Lake Charles artist and maker Daneisha Davis creates little celebrations of Louisiana and life
Unfortunately, swinging the fridge door wide revealed only a cavernous abundance of empty space surrounding one edible item: a lonely bag of shredded cheese. Tired, stressed and real meal-deprived from days of last-minute arts market prep, Daneisha Davis grabbed the bag, sat quietly on her couch and picked at it in frustration. Her emergency dairy dinner.
“I remember thinking ‘This isn’t what adults do. You are a terrible adult’,” Davis says. “Now, I realize no one has everything figured out — everyone has had their own ‘couch and cheese’ moment.”
The Lake Charles-born graphic designer commemorated her stress-eating experience with a now-successful shirt boasting “Terrible Adult” in a cutesy but blunt black script. Its lines could have been lifted from her junior high Lisa Frank binder, but they are wholly original and specific to her original shredded cheese incident.
But it was that era of wildly-colored and collaged Lisa Frank school supplies and wowing family at the end of the day with dinosaur and Looney Toons drawings she’d bring home that first sparked Davis’ love of illustration and design.
Now, her pinpoint writing and whimsical drawing is at the heart of Pixel & Ink Creative, the local brand and line of wearable and hangable designs she launched at an arts market in south Louisiana in 2014. She’d graduated from SOWELA with a focus on graphic art that same year and began turning out vivid designs that sold well.
Marked by eye-seducing sunset colors, there also lay hints of nostalgia buried in the bold curves and colorful silhouettes of her pelicans, magnolias and crawfish, lending a vintage familiarity to each piece without veering too far into dismissable kitsch.
It’s midcentury modern meets Millennial, borne of her blend of hyperreal affirmations and playful celebrations of the unique quirks and qualities of Louisiana.
“I don’t know if it’s a good thing or not, but I’ve always been hard on myself,” Davis says. “I have moments of clarity when I try to lift myself out of that so I created ‘Be Kind To Yourself,’ because I struggle with it.”
One of her “note to self” stickers and art prints reminds the viewer “You’re not an imposter if you’re doing the work.”
How we talk to ourselves is just as an important thread of Davis’ work as Louisiana views itself. Her seasoning can-inspired “Here for the Gumbo” design is popular, as is her ombre sun-soaked “The Chuck” sticker recasting Lake Charles as a groovy surf town.
“I try not to take myself too seriously, which is maybe why I still love cartoons so much,” Davis admits.
With her Louisiana-themed products, Davis dreams up digital illustrations that cast Louisiana in a light not always seen by the uninitiated.
“Where I grew up, I didn’t see a lot of designs like this celebrating the little things that make Louisiana wonderful,” Davis says. “I wanted to make something that showed we are more than just Bourbon Street and deer hunting.”
By the end of 2019, market sales accounted for 80% of Davis’ revenue, but she felt the deep, oncoming tinge of burnout. “I told a friend I needed a break, I was exhausted,” she says. “Six years straight of markets, if there was an event, I was there.”
Just as she was ready to take a breather, the pandemic put a halt to in-person sales opportunities and forced her to upgrade her online shop and develop a more creative strategy on social media.
“It helped me to grow, ironically, accept that challenge and grapple with something new, the whole online side of the art business,” she says. “But I’m a lifelong learner, so studying how to do that really appealed to me.”
Louisiana living appeals to her, too. Her joy shines through each piece with authentic affection. She says she could never leave for two reasons: Her mama’s cooking, and because she can’t even consider designing for a different state.
“People will ask me to do other states, and to this date, I haven’t done any,” Davis says. “That’s not where my heart is, and if my heart isn’t in it, I don’t do it. For me, that’s the heart of creativity. Do what you want, and your audience, your people, will find you.”
At A Glance
Moss Bluff, La.
Owner/Designer, Pixel and Ink Creative
When you’re not creating, what do you enjoy doing in south Louisiana? I love hiking and I love being out in nature. I have been known to plan entire vacations around hiking spots. Other than that: historical fiction books, true crime podcasts and TV. “The Office,” “Schitt’s Creek,” “Arrested Development,” “New Girl,” “The I.T. Crowd” — I’ve seen them all countless times.
Does your design “It’s OK if you like books more than people” mean that you are an introvert? Absolutely! I stumbled across the book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain, and it really changed the way I thought about myself. Reading that book made me realize that being introverted is not a bad thing. For 30 years of my life, it feels like I was always made to feel bad because I wasn’t as talkative or outgoing as other people in my family. Not one person ever made me feel like being quiet was OK. I love them dearly and don’t fault them for it. I just think they didn’t know what to do with the bookish weirdo they got because I was so different. It took this book to make me — a grown adult woman — realize that there was nothing wrong with me. I am exactly as I was created to be. Quiet.
What is it about our culture that you find most fascinating? As with most things, I find the history really interesting. Especially since it went through so many countries (indigenous peoples included) before 1803.