Genevieve Davis, M.F.A.

Artist FAQs

The Artist in Italy

Davis has received many commissions from ballet, opera and theater companies, designers, museums & film producers.  Her painting style is the result of studying in Italy from the Italian Renaissance masters, as well as working in the contemporary theater.

what is your purpose? My purpose is to show you my world and how I see it.

what is your direction? To do figurative and architectural, representational paintings - either easel paintings or large scale works

how does your work affect the lives of others? My art provides a place for the mind to revel in beauty, color, light, spirit and an otherworldly narrative or fantasy

Early American Davis

what is your art about? My art is peopled with the images of my world, like a friend who is a Chinese monk dropping by the studio to meditate for two hours so I can paint him, like other friends who are dancers, like the folks I've hung out with at historical reenactments at Early American encampments, Renaissance festivals and Carnevale in Venice, Italy. There is a certain narrative quality to my figurative work, by virtue of the fact that you are seeing people doing things you don't see everyday, like dressing up in costumes or dancing or fencing. I find a joyousness in ordinary people donning costumes and becoming these extraordinary characters. Then there are the works of Frank Lloyd Wright, which was just minutes away from my studio.

what are your guiding principles? My guiding principle is to show you the beauty, spirituality and joie de vivre I find in the world, with my artwork. Of course, there are plenty of ugly things out there, too, but my paintings don't address that.

My work in writing and film is much more earth bound and socially relevant.  My Film, Secret Life, Secret Death tells the true story of a young mother who fell into crime with the Mob.  I am working on a screenplay thriller set in the world of dog fighting [] and have two books published on my grandmothers. I'm an Austrian American, and if you look at the Austrian arts, you will find just such soaring heights and gritty depths in their work, too.

what is it you like about making art? When I get an idea, I feel challenged to wrestled with it, push the creative envelope, strive for something I haven't achieved before and hold on to the tiger by the tail, until I have completed the artistic arc that began with that idea and ends with the finished piece presented to the public.

Cavalier Era Davis

what makes your style distinctive? My painting style marries classical technique with innovative contemporary techniques. This style is the result of my Master of Fine Art degree study of Italian Renaissance methods, study in the studio of contemporary Italian painter Marchionni and work painting in theater. I combine classical rendering skill with theatrical scenery techniques like washes, glazes, spattering and stenciling, which are used to break up the paint surface and give it depth, imitating the play of natural light.

In addition, I am particularly interested in the rich, expressiveness of color. When you look at the Taliesin series, you see intense hues inspired by autumn leaves. The soft, harmonious colors of the Carnevale series derive from the limited palettes of Italian master drawings and the riot of pastels seen in the Renaissance frescoes of painters like Michelangelo and Pontormo.

17th Century Davis

why are you an artist? I have dedicated my life to making art because that's what I came to earth to do, as part of my personal evolution. I felt a great tension inside me release when I started painting in my twenties. At that moment, I recognized painting as my life's work. I find painting completely enchanting and challenging. I am intrigued by color, by light, by spirit, by paint itself, by the meditative act of painting. The act of painting allows me to enter a meditative state where all the thinking and cares of daily life disappear . I am in a state of altered consciousness where I am completely absorbed in color, light and the fluid working of the paint. I am engaged by the challenges of reaching for new heights and wrestling down unresolved areas of the painting to bring the work to completion.


do you make art everyday? I work on projects early in the day, everyday, usually shortly after I get out of bed, after doing some qi gong or yoga. It might be a painting or working on a book or film project. A day without art is a day without focus, energy and direction. Occasionally I take a day off to relax or travel to a show or because I just can't get motated. But that's the great thing about being an artist - who's going to care if you don't show up to work? That's also the secret to discipline in the studio - the artist has to care that artwork get done in a given day or it doesn't get done.









Civil War Cavalry Davis on the left

why do people commission your art? My work has been commissioned by ballet, opera and theater companies, designers, historical societies, film producers, corporations and individuals who had a special need for a painting, scenery, a portrait or a mural.


how do you work in the studio? First of all, I go into the studio when my mind is clear and untroubled, the place is quiet and I am mentally prepared to summon up some massive creative energy. There's a reason why artist's have cots in their studios, so they can flop down when they are mentally drained and recharge. I put on some inspirational music, Lorena McKennit, Carlos Santana or Jimi Hendrix. I open the old wooden wine box in which I keep my oils.

I use water soluble oil paints which means that I don't have to breathe toxic solvents like turpentine or mineral spirits when I work. Sometimes I use egg tempera, like in my monochrome portraits or my Taliesin paintings, which are a mix of water based and oil paints. My watercolors are squeezed out into a plastic tray where they have become dried cakes of paint which I can conveniently use by moistening them with a brush. Tempera I make by mixing pigment dust with water to form a paste the consistency of tooth paste. Then I go into the kitchen and crack an egg, separate the yolk and cut that into the paint with a palette knife. I am into using the old methods, the old way, not new materials that haven't stood the test of time.

Italian Renaissance Davis

how do you know when to stop working on a painting? I know I am finished with a painting when I have followed my vision to the end of its journey on canvas, when I have wrestled down all the difficult passages in the work and bent everything on the canvas to my will. Sometimes I don't recognize that it's done immediately, but will see next time I pick it up that everything is resolved and there's nothing left to do.

how many paintings do you work on at once? I like to work on painting series. That lets me work out an idea in all its permutations and thoroughly explore the subject. That way I can present ten or twenty paintings on one subject that related to one another in technique and subject. One inspiration leads to the next until finally the whole thing is played out and it's time to look for new inspiration. Usually I work on one or two or three paintings at a time. But I worked on 20 paintings at one time on the Taliesin work. Working on twenty paintings at one time is crazy, but that's the way I did it.

Union Cavalry Davis in the middle

how do you decide what you're going to paint? The subjects for my work engage my mind in a powerful way. Like Taliesin, Carnivale in Venice or the reenactors and dancers I have spent so much time with. In the case of Taliesin, you have Wright's dynamic geometry surrounding you, which is a very powerful experience. I love Carnevale with its masks and costumes, because it is such a great metaphor for how we present our personas to the world. I also love the pageantry of it. The same is true of reenactors.


Taking off in the canoe  

A Lake View

what was it like, working in your wilderness lake studio? In that glorious time on the lake, from 1996 to 2004, I lived a lifestyle of deep solitude which daily brought profound satisfaction. I drank in the breathing presence of nature like a woman dying of thirst.  I'd get up in the morning and walk through the house, situated like an aerie half way up the bluff and look down at the living, breathing forest of pines overlooking the water, feeling like the queen of a fairyland. My artistic energies flowed like a waterfall as I painted dozens and dozens of canvases. Steeped in the beauty of nature, I began to surf the crest of the moment, suspend my consciousness on the wave of now, live as Thoreau had written. "It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look . . . to affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts."  [Walden Pond, p. 343]

Now I'm back in the real world. C'est la vie.

My House Viewed from the Lake


My thanks to Alan Bamberger for his inspiration for what questions to answer