Stephen Davis Illustration


Praying Hands: A process of Chaos and Creativity

When the Wave God shoots you an email for artwork you answer, no questions asked. Remember these words and the universe will bless you with untold riches, exotic monkeys and hot steak. OK maybe not exotic monkeys because I live in New York and my apartment isn't even big enough for me. Nevertheless when the Wave God a.k.a Musical Savant Andrew Sarrion (better known as A.Sarr) emails you for a commission it's gonna be good times.

Here's the quick rundown, A.Sarr was getting ready to release a single online as a precursor to his upcoming E.P. He asked yours truly to collaborate on the accompanying artwork and I gladly obliged. Thus began my terrible downward spiral into the creative process, classic mistakes and an astonishing lack of sleep. Let's get it:

Hard Work and Diligence sometimes equals pure Crap

The song was about two people who essentially were forced together by unforeseen circumstances. I listened to the song briefly and decided not to read too much into it early on. With other projects I'd made the mistake of paying too close attention to the material and not relying on my creativity. I knew the concept and got straight to work, focusing on different circumstances where two people were forced together. Specifically, circumstances where the very phenomenon that could destroy you eventually forced something beautiful into existence. Several word lists, dictionary definitions of symbiosis and a French press of coffee later I had absolutely nothing. Nothing I was happy with anyways. 

These concepts are now locked in a box labeled "Donald Trump's baby pictures", so I know not to open them.

These concepts are now locked in a box labeled "Donald Trump's baby pictures", so I know not to open them.

What do you do in this situation? Panic? Adopt a new my identity? Grow a beard, change my name to Seth? Neither. Those of you that know me personally understand my complete inability to grow a beard anyways. Instead I stopped trying to think so much, I focused on simple details. I looked over my notes and noticed the song was called Praying Hands. Boom! I had my subject matter. Seth is a dumb name anyways.

Keep it simple, stupid.

Simplifying things and deciding to just focus on the hands was key. From there all my decisions came fast and easy. Smooth sailing all the way to the finish line, right? Wrong. Initially I was under the impression that this was just another cool sounding song, but after listening to how heavy the song was I had a change of heart. This was a man bearing his soul, and here I was drawing a pair of hands. So I switched it up. I wanted a wild atmosphere to go with the song's deep sound, the hands were a solid concept and had to stay in the piece but there needed to be more. The thorns were added as an element of adversity so I came up with the idea of expanding on that to complement the rich textures that were in the song.

Initial sketch of the cover.

Initial sketch of the cover.

Friends are really just free reference models when you think about it.

Friends are really just free reference models when you think about it.


Planning for a simple illustration with no real background vs a complicated illustration filled with flowers is a big difference time wise. Not to mention I also had other commissions and projects going at the time. Did I mention that I also had a vacation to Savannah, Georgia planned in a few days? Hello all nighters.

Kids, don't try this at home.

In the end I finished the painting at the last possible second. I mean LITERALLY the last possible second, my Uber driver waited for five minutes while I scanned the illustration. From there I went to the airport and barely made my plane to Savannah. I added the finishing digital touches while on vacation and the rest is history. It might not have been the smartest decision to give myself more work, and stay up for a couple nights straight but in the end it was worth it. Just like the song suggests adversity resulting in something great , I worked through the problems to make this piece happen. I hope you all like it. Stay tuned for the next post about my upcoming personal project "Bodega Cats".

If you wanna change your life for the better, listen to the A. Sarr's song and story. K Bye.