Jerome Davenport & Christopher Anthony

Artist: Jerome Davenport
Photographer: Electrify

A Conversation with Jerome Davenport (Ketonnes6000) & Christopher Anthony

How did you both start making art?

C: Growing up in London I was heavily influenced by urban culture, specifically the graffiti scene in West London from around 2006. Painting graffiti opened me up to a world of artists who had taken graffiti & spray painting to a serious level, where they were being recognized as artists in their own right around the world. The realization that these artists had taken their passion for graffiti and turned it into a full-time job was all the convincing I needed, and instantly decided I was going to try and pursue a similar career. I went on to study fine art, graphics and photography for A-level with the mindset that the best chance I had at making it work was to put all my energy into creative subjects. I studied for my degree in Illustration at the Arts University in Bournemouth, where I learnt that I wasn’t happy behind a computer creating magazine graphics, or at my desk doing small-scale editorial illustrations. So once I completed my degree, I decided to follow what I really wanted to do which was painting large-scale murals. Around this time I landed a job working for Converse with a good friend of mine, Itaewon, where we were invited to paint a two-story building in the heart of Shoreditch, London. This was our first ever commercial large-scale job, and at the time we had no clue what we were doing. Thankfully, all went well and the agency that had initially hired us decided to take me on as an intern, which is where I learnt everything there was to know about the creative worlds within London at the time. During this time I was lucky enough to meet and work alongside artists who were inspirations to me growing up, who taught me the ins and outs of surviving as a freelance artist in such a competitive city like London. I decided to try it for myself, and parted ways with my agency to go freelance, which is what I have now been doing for the past 4 years.

J: I didn’t really do much art. I did some graffiti in school with my friends and it was a natural progression from there. It was never a career option for me. I was a bit lost at one point and decided to explore my options. I didn’t know whether to follow a creative direction or not. I had just come out of a chef apprenticeship and a good friend of mine was the marketing manager for WAAPA, the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts. He told me to come and have a look and see what they’re doing. I went and had a look at the space and the structure of the program and it was really cool because it was all hands-on. It was all practical, that was what I loved doing. I can’t sit in a classroom, I can’t keep still. It was refreshing to know you can do something and learn and do it with your hands, feeling and touching and painting. I was one of the best in my class for the whole three years. I loved it. The theatre was a new world and one that I never knew existed. To paint and create for all these backdrops and build the sets and the props and the fake arms and stuff and exploding things. It was such a creative world. You could go in whatever direction you felt was your thing. It opened my eyes to a lot. I learned set dressing, scenic art, prop making, sculpture, set building, how to run shows and scenic painting. I learned a bit of airbrushing, which is the same concept as spray paint. That’s how I kind of found my feet. I realized that I could make a life out of it, whether I did graffiti art or working in the theatre. I had something to fall back on which was quite important. I somehow fell into the street art world and started using more spray cans and figured out I could paint a portrait which was interesting and it kind of rolled on from there.

How did you figure out that you could paint a portrait?

J: I’d never painted one before. I had used a projector once before. I painted a portrait in university and had never had the balls to do one on the street. I was just terrified. And then, I was in London on my first Europe trip. I did this little girl covering her mouth; it was very eye-catching when you walked down that street. I pulled it off and I was like “Holy shit, I can paint portraits.” That was the beginning and I haven’t stopped since. Even my mom says I had a moment where it just kind of clicked. That was the first portrait that I had ever done, but not my first mural. My first mural was more graffiti-based. I was just playing with ideas at the time and still trying to define my style.

How would you define your style?

J: It’s about the concept. I love digging in and finding out about the history and the people and the emotion you get out of that. These people, they’re day-to-day heroes – in their veggie patch, for example. Celebrating everyday heroes. That’s my thing. Learning about and from those people and celebrating their stories. And nature as well. Nature is such a prominent issue at the moment. We should be concerned for and care for what’s around us because it’s not going to be around us forever. That plays a big part in my work. Nature, water, and portraiture.

Are your parents artistic?

J: Neither of them have careers in art or anything like that, but my father is a farmer and he is really good with woodworking. He used to do a bit of photography too. He is really good at carving and creating furniture from scratch, out of nothing. He has quite a good eye for finding used materials as well. My mother has always dabbled in a few things like watercolour and photography.. They are my number one supporters and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. When you see creativity in someone, I think it’s really important to push them to explore that creativity.

Can you describe the mural that you created for us in Nelson?

