Join us for part three of our Creator Community Q&As!
Acclaimed illustrator Pencil Fingerz (Davis Graham) shares his journey to becoming one of the most established visual artists in hip-hop and beyond.
1) How did you get your start as an artist? What inspired the name Pencil Fingerz?
I started how almost everybody starts, as a child with crayons at the kitchen counter. The only difference is I never stopped. At 7 years old I drew my first portrait, and from then on I was hooked. I sold my first portrait at 14 years old and that’s when I knew I was going to do this for the rest of my life.
The name was given to me by a friend who, at the time, I was creating a mural for in the den of his parents house. I always had a pencil in my hand when he saw me, so he called me Pencil Fingers as a way of teasing me. I created a logo for it as a joke, and then the joke was on me because the name stuck. I added the Z on the end to keep me at the top of search engines (and for style of course).
2) How has your content evolved since then? At what point were you able to turn your hobby into a career and lifestyle?
My work was strictly pencil until about 2012 when I was asked by Chance The Rapper’s manager, Pat, if I did digital work. I lied and told him yes, and then went out that day and bought my first tablet. This opened A LOT of doors for me, as I could now create work for merchandising. When people caught waves of my digital pieces, I got a whole bunch of job offers. The first being from rapper Issa Gold who had me create an album cover for The Underachievers. Once I created one album cover, it wasn’t hard to find more work.
3) You’ve worked with a lot of top tier talent, including Yelawolf, Eric Church, T-Wayne and many more! What’s it like to be working with such large names in the industry? What have you learned from the experience?
Working for the musicians I love listening to is a childhood dream come true. At first I couldn’t really believe it. Talking on the phone with Yelawolf, and designing his entire tour line-up (including a tour bus wrap), really made it sink in that I was on a professional level. Now it has become second nature. Every now and again I will get a job offer that will blow my mind, but at the end of the day I’ve learned that they are just regular people and I treat them the same as any other client I have. The perks of getting to take my friends to shows in VIP, and the connections I gain through friends of the musicians has also been amazing though.
4) What is your favorite part about being an artist and creator?
I’d say the amount of freedom I have in my life. I make my own hours, and I choose who I work for. I rarely have to do things I don’t want to do, and I have as much spare time as I like. Another joy of mine is seeing the excitement in my clients eyes when I turn over work to them. Nothing beats that feeling, and that is something I get more from drawing pieces for family/friends then I do for my big name clients (as that’s mostly done via email).
5) Describe your ideal work setting. How do you stay so focused on your work?
I like to be in my pajama pants usually, with a good movie on with the sound off (Lord of the Rings is especially good for this), and listening to music in my bedroom. I keep my window open with the ocean and mountains in view. It makes me feel like I’m outside, and not spending 12 hours in my small apartment. Having my girlfriend doing her own work nearby is always nice too, a little bit of company keeps me from going insane. As for keeping focus, creating is my passion, and I tend to go a bit crazy if I go too many days without making something… staying focused is rarely an issue.
6) When did you decide to launch with Teespring? How has it impacted your business to date?
I’ve tried MANY different ways of selling merch. Doing it all myself was simply way too much work and took away from my time I’d rather spend creating. I would always mess up addresses and it was costing me more money than what I made. I created a Teespring account nearly 3 months ago after my girlfriend convinced me to swallow my pride and let someone else take the reigns for once. I am very glad I did as it has made a HUGE impact on my business. Having people wear my merchandise has made word of mouth spike way higher, and that little bit of extra cash goes a long way. The different kinds of products all in one place, ready to be sold in a matter of minutes is a dream.
7) Do you have any tips to share with up-and-coming artists?
SHARE YOUR WORK. Too many artists keep all their work private and then wonder why their career isn’t moving forward. Also, reach out and ASK people to work with you, you have the power of the internet at your fingertips. If that is what you want to do, waiting for people to come to you is a horrible idea. Also, don’t worry too much about other people’s’ opinions. Create from your heart and stay true… it’s the most rewarding thing you can do!
8) What’s next for Pencil Fingerz?
That’s the beauty of my line of work, I never know what is next. I woke up one morning a few months ago to a phone call from T-Pain’s manager asking me to do his and Lil’ Wayne’s album cover. My immediate next task is a 30 x 10 metre mural I am painting in my hometown’s downtown core. This will be my first mural and I am starting it this week. It is a collage of everything my city is known and loved for. So until that is done, everything else is being put on hold. Should be an amazing experience and I hope it leads to more murals for other cities!