Name: Akaimi Davis, artistically known as Akaimi the Artist
Location: San Antonio, TX
Bio: Akaimi Davis - mother, grandmother, cancer survivor and artist- seeks to inspire, motivate, encourage and captivate others through her mixed media paintings on canvas, paper and wood. Her primarily Black and Latin American subjects come to life through the use of vibrant color and moving, soul-stirring words. Tattered remnants of books from centuries past, meticulously paired with other vintage found objects, nod towards finding a renewed sense of purpose and meaning in life. Just as her art depicts a renewed purpose, it is also the undercurrent of her fashion line, Sanat Jeans Co. Akaimi breathes life into vintage (and new) clothing with her artistic flair.
Social Media: IG: @akaimi.the.artist
New Blog: www.cancercolorcanvas.wordpress.com
Describe your experience as a current artist.
I have been pursuing painting full-time since 2016, though I consider myself to have been an artist my entire life. I remember in kindergarten, when the teacher asked each of us what we wanted to be when we grew up. All the other kids wanted to be teachers, policemen, firemen, or doctors. I, however, wanted to be an artist.
What was your occupation/education prior to becoming an artist?
Prior to becoming a full-time painter, I was a licensed hairstylist for about 12 years. I suffered burnout, decided to return to college and studied commercial art, also known as graphic design. I have an Associate’s Degree from Austin Community College, a Bachelor’s Degree from Texas State University, and completed half a Master’s Degree from Full Sail University, before becoming ill. I worked my way up from a Junior Designer to an Art Director within a matter of about 7 years. Shortly after attaining the position of Art Director in 2012, I became ill, and was formally diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer called Large Granular Lymphocytic Leukemia. I opted to resign my corporate Advertising position to undergo 2 years of chemotherapy. I utilized funds from a severance package to cover living expenses and to open my first gallery in San Antonio.
What was your biggest challenge/obstacle in pursuing art and how did you overcome it?
Truthfully, my greatest obstacle was having the wrong life partner. I was married to an abusive man who was not supportive of my business decisions. At the point he began to sabotage my work as an entrepreneur, among other things, I knew I had to leave. The defining moment was when I was selected as a featured artist for a local website. I had an appointment scheduled to be interviewed, have my work photographed, and headshots taken. As I walked out the door, I realized our vehicle was missing from its usual parking space. He had moved our Jeep so I couldn’t find it, with the intent of causing me to miss the interview session.
Describe your biggest milestone or project/series achieved since pursuing your art.
My greatest achievement to date would be opening and maintaining my gallery, which I unfortunately had to liquidate and shut down, due to divorce proceedings. The gallery was important to me, as I never anticipated being an actual business owner. Although I have been self-employed the majority of my life, painting was literally something I did for fun, as a therapeutic means of getting through chemotherapy, and surviving cancer. It was never something I viewed as a means of earning a living, until I began to sell my paintings to complete strangers. I learned so much through the process of opening the gallery space- not only what it takes to legally run a business in my state, but also about event planning. Since I already had a background in Advertising and Marketing, the promotion part of the business was second nature.
I am now applying the “do’s and don’ts” of the first gallery, towards the opening and operation of additional businesses, both present and future. I know now, that my home foundation must be steady and strong before I can attempt to build anything else on top of it. I have also learned the hard way, that I must guard my inner circle like a fortress. The people I’ve come to rely upon as my backbone, have proven themselves worthy for years, and I know they have my very best interest at heart.
How does your personal style, identity, and/or beliefs translate into your artwork?
I believe in cultivating positivity and self-worth. I feel that I convey these particular values, not necessarily on canvas, but through the telling of my life story, encouraging others to weather their personal storms and not give up. Initially my paintings were all of women or the female figure, as they were my target audience. The paintings included words, phrases or quotes that were inspirational and heartwarming. Today, my paintings rarely, if ever, include words- unless it’s specifically from a graphic design/ hand-lettered standpoint, to give a particular effect to the piece. I have found many times, people are drawn in by the vibrancy of colors on the canvas. Once they make the connection with my life story, the images on canvas take on an entirely new meaning.,
What is one thing that makes your art unique?