J: This piece centres around the instinctive connection humans have with wildlife and their relationship with native flora and fauna. To introduce this, the wolf and woman represent power and family, which sit against a backdrop of sprawling BC forest. Beside them is the BC’s floral emblem adopted in 1956, the Pacific Dogwood flower. To round off the piece is the Kermode bear or ‘spirit bear,’ an endangered species that also holds cultural significance as an emblem of BC. The native bee, a critical component in the natural ecosystem, together with these elements represent an ecosystem worth looking after and conserving for future generations to come.

In keeping with my signature style of watercolour splashes over the top of elements of realism, the piece is given interest in layers, dimension and cohesion.

What has your process been like in Nelson?

J: It has been really good. These processes are always super drawn out. Everyone that’s come by has really left an impression on us all. We were struggling to find anyone who was not friendly. It has definitely been my favourite festival I have ever been to.

What was your fav place to eat?

J: The Co-op. I love that place. It’s got so much variety. It’s what every supermarket should be. You can eat there, you can drink there. You can have all these selections of so many different things. I’m a big foodie. Loved it.

How did you and Chris start working together?

J: Chris and I were painting a community mural together back in early 2018. We just kind of got chatting along the way and he had an exhibition in London so I popped my head in. We went for a few beers and I said come to British Columbia with me. I thought we could maybe collaborate on a few different aspects and learn from each other. It’s always good to have company, it makes the day go quicker. You push each other to do other things. I am very thankful that he has come along. It would have been a longer process and I definitely wouldn’t have been able to get as much done. I wouldn’t have had as many laughs either. I’m sure we will do many more in the future.

What have you learned from Chris?

J: Don’t eat as much. Be sensible. He’s definitely pushed me to get out of my box. Usually, after a long day, I’ll just sit at home and have a few beers and chill out. When you’re with someone else you get out there and get things done. He was so amazed by Canada and he wanted to go and see more and more. It’s good to experience new things together and I think we pushed each other throughout the whole trip. Whether it would be going to random backyard BBQ’s or painting walls or whatever. It’s just been a continual push. Inspiring each other to do other things, get outdoors and go for swims and explore the place we are painting.

Chris, What has it been like painting with Jerome?

C: I have enjoyed learning his approach to applying a narrative to his murals. He does research into the local communities and looks into the history of a place and incorporates that into his work. I’ve definitely been inspired by that process and seeing that from the inside. Starting the designs on the computer and seeing it through to the finished mural, it’s been a good experience and very educational for me. Having the opportunity to work alongside Jerome has given me time to consider ways I can apply the same processes to my own work, which on the whole is much more aesthetically driven.

What’s next for you, Chris?

C: Once I’m back in London, my main goal is to transition back to creating murals again. I have been busy working on commercial jobs for clients over the past year, so I am excited to spend some time in my studio working on some personal projects. One of my intentions with this trip was to push myself out of my comfort zone and do something I have never done before – and Jerome’s hyper-realistic spray painting style was the perfect fit. I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity to pick up a new skill and I’m looking to bring it all together now into a series of murals where I can put a permanent stamp on my style.

Work-wise, I have an upcoming job with Nike which I am very excited about finishing, as well as some fun interior mural projects with my sign-writing company. At the end of the year I’m planning on going to Australia to visit Jerome and spend some time painting out there, then who knows, that’s the exciting part about my work; I have no idea where it will take me next!

Jerome, what’s next for you and your company Blank Walls Collective?

J: I’ve got to work on about three different projects for an upcoming trip to Australia. I’ve got a really big wall in the southwest of Australia in a town called Albany. I also have a few other jobs in Perth. Then I am back to the UK for a big job in Ireland and who knows after that.

Throughout 2018 we’ve been developing Blank Walls, which has been my company since 2012. We’ve really kind of pushed it to create its own identity in being able to represent and support up-and-coming and developed artists in a way that takes a lot of pressure off of them in the business sense. Our goal is to let them just create and focus on what they’re really good at. We want to provide a platform to be able to represent artists to allow them to freely move between the two continents, the UK and Australia, and give them opportunities that they wouldn’t normally have. Our focus is on the artists. We’re artists for artists. We’re here to support them. We are looking to launch in September. I’ve got two of my good friends on board, they are the co-founders. I look forward to the future. I don’t really know what to expect or how big it’s going to go. From all of our passion, will, and determination, I think it’s going to go really far.

On behalf of Nelson International Mural Festival, we would like to thank Jerome and Chris for their beautiful contribution.

Interviewer: Nicola Rough


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