The Herald Banner, Greenville, TX

May 16, 2012

Using water to paint the world

By AMBER POMPA
Herald-Banner Staff

GREENVILLE — Walt Davis has always felt an affinity with nature and uses that rapport in the creation of his art.

Walt’s favorite medium is watercolor and most recently one of his works, in which three insects are the focal point, was selected to be a part of the American Watercolor Society’s highly competitive 145th annual exhibition in New York April 3-22. at the Salmagundi Club on Fifth Avenue.

More than 1,200 watercolorists from the United States and abroad entered one work each for consideration with 140 making the final cut.

“When I stepped back to look at the painting I chose to enter I thought, ‘Who did that?’” said Davis. “I guess I couldn’t believe I had done that and when I found out it was selected ... what a high!”

Davis’ work depicted four insects — a praying mantis, a katydid, a wasp and a tiger beetle —  in striking detail using watercolors in natural, earthy tones. Davis found these insects around his tree-shrouded property just outside of Commerce and meticulously studied them under a microscope he was gifted by his wife, Isabel.

Davis’ fascination with nature was something he developed early in his youth growing up in the Texas panhandle.

“When I was in grade school, Saturday mornings I would hide a piece of chocolate under my bed with a canteen of water, a pair of binoculars and a bird identification book, and before anyone else was up I was out,” said Davis. “I’ve been looking very closely at nature for a very long time and that’s what fuels my art.”

Davis sketches out his work before applying watercolors to it. He uses a drawing table that has a light inside so that he can see the lines and where the shapes should take place.

“A lot of drawings have been made on my table, both mine and my students,” he said. “It definitely gets a lot of use.”

Davis teaches beginning and intermediate watercolor classes. Classes will begin in September with Beginning Watercolor to be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays and Intermediate Watercolor will run from 6 to 9 p.m. Mondays.

For more information on cost and supplies, along with a synopsis and examples of students’ work visit Davis’ Web site at www.exploringtheedgesoftexas.com.

“I’ve been teaching here for six years, though everywhere I’ve lived I’ve taught,” said Davis. “I love to teach.”

Davis began his teaching through Eastfield College, followed by Amarillo College, finally ending up teaching out of his own studio adjacent to his home just outside of Commerce.

Davis’ medium is watercolor, so that’s the majority of what he teaches, though sketch work does come into play.

“I told myself years ago I’d learn to do watercolor and then I’d take up something else,” said Davis. “I’m still learning and I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

Davis has been painting for 30 years with no signs of slowing down.

In addition to his work with watercolors, Davis’ passion for nature led him to the Dallas Museum of Natural History where, for many years, he produced wildlife dioramas and worked closely with muralist Olin Travis and Granville Bruce.

He started as an intern in 1964 and was hired on right out of college, began working there during the summers while still in high school and got hired on permanently right out of college.

Davis attended Tyler Junior College where he earned an associate of arts degree, followed by a bachelor of arts degree with a major in zoology and a minor in geology from the University of Texas. He later went on to earn a master of science degree in wildlife science from Texas A&M University-College Station.

All of this was done while Davis worked in the Dallas Museum of Natural History, now the Museum of Nature and Science.  Davis spent 28 years at the Dallas Museum of Natural History, where he did field work, collected specimens for the collection, designed and built exhibits, and planned and led field trips to many locations in Texas. He was Assistant Director for Long-Range Planning and was instrumental in getting the Ramses the Great exhibit to come to Dallas in 1989, serving as project director for the exhibit. In 1992 he became the Director of the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum.  He retired in 2004, though he still served as a museum consultant until 2009.

Davis and his wife, Isabel are also members of the Texas Archeological Society and have participated in several digs, called field school which last for one full week, which were hot and messy, but infinitely interesting, according to Davis.

The pair also spent five years traveling the 4,000-mile border of Texas and writing about their experiences in the book they coauthored, “Exploring the Edges of Texas.”

Leaving pavement behind they hiked, canoed, and rafted into some of the most remote, unforgiving and spectacularly beautiful parts of the Lone Star State finally writing about their experiences, with Davis serving as writer and illustrator.