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Conversations with Timothy Davison

Today we’d like to introduce you to Timothy Davison.

Hi Timothy, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself
Since I was a kid in a small town called Wahoo, Nebraska, I’ve had a passion for art and wildlife. I carried around an animal encyclopedia stuffed with drawing paper for years trying to sketch the animals inside. I was set on being an artist out of school, but then I got an unbelievable opportunity to become a wildlife educator.

Throughout my twenties, I worked with non-profits, zoos, and wildlife rescues, and in doing so, I traveled to all 50 states and worked with a multitude of animals; like kangaroos, snakes, and wolves and I spoke to over a million people about wildlife conservation and sustainability. In 2013, I met my wife while competing to host an online reboot of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom; She won, and I fell in love.

Since then, we’ve done various wildlife and film-related projects, but all the while, I never stopped thinking about art and I always returned to painting during my time off. I kept selling paintings on the side and partnering with wildlife organizations on their fundraisers and conservation projects, and slowly it has become more and more of a full-time business. In 2021, we moved to Eureka, Missouri when my wife was offered the position of Director of Education at the Endangered Wolf Center.

I just finished building out my new art studio and am looking forward to producing more, and larger work in 2022.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Of course not. But the best and least visited places on Earth are at the end of rough roads. In my experience, the rough spots in life have taught me the most about who I am and what I want to become.

The summer after my junior year in high school, my dad died suddenly; He was the glue that held my family together. Without him there, I started going down a pretty rough road. I got in trouble with the police one night not too long after his funeral and was sentenced to, among other things, a 7:00 pm curfew my senior year of high school. So, instead of hanging out with friends, I stayed at home and painted every night. That year solidified my love for painting, it really saved me.

As an artist, and as someone who has worked with animals otherwise, there have always been naysayers, but I learned early on to shrug off that sort of thing. My mom had a blend of physical and mental health issues that resulted in her frequently making a scene in public. From emptying a five-gallon popcorn bag in a lobby of a movie theater when told she couldn’t bring it in, to more visits from fire trucks, ambulances, and police officers than I care to remember.

Working with her health issues was a struggle until she died in 2013. But, somewhere in there, I learned that things like naysayers and embarrassment aren’t the worst thing in the world, and usually, she got what she wanted in the end.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I am an artist that specializes in painting wildlife. I like to tell stories in and about my paintings that get at something deeper about the species or their place in the world today. I work with oils on wood and canvas and range from multi-colored loose depictions to clean black and white portraits, to photo-realistic work. I like to mix it up, but all of my work has to do with wildlife somehow.

Although I love my time painting in the studio or sharing a timelapse on social media, I most enjoy painting in public. I am beginning to be known as “the guy who paints in suspenders”. I used to paint in scrubby clothes, but I remembered that someone once told me: “Tim, since your art is your highest form, you should look your best when in public sharing your art.” So, I started wearing a tie and suspenders when I paint, and since then a crowd of curious people gather behind me to watch me paint.

I am really proud of a series that I have been doing for years now, I work with zookeepers that offer painting as a fun enrichment project to the animals they care for. After the animal finishes their masterpiece, I paint a portrait of the animal artist on top of their work. This “interspecies collaboration” project has been a lot of fun and has raised a lot of money for animal care and conservation.

What do you think about happiness?
I’m generally a happy guy, I believe that happiness is a choice. But in general, painting makes me happy. Ice cream makes me happy. Coffee makes me happy.

And, making people cry makes me really happy – when it comes to my art, of course. Specifically, when I ship out a painting and I get a message back, like, “I love it so much, it made me cry.”

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