We just love it when you’re searching for music and you find a painter instead. We found Devan John on Instagram whilst watching clips of musicians doing covers of the famous, Tom Misch. She was dancing and painting a beautiful bright orange piece (below).
Anyone who likes Tom and is an artist is worth talking to, especially to find out what they think about music and art – and in this case, what other great artist does she love?
We spoke to Devan to find out she got into art, who she would like to share a studio with and her tips for the aspiring artist.
Knewyu: How did you get into art? Is there anyone else in your family who are artists?
Devan: Ever sense I was little I wanted to be an actor or an artist. You know those quizzes you take in elementary school to help guide you into a career? I would purposefully choose the answer I knew would help me get artist or actor. I loved art and everything that went with it – growing up – jewelry making, Legos, drawing, making cards, photography, painting, clay building. I also excelled in those subjects throughout school because of my love for art. I guess I should have known going into college that choosing to be a physical therapist wasn’t the right path. After a year at MSU I decided to take some art classes to determine if that’s what I really wanted to do with my future. I never looked back after that.
My family has some artistic talent. Both my parents loved painting and drawing, and my grandmother was a crafter her whole life. I loved being at her house knowing I could do some crafts with her. However like most artists, we are told from day one being a artist means we’re going to eat beans and rice for the rest of our lives. I love beans and rice haha so that was a chance I was willing to take.
K: Do you do anything else besides art? What are some of your hobbies?
D: Living in California and the Bay area specifically there are so many things to do. I take full advantage of all the activities you can do here. I run, surf, bike, rock climb, play soccer, dance, I just recently picked up rollerskating and mountain biking which I love SO MUCH (but I am totally a beginner). So many things to do with so little time.
K: We, at Knewyu really feel that music has a part to play in the other forms of art that we create, whether that be painting, drawing, fashion etc. That’s also how we came across you on Instagram. Our founder, Nadine Hamilon was looking through Tom Misch tags and saw a video of you painting in your studio. So with that said, do you have any favourite artists, albums or songs that you enjoy listening to while you work?
D: I completely agree with you. I have music bumping in the background every time I paint (usually pretty loud too). I like feeling the good vibes and dancing here and there. Painting makes me happy and I embrace it with good tunes. Two artist I could listen to on repeat are Tom Misch’s album, Beat Tape 2 and Disclosure’s album, Settle. A tad dancey and crazy enough to help the creativity flow.
Some songs I am super into are: Du Tonc “Every Song,” Sam Sparro “Hands Up,” Ben Pearce “What I Might Do-Kilter Remix,” Coleman Hell “Venezuela,” Pomo “Start again-feat. Andrea Cormier,” Amtrac “Alone-Amtrac Remix,” Banks “Warm Water-Snakehips Remix” and so many more.
K: What is a typical day like in the life of Devan?
D: A typical day for me would be waking up 6/6:30am to catch a train to San Francisco. I work for the Academy of Art University as a gallery assistant. It’s a pretty rad job, I get to bike to all the different locations around the city. My morning commute is beautiful biking along the pier seeing the bay bridge. Once I am at the gallery, there are several tasks to complete throughout the day; some being installing artist exhibitions, talking about art with visitors, packing and shipping art, maintaining inventory, and talking with students. It’s a fairly new job. Previously I was located at a gallery in Palo Alto, CA.
When the work day is done I head home, blast some music, cook some good food (which usually ends up being tacos, stir-fry or pizza) haha. My nightly activities involve chilling in the garage, either listening to some of the artist I listed above or putting on the record player and listening to America, Steve Miller Band, or Led Zeppelin. I’ll paint, draw, and/or skate around. Depends on the night. My week days are pretty scheduled out so usually there is an activity planned every night.
Days off are much more relaxed. Wake up around 8:30/9am eat some good ole breakfast and start painting. I head to the garage (my studio space) around 10am and before I know it, it would be 3:30pm. Painting is a nice escape, especially when music is playing and I love the concept I am working on. I like using my days off to paint, and exercise. Weekends are all about surfing, skateparks, and adventuring around California. You’ve gotta get out and learn about where you live! Too many people don’t take advantage of their own backyard!
K: If you could share an art studio for a day with 3 people, who would they be and why?
D: Oh man that is a hard one. Since I have worked in galleries it’s hard to say. There are so many cool forms of art that I want to learn about. One artist I would love to learn from via sharing a studio is Miya Ando. She makes these super cool anodized aluminum pieces. I have no idea how she does it, but they are so contemporary and usually have some really interesting color fades.
My second artist is probably Salvador Dali. He was such an odd egg, and I love his work. I feel we would have been great friends. Lastly, hmm…I really don’t know three is so hard to choose from. I would have loved to share with Monet and Picasso and Van Gogh, but I am going to have to go with Charmaine Olivia. Her paintings are dream like portraits. So beautifully done and she paints with bright colors. I LOVE her color palette.
K: What are some of the challenges you have faced being in the creative industry and how did you overcome those challenges or setbacks?
D: I have gotten pretty lucky so far. I love working in the gallery scene which is great for networking and learning about the other side artists don’t often see. The hardest part for me is finding the time to paint. Having a full time job and painting on the side is a lot. I don’t get to paint everyday like I wish I could. Maybe someday.
I am currently working on a new series that I hope gets me into a gallery soon. My goal is one gallery by the end of the year. Which would honestly be a dream come true. I don’t quite know how hard it is to get into a gallery, but I do see it as a challenge that I am up for. I believe that if I love what I am doing and my viewers respond well to my work, there is a gallery out there somewhere that will show my work.
K: What has been the greatest highlight of your career so far?
D: I graduated last spring and my senior show was quite an experience. My viewers responded well to my work, and more people than I thought wanted to purchase it. I was surprised, but I shouldn’t be.
Another great highlight was when I discovered my recent concept I am working on. I love it so much and it is fun to do. Since starting with the concept of dreamlike landscapes and portals into another world, I have thought about several different ways I can go with it. I believe that means there is a future with the concept, something to build on and hopefully make a name for myself in the style.
K: What advice would you give to an aspiring artist?
Like most artist’s would say, keep going, mess up, get mad, wreck something you’ve already started. I struggled for a year to find something I was excited to paint again. Consider things that you have done in the past that were successful and that gave you fulfillment. There is most likely more there to be discovered. My excitement of landscape, geometric shapes, and organic line making led me to my current style. If you haven’t already found your thing, you’ve gotta keep trying, like most things it just takes some time and effort.
Thank you so much Devan for this interview and your advice!