Pushing the boundaries of stylistic guildelines, McDavid Henderson is a Boulder-based artist whose work uniquely captures experiences and moments in time. Drawing inspiration from a huge range of mediums and creative outlets, from Tony Morrison to jazz to John Coltrane to hip hop and more, Henderson’s work resists standard definitions in the best ways possible.
Lisa: How did you get started drawing?
McDavid: Around the holidays one year in elementary school, I remember coloring a picture of a Christmas tree in a coloring book. First, I did a traditional drawing with a green tree, some candy canes and standard circle-shaped ornaments. I finished it quickly, so I started another one. The second one was much more colorful and had this radiating color going out from around the tree, and it was very different from the first. In retrospect, I like to think the only way I could have colored that second, more unique tree is by having done the first one, and I still have that outlook in my art.
Lisa: So you enjoy the artistic process?
McDavid: It’s the act of creating that I’m really attracted to. I like understanding that artistic lineage.
Lisa: Do you feel you have a signature style?
McDavid: Not really. I enjoy self autonomy, artistic freedom and not being pigeonholed. I draw inspiration from a lot of different subjects, like music, literature or pretty much any experience that can be a gateway into that creative mindset.
Lisa: What are some examples?
McDavid: In my formative years, jazz was a big influence. I like trying to evoke a feeling or an idea in my art in a nonverbal language. Jazz is a very free genre of music, where you take the kernel of an idea and expand and improvise on it, but you’re still always tethered to reality.
Lisa: Do you still find that genre inspires you?
McDavid: Now, I’d say, I also get inspired by riding my bike. I’m very interested in transitions and when you’re out riding, especially in Colorado and in the mountains, you’re always going through different environments and changing weather, and it leads to very transitional moments and images.
Lisa: I see you do calligraphy that’s black and white, but a lot of your other work is very colorful. What’s so different about those two styles?
McDavid: I like to straddle both worlds so that I don’t have anything limiting me. I want to feel free to create what I want to and come up with the best visual solution for a project without getting stuck doing one specific “themed” art. I’m intrigued by Romare Bearden, an artist at the tail end of the Harlem Renaissance, who did a lot of photo montages and collages. I’ve found that collage pieces are still essentially drawing. I’m still making decisions like whether I should take a hand out here, what texture I should use for the background and so on. So, it’s a practice in drawing and combining images. I’m all about peace and love, so whether it’s through specific imagery or how I’m handling multiple mediums, that moment of viewer clarity is what I’m looking for.
Lisa: Is that what makes you feel like you’ve accomplished what you’re looking to do with your art?
McDavid: When someone looks at my work and gets a smile on their face, that smile of recognition and understanding when they see what I’m doing or where I’m going. When they have that clarification when interacting with my art, that makes me feel accomplished.