LAist Interview: Illustrator Doug Davis Inks the City

SamZell-Davis.jpg
Illustration courtesy of the artist.

We saw in this week's Los Angeles Downtown News that Doug Davis, the paper's former art director and current contributor of the "Urban Scrawl" political comic strip, has his first gallery show. It opens tonight in Downtown LA and runs until April 30.

In "Urban Scrawl," Davis captures the essence of the city with his pen and ink — skewering government officials, projects and Downtown life in general. At the same time, the cartoons are pretty damn funny, too. Davis took the time out of prepping for his show to answer a few questions for LAist.

Are you a native Angeleno? If not where are you from?
I was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, but have also lived in Florida, Michigan, and the Bay Area. I’ve lived in Echo Park for the last fourteen years.

How many cartoons do you draw in a week?
I draw an average of four cartoons and illustrations each week. One of them is the “Urban Scrawl” editorial cartoon for the L.A. Downtown News; another is a comic strip called “Cubicle Dreams” for the same publication. I work on that with writer Warren Sherffius. Also with Warren, I draw a monthly cartoon feature called “Off-Book” for Back Stage. I also have a few regular monthly deadlines for consumer magazines, and commercial illustration work for a variety of clients who want some humorous art to help sell a widget or something.

Doug Davis illustrates LA

How did you get started in illustration?
I was one of those kids who drew all the time, and I pored over comic books and “Peanuts” collections. In my twenties, I didn’t draw as much, but did other things like travel overseas, play the banjo, major in philosophy in college. From one perspective, it was an eclectic approach to life; from another, unfocused. Either way, it provided a variety of life experiences that are good for cartooning. I did editorial cartooning for my college paper, eventually landing in graphic design and art direction. I worked my way back to drawing again, and find my greatest challenge and reward in cartooning and illustration.

Where do you draw your inspiration to draw something downtown related on a slow news week?
Biking around Downtown is a good way for me to just observe. Sights, sounds, and smells can all trigger ideas, such as a “Downtown Snapshot,” a humorous take on something or someone observed Downtown. For example, jurors on lunch break, dog walkers, distracted drivers. There's plenty of material.

What’s a favorite cartoon you’ve drawn?
My favorites are the ones in which the art and idea are equally sharp. One cartoon was on the problem of hospitals dumping indigent patients on Skid Row. In panel one, an EMT in an ambulance is hovering over a patient and saying to another EMT, “Omigod! This patient’s pulse is weak, his breathing shallow, and he’s lying in his own filth!” In panel two, we see the patient being kicked out the back of the ambulance, and the EMT shouts, “Time for discharge!”

What’s the weirdest thing (or the most interesting commissioned piece -- if you can’t say;-) you’ve been asked to illustrate?
Two paraplegics having assisted sex.

This is your first gallery exhibit...what should we expect to see if we visit the gallery?
I’m showing close to 20 “Urban Scrawl” cartoons, as well as samples of the comic strips I’ve worked on. If you come by on Feb. 29, there will be some live bluegrass music to boot. Anyone is invited. And it will also be open during the next Downtown Art Walk, Thursday, March 13.

"Urban Scrawl: Downtown Cartoons by Doug Davis" opens tonight with a preview from 5-7 p.m. and a party from 7-10 p.m. @ Gary Leonard Studio, 740 S. Olive St., Los Angeles. The exhibit runs through April 30.

Photo courtesy of Doug Davis.