originally published in Avenue magazine, June 2005
By Brian Tucker
David Hervey confidently sings back up vocals to Sly and the Family Stone’s “Everyday People” accompanying lead singer Mark Herbert of local band Cosmic Groove Lizards. The band is rehearsing for an upcoming show, performing every weekend over the next two months. That leaves Hervey little time for his real passion, painting.
“I’ve been so busy between work and playing shows that I haven’t painted as much as I’d like to,” Hervey says.
His artwork is on display at Port City Java (Front Street and Wrightsville Beach) as well as The Rage hair salon in Westfield Mall. Facets of Hervey’s daily routine point to artistic expression – playing music, painting, and creating art at home where he typically produces four to five pieces a month. Even his day job working at a sign shop, Fast Signs, allows for creativity whether its layout and design or the numerous hand drawn cartoons that adorn the store’s work area by Hervey and coworkers.
His home is filled with artwork, from paintings and sculptures to an oversized Mr. T-styled Mardi Gras style mask and puppets reminiscent of Crank Yankers, just more surreal. The fireplace is adorned with more creations including a small character Hervey created for his girlfriend with items normally discarded.
Like an artistic MacGyver, Hervey has a knack for taking varied materials and creating lively art. There’s a headboard in a spare room shared with a boa constrictor. Hervey painted and ornamented it with tiny party lights along the top.
A cool breeze moves through the house and paintings are line the walls. In an adjacent room there are numerous painted guitars and packaged toys. Two large pieces take up space in the kitchen where Hervey and his girlfriend prepare seafood and pasta while a Jack Johnson CD plays.
“I have to drop those off,” Hervey confesses “but I haven’t had the time.” They are huge pieces, perhaps five feet by seven feet.
In addition to his own creations Hervey likes to paint famous people and characters such as a Tusken Raider from Star Wars to The Beatles and the Notorious B.I.G. which was recently used for a scene in the locally filmed Dead Heist. He shares an interest in numerous art mediums, from paper Mache to painting, but is primarily focused on using acrylics.
“I like the immediacy of acrylics,” he says. “I prefer it because it dries faster.”
Once an idea for a piece presents itself Hervey wants to see it finished, while the energy and passion exists. He also searches for objects to paint besides the canvas, objects that range from cut wood, old furniture to guitars.
“I look for something plain and then create something according to my style,” he says. “Right now, I’m really into painting on guitars.”
However, when painting on canvas, he prefers to use a pallet knife for abstract pieces and utilizing the paint splattering technique. The resulting three dimensional surface textures on the canvas add a different, tactile quality.
His work avoids general themes of beach scenes and sail boats. Those works are beautiful in their own right, but they beg for attention from onlookers, generally drifting into the wall they are displayed on.
“I am interested in doing pieces that are unique,” he says. “I enjoy using vibrant colors and painting on thick canvases.”
Hervey stretches his own canvas using the galley wrap technique seen mostly on painted pieces. The canvas is wrapped around to the backside of the frame leaving the sides exposed. This results in the painting “wrapping around” and not existing solely on the surface of the canvas.
“You don’t have to frame it and the look of a deep canvas jumps off the wall,” he says.
In addition to painting on canvas, Hervey also creates masks and paints statuesque wood pieces that would accentuate an office or living room. He’s turned down a lot of jobs doing commission work, such as portraits, believing that it limits the creative aspect of the work itself.
“The money is nice,” he says. “But it’s limiting as far as creating goes.”
Hervey’s style has a surreal, dreamlike quality. Even the realism pieces he’s done of musicians from photos have a sleepy, Waking Life quality, most notably his painting of reggae musician Gregory Isaacs. There is a spiritual presence in his work and many pieces display the embracing of two characters. But generally ideas simply emanate from thoughts or the day to day machinations of handling customers.
In the piece “Last Straw” there are two bulbous looking characters with gnashed teeth, their fingers almost interlocking. The painting uses orange and light brown tones, suggesting hostility and banality.
“It’s about customers and frustration, getting on my last nerve,” he says.
This piece illustrates one of Hervey’s approaches to creating. Either he has an idea clearly in mind or simply starts with a certain color on the canvas. There’s no particular concern for subject matter, the point is to get something on the canvas.
“The blank page scenario,” he jokes.
Some attempts are sketched out first on the canvas and painted that way. The approach is very organic, especially with the abstract pieces. If he doesn’t like the result then it can be easily fixed.
“I can always paint over it and start again,” he says.
Hervey prefers to create larger pieces, four by four feet in size, believing they are more striking and command attention, not to mention filling up wall space.
Hervey’s favorite artists include Dali (“great surrealism”) and Pollock (“lively, energetic”) and cites Ivey Hayes as his favorite local artist.
“Hayes incorporates musicians in his work and he’s a musician as well,” he says.
Drawing and doing pencil work since he was a child, in high school Hervey would create masks and then began painting in earnest attending Eastern Carolina University, growing more serious upon graduation. The interest in art can be traced back to a younger age and from his uncle, who also plays guitar and paints.
“It sort of runs in the family,” he says.