My paintings are unique, mainly because of my color choices. I tend to use complementary colors (colors that are opposite on the color wheel) because they play on each other. I remember my color theory professor in telling us, “Blue is never more blue, than when it’s placed next to orange.” It’s almost like a play on “opposites attract”. There is a sense of balance with complementary colors that has an almost jarring effect on the viewer. However, I have noticed during exhibits and art fairs, when I poll visitors, they almost always say it is the vibrancy of color that draws them to my booth, or wall, first. Then they are taken by the subjects and my story.
How do you maintain your mental health and inspiration?
In the spirit of complete transparency, I maintain my mental health with A LOT of medication and therapy. I do suffer from several mental illnesses, to include Major Depressive Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which I’ve battled for over 10 years. My mental health is extremely important to me, and is not something I take lightly. Painting is such a therapeutic act for me. It is a form of meditation- as my mind essentially goes blank for hours at a time, shifts focus, and is able to escape from daily issues. The gratification, particularly of social media sharing, and receiving feedback from followers, is similar to seeing my graphic designs on billboards and television during my days as a designer.
One particular habit that I have adopted is giving myself a yearly challenge on January 1. New Year’s 2017, my resolution was to do something creative daily, as long as I wasn’t ill or hospitalized. My styles and techniques morphed so much over the span of 365 days, I was amazed. Likewise, this year, I challenged myself to use a limited color palette based upon Pantone’s Color of the Year, Ultra Violet. Through this exercise, and my knowledge of color theory, I was able create stunning skin tones from purples, yellows and oranges.
On that note, another painting hack I have, is that I don’t use color straight from the tube. For example, if I want to create a very dark skin tone, I will use Raw Umber and Indigo Blue, then create highlights from various hues of blue.
What is some advice or tips you would give to a fellow BGWP interested in furthering their art goals and/or mobilizing her own art business?
I have found that time management is super important. I maintain two different planner systems (yes… I’m a planner nerd). I have one for my home life and another for my business, where I track everything from completed paintings, paintings sold, weekly income, social media posts etc. I am also learning to schedule time for my own self-care, which is proving to more important, the older I get.
Another tip I would offer is learning how to set your rates. A great tool I have used is an online salary calculator. I have set an hourly rate for myself, based upon education and years of experience. To that, I have added the cost of materials, transportation, overhead expenses (like studio costs), medical insurance etc. and formulated a dollar amount that is added to my base hourly rate. From there, I can estimate, by canvas size, how much a painting will cost. I’m a very fast painter, which helps keep my prices lower than other artists.
Lastly, I would advise others to read, read, read. There are some amazing books on creativity, running a creative business, creative project ideas etc. Having an arsenal of reference books in your personal library is truly invaluable.
What is next for you?
I will be teaching my very first paint and sip in Austin, Texas on Saturday, June 23. This is more than just your typical BYOB affair. It will be an intimate, catered event where I will not only teach partygoers how to paint the selected image, but also about color theory and a little interior design, so they can proudly display their work in their desired setting.
I have a few business ideas under my hat that I’m choosing to keep quiet about. I will say however, that another gallery/retail space is in the works where I will carry my clothing, housewares and jewelry lines in addition to my original paintings and prints. Due to health issues I’m giving myself an extended deadline of Winter 2019.
What does being a "black girl who paints" means to you?
Being a Black Girl Who Paints is one of the highest honors. It’s like a secret society, because we’re a pretty rare breed. That is mostly because we, as a culture, are taught that we must be athletic powerhouses, or become doctors, nurses, and lawyers etc. to be considered successful. We aren’t encouraged to be creative, or entrepreneurs, OR creative entrepreneurs for that matter.