Black Visual Artist Chat – David Snipes


David is an exceptional emerging visual artist with the ability to use multiple mediums to express his creativity. He has truly developed his own signature style in his craft. With his talent, and business acumen, David has made his presence known across the DC metropolitan area. These attributes will prove beneficial in David’s longevity as a professional artist. Gain a deeper perspective into David’s artistry, as well as his personal journey.

Me: Describe your upbringing, where you’re originally from, and family background.

David: I grew up in Brandywine, Maryland about 30 minutes outside of DC. I’m a country boy (laughing). I grew up in the countryside. I lived there for about 9 years with my grandmother. It was me, my two sisters, and my parents. When I was 15 we moved out of my grandmother’s house to another house about five minutes away. I went to college at Frostburg State University. That was nice, I kind of grew up there. I learned some more stuff about art, I learned some more stuff about what I want out of life, you know things of that nature. It’s all been a journey. Being a country boy, I wanted to see a little bit more of what the city life has to offer. So I like to go out into the city a lot, I do a lot of events there.

David: I graduated from Frostburg State University in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree with a dual focus in fine art and painting/graphic design. The painting part was more appealing to me, the graphic design part I found kind of boring. For me, graphic design wasn’t stimulating enough. It wasn’t taught in the most creative way that I would have liked to explore it. With painting you were just more interactive with it, that appealed to me, you could put your body into it and make things happen in the moment. I learned good techniques there, and some of my techniques are self-taught. I still have a group of friends I still talk to till this very day from there. It’s not necessarily the place I would of chose but I guess it was divine intervention, I was supposed to be there. It’s a little bit more of a melting pot then you would think. I didn’t think there was going to be that many black people up here but there were more than I thought. Overall, I appreciate it for what it brought to my life.

“With painting you were just more interactive with it, that appealed to me, you could put your body into it and make things happen in the moment.”

Me: How has your art degree prepared you for pursuing a career as an artist?

David: This is not my 9 to 5, my 9 to 5 is actually working with persons with developmental disabilities. But  I’ve always believed in art being a service. The one thing I want to do is go back to school for art therapy. That’s something I’m really looking into. Art has the power to connect people not just by looking at it but by also interacting with and doing it. That’s something I always wanted to keep up with, I don’t want to just let that go. There’s fun in making art with other people, it makes you learn something about yourself.

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We about the business. #artistlife

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Me: That’s very true. What types of mediums do you use to create your work?

David: For the last few months, I’ve been using markers and I’m really having fun using those. I started using those full-time since around last Christmas. I like how the markers blend and I like how instantaneous it is. I guess it kind of appeals to what I like to do now. The type of artist I am, nowadays I don’t like to work so long on something. I’ll take my time on something absolutely; good things take time. But at the same time, I want to get this piece done so I can move on to the next thing. I don’t like to dwell on certain projects too long. Because after awhile if you do it too long, you’re going to get bored with it and you’re going to stop. I use copic markers now. I’ll try to find the right colors that are suitable for the quality that I have in mind and just get started. They dry very fast and I like that type of immediacy that they have to offer.

“The type of artist I am, nowadays I don’t like to work so long on something. I don’t like to dwell on certain projects too long…if you do it too long, you’re going to get bored with it and you’re going to stop.”

I always like to use mixed media though. Even though I prefer markers, I also use colored pencils on top of them. You can blend better with markers but they’re more flat. However, if you want a certain effect like a little bit more pointillism or creating actual pores in the skin, you can use colored pencils for that. I do want to try colored pencils more exclusively as well.

Me: Excellent, you making my job easy man (laughing) just talking, I love it! You mentioned an excellent point that you don’t like to dwell too long on pieces. That’s kind of my problem. I like to be a super perfectionist on pieces. The medium I work with is colored pencils. So, I like to try to get the shading just right, try to do the photo-realism type of thing and it takes me a long time to release a piece. If you could give an estimate, on average, how long does it take you to create a piece?

David: Well, most of my stuff I do now is done on 9 by 12 inch paper. But, I want to get myself to work bigger. I’m starting to work on 18 by 24. So normally, I could knock out a piece within two to four hours.

Me: Wow, yea that’s pretty fast!

David: Yea, but the beautiful thing about it is that you’re in the moment. You’re not thinking about time when you do it of sorts. I had an epiphany one time when I was looking at a finished work of mine and I asked myself ‘How did you do that’ and I answered myself ‘I don’t know’. You might be in that Zen sort of state about it and be like ‘okay I’m going to get this done’. Then you just get it done.  It’s not like you’re totally blocking out but you’re just in the moment. At the end of the day you look at it like ‘wow this is what happened’.

