Sitting at a picnic table outside of a coffeehouse in Southeast Portland, Davey Cadaver exudes the image of a rebellious artist—dressed all in black, jet black dreads, tattoos, and black nail polish. Sipping on his first cup of coffee during our meeting, he admits that 2 p.m. is early for him. Before our interview has even begun, Davey steps inside for a refill. Despite the harsh image his look portrays, he is amiable and conversation flows easily.
Raised by a schoolteacher mother and a military father, Davey has lived in various cities across the U.S. and overseas in Spain. It was his dad, an artist who worked mostly with oil paints, who planted the first seedling of being a professional artist. Davey inherited his love of art from his father, but credits his mother for inspiring him to learn to draw. He recalls his childhood attending the school his mother taught at. He would spend the time he had to wait for her after school creating art using not only the usual supplies, but also, found objects.
Davey lived in Bend, OR where he faced difficulty showing his work, because of the content. Davey now calls Portland home where he lives with his fiancée and animals. He has found the Portland community to be more receptive to his vision. His work has been shown in various places from coffee shops to tattoo parlors to art galleries. Collectors of his art reside in many places across the globe such as Australia, France, and Germany.
Since my mum is a teacher, I started reading when I was maybe four or so and I just couldn’t stop. Anything I was able to read, I read. I gravitated more towards books like Goosebumps. I absolutely loved the art Stephen Gammell did for Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.
When the Scholastic book fairs came around every year, I would get more allowance than normal to spend on books. I remember [she] got me a book about skeletons that glowed in the dark. Years later, I created a shirt with glow in the dark skeletons as an homage to my mum.
I don’t really treat kids like they’re kids, they’re just people. A lot of times, they’re just as smart or more so, and they rely on intuition. They also seem to understand or comprehend what I’m doing more than most adults do. I think it’s inspiring to inspire others, and there is definitely a huge difference, I think, between inspiring a kid and inspiring an adult. A lot of times when an adult says “Oh my god, Davey, you’re so inspiring,” it’s really great, but at the same time, it doesn’t give any indication that they’re going to do something with the energy.
When you see a little kid looking at what you’re doing and immediately want to jump in to draw with you or play with you, that means the world to me. Having an immediate impact on another human being is huge. Kids aren’t as reserved as adults tend to be based on who is around or their own fears with what it is they’re attempting to do. They kind of go into it the same way I approach art, with no apprehension.
I think internally is the best place, it’s better to look within than outside most times. If you’re searching the external world for answers or for something to provide you with happiness, you’re setting yourself up to be disappointed because it’s not something you can hold on to forever. But if you look inside yourself for answers or truth, then it’s something you can choose to keep or change. Knowing you have the ability to do that is probably one of the most powerful things out there. I try to just bring out what is already within me and allow it to come out without judging myself. If you feel like assessing it in the moment, then you do.
Sometimes you just have to start painting and see where it goes. If you go into it with some sort of idea of what it’s going to be, you’re kind of setting yourself up for disaster or not meeting the expectations that you have. It isn’t fair to put those kinds of expectations on yourself, as far as creation is concerned. If it’s not up to your standards, that’s one thing, because you can always improve upon it. As far as inspiration, acknowledging the goals you’ve met and using that as inspiration is more powerful than looking up to a comic book character or rock star.
I believe in pushing yourself to see how far you can go. Back in 2013, I limited my color palette. Since I reduced the amount of tools I was working with, I challenged myself to express what I was trying to get across in a different way. It causes you to continue to grow as an artist. I want to continually push what it is that I’m doing, I don’t want to get stuck in doing just one thing I’m good at because then, what’s the point?
What are you currently working on?
I’ve been doing quite a few paintings using organic materials such as coffee, tea, beet juice, walnut ink, and collected rainwater. I’ve been working on smaller pieces because they fit in my backpack, which is conducive for my Walkabouts. I think we’re lucky to have such a varied environment to draw from. I’ve been using a straw to blow the inks around my paintings, using my breath as a tool. They might start out as a landscape or flowers and morph into a character, a monster, or the terrain of another planet. I also just came out with a new T-shirt design incorporating these techniques.
In July, I will have a solo show featuring these new pieces. I’m also currently working on a book about a monster with my fiancée as well as some small sculptures. My art is always evolving. I’m always coming out with something new.
What advice do you have for other artists?
Let coincidence be your guide.