredictable; part of the fun is riding the bronco and bending it to your will,” he explains. Davis also uses resin to build unique cloud formations in his beach scenes. Currently on his easel are ocean scenes with cumulus cloud and storm formations with cargo ships on the horizon. In these, he uses epoxy resin in his own unique method to build the clouds in interesting ways.
“The beach artwork tells the stories of how people organize themselves in nature—under cabanas or umbrellas or the anarchy of sprawling on a beach towel where they just drop down,” Davis says. “I’m attracted to visually poetic images but overall paint realistic subjects that show how it could be.”
Davis takes commissions from those who are interested in having a personalized overhead beach painting of their family members participating in the activities they enjoy at the beach. Currently, he accepts about 50% of his new artwork as commissions, conducting a full interview process with clients to discover their likes, dislikes and details about the family members they want painted into a beach scene. Davis also exhibits and sells his large-format original paintings and prints at DelrayART gallery.
“Today, I only paint what I like,” he says. “I have created a life for myself, and I no longer care about the artificial categories and distinctions associated with my art. I’m a painter; I don’t retire. I’ll stop only when the work is no longer challenging.” *
Dana W. Todd is a professional writer specializing in interior design, real estate, luxury homebuilding, landscape design, architecture and art.