Me: Yea, I completely agree art is very therapeutic in a sense, you’re creating something out of nothing pretty much.

David: Absolutely! That’s what it is for me. It’s a great thing to do. I’m trying to get myself to draw a little bit more often, I don’t draw as much as I used to but I need to. Now I try to draw about 4 or 5 times a week. I try to draw more stuff that I want to do now. Nowadays I really get my high off of doing live shows. I really like doing my artwork in front of people because it’s connective. That’s just something I really enjoy.

“Nowadays I really get my high off of doing live shows. I really like doing my artwork in front of people because it’s connective.”

Me: So, you really like the feel of the community aspect behind just creating art in front of people?

David: Yea you can say that, I really like the feedback and the sales (laughing). Doing my art in front of people means more to me now than just doing it by myself.

Me: Nice. That’s whassup man! By the way, you mentioned earlier that you have an event coming up. Can you give me some background info about it?

David: It’s a show that an artist friend of mine put me onto. It’s called “Pop Rocks and Now & Laters”. It’s celebrating hip-hop history month. It’s in Hyattsville, Maryland. One of my artist friends told them about me and she hit me up on Instagram asking if I’d like to participate. So, it worked out for me. A lot of stuff I get involved in happens by word of mouth but I also do call people as well. I like to try to get myself out there publicly as opposed to sitting by myself and drawing pictures for social media. I feel like it’s more to me than that now. I like people to just really see what I’m doing within the moment.

Me: Wow, I never actually done the live type of art so It’ll definitely be a different type of experience.

David: There’s really nothing like it, I really enjoy it. I don’t think I would do much else.

Me: That’s really cool man. Describe how you approach your creative process; what’s your ideal environment to bring out your full range of creativity?

David: I mainly do portraits, so I like to look at people that inspire me. I really like to do research on the person that I’d like to depict. I feel like that’s your responsibility with the art. How can you draw somebody just because they’re popular and you don’t really know who they are? I’m a big history buff by the way, so that plays a major role in it as well. I’m really into the Civil Rights Movement and I’m really into the Renaissance period especially with Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci. I try to draw people that I know the significance of what they did. With that said, I try to find a picture that I could relate to and one that I’ll have fun drawing. The picture has to speak to me basically.

Me: I see what you’re saying and I think that just makes it even better when you have a good background knowledge of the person you’re drawing. Then, you’re getting the soul of the person when you create the art, and people can feel that.

David: Absolutely. That’s something that’s really important to me. I hope that my artwork will actually make you want to learn more about the person I drew. A lot of my stuff that I draw is Afrocentric. I also draw more people from history than I do of today. That’s because I want you to learn about them. I drew this one lady, her name is Clara Hale. In the 80s she was this old lady who took in children and babies who had HIV/AIDS, either they were affected through their parents doing drugs and crack addicted babies as well. I read about her and I thought the story was so great and I was like ‘let me do a portrait of her.’ That was something that felt good to me because they got to learn about this woman, but you also enjoyed the artwork as well. I try to see it as a way to educate through my artwork as well.

Me: Wow, I never heard of her before, I have to look her up.

David: The picture is on my Instagram, I drew it like two years ago though. I don’t even like to draw celebrities all the time. I sometimes scroll on social media just to see if there is a picture of somebody that’s from a different culture or a different era. Then I’ll create my own story behind their look. One thing that I feel like we as artists we have to do is find our own style. I don’t just want to be known for drawing celebrities. I try to draw people I know because their story is just as interesting as celebrities too. It’s a bit like Van Gogh; I’m a big Van Gogh fan. He talked about his life through his artwork and made it his own style. That’s why he’s a brand name. If you can really talk about stuff that’s going on with you and things that you see in your life, then people will really follow YOU. I don’t want people to just like my photos because I’m drawing another picture of Martin Luther King or Tupac. I don’t want a fanbase just because I draw the flavor of the month. That’s why I try to stray from drawing people that’s so common.

Me:  Yea, those are some excellent points you mentioned. You definitely want to have your own style. I praise you for having your own style. It’s truly unique what you’re doing. I haven’t really seen too much out there that’s quite like your work.

David: Thank you, I appreciate that.

Me: If you could collaborate with any artist on an upcoming piece, who would it be and why?

