San Ramon Valley native, Kevin Davidson, went from working as a banker, to a janitor, to an internationally featured artist whose paintings were recently shown to Pope Benedict XVI.
Many dream of quitting their day jobs, and “following their bliss,” but Davidson actually did it.
Even though his path to living life as a professional artist hasn’t been easy, nor what he expected, it isn’t a decision he regrets.
Recently that decision felt even sweeter.
Originally established by Pope John Paul II, World Youth Day is celebrated every three years in a different country. Multiple cultural events are held to celebrate Christian youth throughout the world during the festivities.
Thousands of artists were considered for this year’s prestigious exhibit.
Davidson was one of just 36 artists that were ultimately included in the exhibition shown in Spain, which has now moved to the National Museum of Catholic Art and Library, in Washington D.C.
Davidson, 38, says he never actively planned to be a professional artist.
Raised in Danville, he took art classes, but says it wasn’t something he seriously pursued.
He says he is entirely self-taught as a painter, through trial and error.
He did show promise early on, and his mother enrolled him in a few art courses through the Civic Center in Walnut Creek, but he didn’t pursue any other formal art training.
After graduating from Danville's in 1991, he moved to Los Angeles to work a banking job by day, and study business at California State University, Northridge at night.
He was miserable, he says, and became increasingly disillusioned by his job.
During this time he found some respite in painting “and thinking about art.”
Davidson says the spark that ultimately led to his life changing decision to “quit out of the blue” came on a trip he took to Las Vegas.
Walking through Caesar’s Palace, he caught sight of a huge oil painting in a shop window, and he recalls thinking to himself, “I think I can do that.”
He returned to Los Angeles and started drawing, “and took it from there.”
Davidson ”put his nose down and worked hard,” until his money reserves ran out, and returned home to Danville.
Aware of the statistics that said only three percent of professional artists make a living at it, Davidson says, “It was a scary year,” one in which he was prepared to be, and very nearly was, homeless.
A break came his way when a family member gave him a tip that a nighttime janitor was needed in the office building where they worked.
Davidson took the job, and says he was “never happier.”
Working at night allowed him to paint during the day. As long as he had food and rent money, he was satisfied.
Eventually his business instincts led him to see his janitorial job as an opportunity to start a larger business "to build around his art career."
Utilizing his business training, he started his own company providing janitorial services to local office buildings.
The success of that business allowed Davidson to eventually hand the daily operational reins to others, and focus on his artwork.
Davidson works along with 11 other artists, at a studio on Hartz Avenue, above .
The studio was formerly part of the Pionneer Art Gallery, before the gallery closed in 2009.
"You have every kind of art here," said Davidson. "This is the artists colony in Danville."
Davidson also applied his business sense to his art career.
He naturally works at “both ends of the spectrum,” painting what he describes as “gallery pieces” as well as “saleable pieces.”
He says he is drawn to exploring religious themes, something he attributes to his Catholic upbringing, although he says he is no longer a practicing Catholic.
Many of his pieces are inspired by biblical stories, which he finds “fascinating,” and at times “deeply disturbing.”
On a recent morning, Davidson was working on a painting called "The Resurrection." The piece (see photos to the right) shows Jesus inside the tomb before being ressurected, a scene Davidson says is not often depicted in paintings.
With its gold outlines and bright colors, the work evokes relgious painting from the Italian Renaissance. But at the same time, it has a modern sensibility.
Davidson's current style, painting to create the appearance of a stained glass window, was developed when he started working on the piece that appears in the Arte + Fe exhibit, called "Christ in Stained Glass."
He says he started the piece and was suddenly inspired to break it up, creating the stained glass effect. It is a style he now says feels "very natural."
That piece depicts Christ's crucifixion from the perspective of the heavens. As Davidson writes in his description of the piece: "A look from the skies above, and perhaps, a glance of what Jesus may have seen in his moment of suffering and before his death."
Davidson's goal, he says, is to give people who view his work a chance to be contemplative, and he hopes, be touched by what they see.
Painting in his studio in Danville, Davidson aims to achieve more than just creating paintings to fulfill his passion for art.
"I think art is supposed to move people on a spiritual basis," he said. "It's about connecting with people on a deep level. If it touches one person, I did my job."