This week, the Out N About spoke with Otha Davis III, aka Vakseen, a self-taught, museum-exhibited artist/painter and a diamond and multi-platinum music executive and producer/songwriter. The talented artist told us all about his passion for all things art and music, his inspiration, and his recent trip to St. Maarten/ St. Martin.
1. Please introduce yourself.
My name is Otha Davis III. Most people know me by my artist name, Vakseen. I've always been passionate about art and music, so I've spent most of my life pursuing my dreams. I'm a self-taught, museum-exhibited artist/painter, and I'm also a diamond and multi-platinum music executive, producer/songwriter. I've been working in music for over 20 years and it’s granted me the opportunity to work with some of the biggest artists in the world – Pitbull, T-Pain, Rick Ross, EXO, NCT 127, Diddy.
I’ve also been an active realist painter since moving to Los Angeles 12 years ago. My artwork has been exhibited by museums and galleries worldwide, and by major brands like the History Channel, Nike, Adidas, Vans, BBC World News, CBS News, HBO’s Insecure, FX's Snowfall, 2Pac Shakur’s estate, & Bo Diddley’s estate, among others. I’ve also been published in print and online magazines including American Art Collector, Buzzfeed, Coindesk, Complex Magazine, Juxtapoz Magazine, Hi-Fructose Magazine, Artnet, and Architectural Digest.
2. How did you get involved in the music industry?
I was a producer and songwriter for years before I actually started working in the music biz. I always had a love for pop culture and wanted to learn more about the business. I got that opportunity in 2005 after leaving Jacksonville (where I grew up) and heading to South Florida. A few months after moving to Fort Lauderdale, I started an internship at Slip N Slide Records that I found on Craigslist. The CEO made me an A&R within the first couple months – and my career just took off from there.
3. What made you make the switch to visual art?
Art was always my first love, but I was turned off by a teacher I had in high school. So it just became a hobby. Once I started working at Slip N Slide, I honestly had less time to create. Art simply wasn’t on my radar. After I left the label and moved to Los Angeles in 2011, I found myself inspired by the new energy. Now that I wasn’t working for someone else, I needed to figure out what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be. My first year in LA was pivotal. January 1, 2012, is when I decided to take art seriously and pursue it just as hard as I’d been pursuing music. The next month, I was asked to feature my art from high school in my first gallery exhibition. That was the only sign I needed.
4. What visual/musical works are you most proud of?
I’m proud of everything I create, but I certainly have a few favorites. On the art side of things, “SEEN”, “The Peace in Perfection”, “What is Love?”, “By Any Means”, “His Royal Airness”, and my “Fear of a Black Planet” collection are a few of my favorite paintings. These paintings really pushed me as an artist. Musically, I’d say “I’m Back”, Pitbull’s “Timber”, NCT 127’s “Focus”, & Red Velvet’s “Rookie” were all pivotal records and moments for me in different ways.
5. How would you describe your art style?
My distinct creations celebrate beauty, excellence, pop culture, and diversity, but at the core, they’re all inspired by and celebrate the Black experience.
6. Where do you find your inspiration?
The importance of being inspired cannot be understated. I'm inspired by life. I’m inspired by friends, family, success, failure, the struggle, life experiences and the people that are pursuing their dreams daily. I’m probably most inspired seeing people that look just like me winning.
7. What brought you to St. Maarten?
I’m a single dad and a business owner, which can be a lot. I needed a vacation and a reset. One of my dear friends lived here for years and always spoke so highly of St. Maarten. It was kind of spontaneous, but I decided to celebrate my 44th birthday in paradise. Best move ever!
8. Did you enjoy your time on the island?
To be completely honest, I fell in love from day one. I can see myself spending a lot of time here. The energy, the people, the food, and the beaches are absolutely amazing!