David: I’m open to collaborating with anybody really, there’s no set person who I’d love to collaborate with but there are artists that I tremendously respect. For example, on Instagram there are a few artists I follow like (@razitozulu, @cahnartist, @rinzo_d, @da_angryartist, and @iam_artist_jai). I see what they do and I try to incorporate little flicks of them into my work, and I think that’s what has made me a better artist. I don’t think I would be using markers as much if it wasn’t for Instagram. Seeing artists use markers and other mediums in their own unique way, I feel like what they’re doing is great work and that inspires me to try it. One artist that I truly respect is Kehinde Wiley. I’m a big fan of his work. He’s on fire. I really love his work because he’s a big storyteller with his work. I love people that can tell stories with their art. That’s something I strive to do but I don’t feel like I’ve gotten there yet. It’s not so celebrity inspired, he’ll just take people off the street and say ‘hey can I draw you.’ As an artist, that’s major because he’s coming out of his comfort zone. That’s something really big and it’s actually him acknowledging these models and references and audiences for his work.

“I love people that can tell stories with their art. That’s something I strive to do but I don’t feel like I’ve gotten there yet.”

Me: Excellent answer! I definitely love Kehinde Wiley’s work. Like you were saying he’ll pick up these random people on the street and then he’ll do a piece based on them. The fact that he covers a variety of people of the diaspora that’s just inspiring within itself. He’s covered people in Haiti, Brazil, and different countries in Africa, he’s just a global phenomenon.

David: I feel you. Yea, I’m a really big fan of him, he’s really inspiring.

Me: It’s cool that you’re actually seeing him more in pop culture too, like on Empire they’ll have some of his pieces featured on the show. I’m glad they’re actually doing that to expose more people to his art.

David: I got to respect Empire for putting out cultural things like that. For example, there was an episode where Lucious Lyon was having a conversation with Alicia Keys character, and he mentioned black artist Mickalene Thomas. They’re putting black culture out there in the spotlight. I like how they’re doing that.

Me: Yea, and it introduces them to a whole new generation as well, and that’s what keeps the culture going.

David: Absolutely! That’s what I really respect about that.

Me: Definitely! What has been the best advice you’ve received in regards to developing your artistry?

David: You get that common response just to keep going and that’s a very good mantra. I don’t take that away from anybody that has ever told me that. Truth is, if I didn’t keep going, then I wouldn’t be on the phone with you right now. Everything happens for a reason. But, I would say I think that whatever your craft is you kind of go about that mantra yourself. One thing I’ve noticed about myself is that how you approach your craft is how you approach your life. If you’re scared to go to work, you’re scared to live your life. But if you’re happy to go to work then you’re happy in your life. You find things, you expect things. There’s times when I expected something in my artwork, and I didn’t do it. Either I was happy or mad about it, but it’s all reflection. That’s another reason why I love to do live artwork. I was at an event about a month ago and I started a drawing that I was going to color with markers and I just didn’t like the drawing. I think I drew it for about five minutes then you know you get that artist’s intuition, knowing that ‘I’m not going to like this.’ So, I just ripped it up. Then someone else was behind me looking at it and said ‘really you’re going to rip that up’ and I said ‘yea, I didn’t like it.’ He said ‘really? I thought that was great.’  I was drawing Muhammad Ali and I ended up going with the second drawing. It’s kind of like reflecting on your life. Sometimes you got to just let stuff go and move on to the next thing. It’s more through invention than advice that I’ve realized doing what I do.

“One thing I’ve noticed about myself is that how you approach your craft is how you approach your life.”

Me: Woo! I love that man. I’m a knowledge seeker myself, so I’m always looking for wisdom wherever I can.

David: That’s good man, definitely need more people like you.

Me: What’s your favorite piece you created and why?

David: I’m always looking forward to the next one really, I’m not just saying that to sound profound or anything. My favorite is always the one I just finished. I don’t want to sit there and be like ‘that’s my favorite piece’ because I’d feel like I’m never going to top it. I actually hate it when people tell me this is my favorite artwork of yours. I know they mean well, but to me it means that in their head that’s their top one. You can tell me you really like it but don’t tell me that it’s your favorite. After I finish a piece, I’ll glorify it for a couple of minutes then I’ll move on to the next one.


Me: You took a different approach to that question (laughing) I never thought of it like that.

David: It’s kind of like Luke Cage when he says ‘never backward, always forward.’ You got to keep moving forward.

