Painter Jason Edward Davis resides in a surreal, kitsch world inhabited by an army of kittens. Sounds like some kind of heaven, if you ask us.
A recent graduate from the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Oregon, Jason attributes the start of his painting career to a close run-in with reality in a supermarket. “The day was February 19th; I was backed up against the canned goods in aisle 12. Wolves were circling. My hairspray can was almost empty. I had to think quickly. Two options presented themselves, turn into a wizard and finally accept my love of accounting and daytime television or paint my way out of this situation.”
Turning his back on the prospect banality, Jason painted his way into a cute colour-pop world of cats, cats and more cats. His portfolio including portraits of our favourite internet dwellers Lil Bub and Grumpy Cat.
Staring into the eyes of Jason’s wide-eyed kittens (which he strongly advises against doing), we’re reminded of the popular kitschy 60s waif paintings by Margaret Keane and co. Coincidentally, he acknowledges the painting style was of huge influence to him. “My love of Keane’s work was the first step on this dangerous and sexy path. I mean, now I spend my nights roaming the streets with an army of kittens, but in the beginning I would spend every morning drawing those big-eyed-sad-kids who are just trying as hard as they can to learn how to be loved.”
Please note: If eyes are windows to the soul, don’t be fooled by the look of innocence Jason’s kittens wear so well.
Eccentric Jason claims his day-to-day influences are a little rough around the edges. As a self-confessed “awkward painter”, it’s no surprise that the disarray of “mistakes and drunken confessions” are among his inspirations. Yet cats are always the prevailing theme, “every time I sit down to paint one of these things, a cat crawls across my brain and makes itself comfortable all over the canvas,” he muses.
His forays into painting pussies weren’t always well-received, with his skeptical college professors claiming that “no one was interested”. Jason always begged to differ, arguing “they haven’t seen that look of absolute delight on a cat lover’s face when they stand before a cat painting.” And we couldn’t agree more. Old Tat were oh-so-guilty of getting giddy at the sight of Jason’s Instagram feed when we discovered his work a few months back.
Seeing his work make other people happy, the effect became infectious and Jason’s love for cats grew. “Now I can’t pass a cat in a window, in a drawing, a painting, on the back shelves of a thrift store, or a random strangers t-shirt without making an awkward squawk of joy. Stupid cats mean the world to me.”
His ultimate muse and “chubby-buddy sidekick” was his late pet cat Tibet, appointed leader of his kitten army in 2000. “In spite of some pretty terrible outfit choices, he stood by me with a stupid grin and two paws ready for kneading for almost fifteen years. I’m still struggling with his decision to become a full-time ghost last year, but I hear the benefits are great.”
This month Jason will be taking his work to Los Angeles ‘LA Feline Film Festival’. While we’re jealous enough about missing out there, he’ll also be heading to the first Living Dead Horror Convention in Portland. “I’m excited to explore that fine line between horror lovers and cat lovers.”
Yet Jason has set himself a goal to reach before the year is out; “being buried underneath a pile of fat cats with breathing problems.” So, when can we join you?
Words by Alice Freeman