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Comics, Cartoons and Creativity: The art of Craig Davison

An exploration of Craig Davison’s artistic inspirations – from comic books and cartoons to computer games, cinema classics and more…
Collectors adore Craig Davison’s artworks for their care-free exuberance, stylistic charm and rare glimpses into the dreams, rough and tumble of a 1970s childhood!
 
With an early career spent as a cartoonist and reference figurine sculptor, pop cultural references are ever-present in Craig Davison’s art.
 
Today, we delve into the inspiration behind his iconic paintings. From his childhood spent exploring the “city of steel” to early work experience and later shift into fine art – there’s plenty to explore.

A youth well spent

Born in 1965, Craig Davison grew up in the city of Sheffield. Famed as the “steel city” for its long history of steel and cutlery making, Sheffield is an incredibly proud, vibrant and thriving Northern town. Now one of the greenest cities in Europe (with an impressive 2.5 million trees and two-thirds of the city devoted to green spaces) – this wasn’t always the case.
 
After the First World War, Sheffield’s legendary steel industry came to a grinding halt, ushering in a period of severe unemployment and hardship. This meant many of the abandoned steel yards and factories lay empty well into the 1960s – used as playgrounds for adventurous youths.
 
Indeed, Craig Davison enjoyed care-free days riding his bike around the city streets. Children gleefully riding bikes frequently feature in paintings such as Big Air, Ramp it Up and the adventurous Viva Kidnievel! It’s a world of seemingly endless summer holidays, minimal adult supervision and childish hijinks.


What inspires the artist?

The characters in Craig Davison’s artworks reflect these youthful adventures and childhood fantasies. Often featuring pop-cultural shadows standing just behind (perhaps even protecting?) the small figures, his paintings dream big.
 
Craig Davison takes inspiration from a massive variety of sources, from comic books and cartoons to computer games, cinema classics and television series. Here are just a few of his creative muses.
 
Comic books and computer games
 
“Everywhere I look, images and ideas are lining up to be used” – Craig Davison
 
Craig Davison devoured comic books throughout his childhood, and their influence pervades his adult work.
 
Indeed, the artist’s twitter bio describes his own work as a “cartoonist passing off mediocre illustrations as fine art” – but there is certainly nothing mediocre about Craig Davison’s stunning illustrations! He lists legends of comic and cartoon illustration such as Mike Mignola (creator of Hellboy), Yoshitomo Nara’s sweet yet sinister creations and N.C. Wyeth (who illustrated The Last of the Mohicans and Treasure Island) among his inspirations.
 
The artist began his creative career working as a cartoonist during the 1980s. He drew for a large variety of comics (honing his skills with The Wombles, Bangers & Mash, and The Shoe People). Later working for a leading computer games animator, Craig Davison sculpted reference figurines for some of the most popular games. Zorro and The Hulk were just two of his credits.

More recently, Craig Davison worked as a freelance sculptor, creating amazing figurines for global brands such as Doctor Who and Harry Potter. The influence of this formative period can still be seen in imaginatively titled works such as Dr Bruce Banner is Bathed in the Full Force of the Mysterious Gamma Rays and EX-TER-MI-NATE!!
 
Whilst working as a full-time painter, Craig Davison still finds time to sculpt today – a medium that continues to bring joy to the artist.

 

Cinema classics
 
Craig Davison’s artworks all evoke a certain sense of nostalgia – not just for his specific memories, but a whole form of outdoor, superhero inspired childhood that may be lost forever. In today’s social media age, it’s difficult to picture youngsters enjoying the same care-free experiences.
 
The artist only really began painting in 2007. His work developed rapidly after winning a competition to work as an apprentice with the artist Alexander Millar. Amongst the submissions, Craig Davison’s talents shone through – and the role instigated a passion for painting that’s stayed with the artist ever since. His evocative reminiscences and passion for pop culture are perhaps best seen in his references to silver screen classics.
 
Works such as Wax-on-Wax-off incorporate the looming inspiration of the Karate Kid movies whilst Now I Know We’re Not in Kansas features Judy Garland’s shadow behind the young girl and her trusty dog. With paintings such as the Bond Trilogy joyfully depicting three boys (and their iconic counterparts) in James Bond poses – Craig Davison’s nostalgic enthusiasm really shines through.


 
Darker undertones?
 
Despite the child-like excitement and exuberance evidenced across Craig Davison’s work, his paintings occasionally develop a more sinister tone. Movies such as Jaws are brought to mind with Get out of the Water and the eerie sharks circling in Worse Things Happen at Sea. Likewise, the ominous clown announcing “the game is rigged” plays on the simple childhood image of the circus clown to create menacing undertones in our uniquely politicized world.
 
Indeed, Yoshitomo Nara (one of Craig Davison’s noted inspirations) is well known for his paintings evoking childhood loneliness and rebellion. Perhaps the most overtly “dark” of Craig Davison’s works is Voorhees a Very Good Fellow. This painting references the Jason Voorhees character in the “Friday the 13th” films – a truly terrifying hockey-mask-wearing creation driven to slaughter anyone he encounters. As a formative horror film experience for many youngsters, his presence looms behind the child laughingly playing dress-up.


 
So, how to sum-up Craig Davison’s varied artistic oeuvre? Perhaps it’s best to leave the last word to the artist himself…
 
“All you need to know is that I enjoy painting and I hope you like the results” – Craig Davison
 
And we hope you enjoy exploring Craig Davison’s work!
 

Why not browse Craig Davison’s complete collection at the Artmarket Gallery? We are proud to host some of the country’s leading artists and love matching people with artworks they adore. Get in touch with our friendly, knowledgeable team and we’d be delighted to assist.