Me: Are there any other artists in your family?

David: Yea, my sister’s a graphic designer; she did that after she got out of college. She actually went to grad school at Savannah College of Art and Design. She has a good amount clients and she has a buzz in the area. I’m really proud of her, she’s doing great work. She does a lot of stuff around here. My father told me that she did a billboard for the Fillmore out in Silver Spring, MD. We don’t really talk about artwork though unless I got to design something, like I got to design some business cards for myself soon. Outside of that, me and her never really talked about art per se. It actually surprised me that she did graphic design. I didn’t know that she was interested in design until she got into college.

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Me: Hmmm, really? Obviously you always knew that she was an artist pretty much right?

David: To be honest with you I didn’t know that. Growing up she was all about dancing. I thought maybe she would be a dancer, and she talked about being a scientist. I guess maybe she came to the epiphany to be a graphic designer in high school.

Me: That’s interesting. My brother and my sister used to draw as well. They don’t really do it anymore though, they both have their own families too. We all let it go for some time.

David: Yea, sometimes it just goes like that. I guess people still have the ability to surprise you.

Me: That’s very true. I just recently started drawing again too. I’m trying to hold on to it (laughing)

David: Absolutely! Yea keep going. Once you lose it sometimes it’s hard to get it back. Definitely keep up with it.

Me: That’s another reason why I’m doing these interviews and the blog project because it’s very therapeutic for me. Honestly, the conversations like the one I’m having with you right now, they’ve been renewing my strength to keep going and keep pursuing the creative journey. I’m just really thankful.

David. I’m glad I can be a part of that. Thank you! One thing that I really learned about myself particularly this year is that I got a lot of endurance. You just got to keep up, if you want it you got to endure it.

Me: I’m going to let that one linger for a bit…drop the mic (laughing)!

David: (Laughing)

Me: Describe a time when you experienced a creative block, and how did you overcome it?

David: Sometimes I go through creative blocks and I go through them more than I should or more than I want to. You just have to let it pass and naturally let it come back to you. You just naturally have to get inspired again. I don’t think you can really force yourself to do anything you don’t want to do. I had a talk with somebody a couple of days ago and basically the gist of the conversation was that you don’t try to do anything, either you do it or you don’t. With that said, you got to have the will to do it but you can’t force it out of you either. It’s that dichotomy I guess, I can’t force myself to do this but I have to do this. It has been times when I would wake up thinking ‘I don’t feel like doing it today,’ but then I’ll draw again and I was in it! But then there would be other times when I woke up and tried to force myself to draw and I didn’t like a thing I put down. Inevitably, the will was there you just got to let it come back to you. Whatever is yours in life is going to come back to you, so you can’t really worry about that.

“You just have to let it pass and naturally let it come back to you. You just naturally have to get inspired again.”

Me: Hmmm. I didn’t really look at it like that like you just have to let the creative block pass. The will is going to be there but sometimes life gets in the way.

David: Yea, that’s how it works for me but sometimes, I have conditions and you got to do it. But at the same time, I don’t want to put that force behind the artwork either. The customers are paying for something that makes them feel special. Sometimes you got to tell them, ‘I can’t do this stuff right now.’ I refuse to give them my lowest or something I don’t feel good about. Because at the end of the day why am I putting it out there if I don’t care about it?

Me: That’s so true. Especially when you’re a creative, it’s going to be times when you just don’t feel like creating and you don’t want to give the world your worst. When you feel inspired, that’s when you’re going to produce your best work.

David: Absolutely! That’s exactly how I feel about it.

Me: What has been your most challenging piece?

David: I never thought about that one before, to be honest with you. At the end of the day I just go with pieces that work. Like what I told you about earlier, the picture has to speak to me in order for me to want to draw it. If I draw a picture and it’s not coming up the way I like it, I just move forward and move on to the next one. It’s not necessarily me going away from challenges, I don’t believe in that. I believe in trying to find the ultimate solution. I can’t say that it is challenging to me because it’s something I just didn’t feel. I just stop and move onto the next one. Either I’ll come back to it later or this isn’t the one for me. I’m still going to draw this idea or this person so I’m going to get it done regardless.

Me: Great answer! How has your artwork shaped you as a person?

David: I really believe that as an artist you can’t come into it unless you’re ready. It’s gotten me to be more outgoing and more consistent. It’s made me aware of what I want out of myself not just as an artist but as a person. I don’t think a year ago I would’ve been doing it to the level I’m doing it at now. I’m in a conversation with some people that I never thought I would be in a conversation with before. That’s a great feeling. The only thing that got me there is by doing the work. If I wasn’t doing the work, I wouldn’t be talking to you at this very moment.

“It’s made me aware of what I want out of myself not just as an artist but as a person.”

Me: Just a side note, in terms of my type of personality I’m more of an introvert. I get most of my energy internally. I guess that’s why I gravitated towards art growing up. It just gave me this internal fulfillment. Whenever I did art it just made me feel whole.

David: I wholeheartedly get that because that’s how it was for me too. I’m still very shy, I just came out of my shell a lot more. This is my way of participating in society. It’s more of an expansive way to participate but I think for me at the end of the day, I don’t want people to say “well he could of been there but he wasn’t.” There’s some things you’re going to have to choose to just not be apart of, that’s life. When it’s all said and done, I just want people to say, “he was there and he did the damn thing!”

Me: When did you start pursuing art professionally, when did you come into that mindset of profiting off of your creative passion and just going for it?

David: It didn’t happen like that. I work part-time at an art center in Laurel, Maryland. One of the artists in residence referred me to one of the people that was having a show coming up. He wanted me to be apart of the show so I submitted my work and he accepted it. This was about a year ago. I had a good time, I got some good responses, and I sold those pieces that I had at the event. That got me on that transition towards pursuing it professionally. I still work with the artist in residence till this day. As soon as I promoted that I was at this event, other things started to come around which put me in touch with other curators. It snowballed; I can’t say necessarily I looked for it. My motivation right now is to have a good time with it. Of course I want to be successful and I want people to know my name. But at the end of the day, I want to have a good time, meet good people, and participate in great things.

Me: Excellent! What has been your most proud achievement so far as an artist?

David: I’m really good at the place I’m at right now. Just taking the time to talk to you has made me realize I’ve come pretty far. I’m enjoying the journey. I know I got more to do, there’s more stuff that I have to do, and there’s more places I want to go. But I’m enjoying the space that I’m in. It makes me want to be more expansive and achieve bigger things.

Me: It’s great that you said you’re really enjoying what’s going on now. You know with our generation now, we’re constantly focused on the future, where we want to go and where we want to be. Sometimes we lose sight of what’s going on now. That’s one thing I’m working on too is just really enjoying that moment you’re experiencing right now. You can’t always worry about what you’re going to do next because you’re just going to go crazy.

David: Definitely, and I don’t want to front like I’m so zen. I do have other places in my life where I’m worried and focused about getting to the next point. However, with my artwork, just going to the shows and meeting new people, I’m enjoying that.

Me: That’s good man, definitely enjoy the ride! (laughing)

David: (Laughing)

Me: In your opinion, what do you think young black visual artists can do to create more opportunities for themselves?

David: Put yourself out there. Let people know you’re here. Work together. I would like to be part of a super group of young black artists. That would be great. You got to vibe off of artists too and see how your talents play off of theirs. It doesn’t necessarily have to be visual art, it can be with music or dance. Be true to what you want to talk about, and who you are. Reflect what you want. Don’t think about it, just go out there.

“Be true to what you want to talk about, and who you are. Reflect what you want.”

Me: Good points. Would you also say that having more black-owned platforms would help propel us even further?

David: Yea, I’m a strong advocate for black-owned businesses. We need as many voices as we can get out there. I do think as black artists we’re expected to be more multifaceted than white artists. The one thing I’ve been looking at is time-lapse videos on YouTube. The majority of these drawings are of white people. I would love to see more black artists that draw on YouTube draw more black people and black symbols. I would love to see stuff like that and more diversity. That’s what I feel is the responsibility with my art. That’s why I primarily draw black people. I love being black, I’m proud of my skin. I feel honored to be black. I want to display that honor in my artwork.

Me:  I strongly agree! What’s your vision for the future in terms of your artistry?

David: I want to keep growing with it and have a good time with it. Like I said earlier, I am very big on art and service so I want to find a way to include that in my life. I want people to be interactive with it. I do want this artwork to influence people. Hopefully, I can be a better visual storyteller. I want my work to be recognizable. My work is going to live longer than I will, therefore I want it to travel further than I would.

Me: That’s incredible man! It was a pleasure being able to speak with you.

David: I really enjoyed this interview, I really appreciate your time. It actually made my day a lot better.

You can purchase David’s artwork by inquiring him via email at:


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