The title of Pete Davies’ book of drawings, “A Way to Relax,” pretty much says all you need to know about what makes art an essential part of his life.
Through times stable and upended, on the road or at home, Davies has kept drawing his unique pen-and-ink landscapes.
“Doing artwork makes me feel good about myself,” Davies said matter-of-factly on a recent morning. “And a lot of people enjoy it.”
He’s not shy about sharing it. Davies has become as well known for peddling his drawings around town as for the art itself. A Missoula rite of passage may be hanging at Charlie B’s, the Rhino or any of the myriad coffee shops, and being approached by the gray-bearded Davies with a sheaf of drawings in hand, each for sale at $10 a pop.
Those two bars are some of the more lucrative spots, Davies said. He’s gotten kicked out of the Golden Rose for selling art, but shrugged and said he’s still allowed inside, just not to sell drawings.
But he persists and has produced two books of drawings to sell to people as well, spiral-bound collections of about 20 of his favorite pieces, just $20.
“I could sell them for more, but it’s a quick sale for $20,” Davies said. “If I go up to them and show them, they are more likely" to buy.
He’s open to working with buyers, too, saying he recently traded a drawing for a tattoo.
Davies started drawing when he was about 6, sketching with pencil on pads his dad brought home from his job at a paper company in California.
He was inspired by fantasy books, movies and music (he specifically mentioned Jimi Hendrix’s “Castles Made of Sand”) to draw more imaginative, surreal landscapes, made up of spiraled castle towers.
But he mainly draws landscapes, encouraged by his mother when he was younger and now inspired by his travels in the Southwest and forests of Montana.
“It kind of stuck in my mind,” he said. “I lived off my artwork when I traveled.”
He landed in Missoula in 2001 and vividly remembers deciding it would be home.
“I got off the bus, smelled the air, looked at the trees and thought, ‘I’m going to live here,’” he said.
He then met his wife, Sandy Bacon, and started drawing and selling art full time (he said he collects disability for a main source of income).
Davies draws simply, using Micron .005 pens and Bristol board, almost all black-and-white and all off the top of his head, no pencil sketches before the ink hits paper.
“I’m more creative that way,” he said.
Some pieces come out all at once, some get bits and pieces added over a few days.
He’s started adding color to the occasional drawing, using felt-tip pens to color in flowers, trees and mountains in a forest landscape that will be the cover of his next book.
His spindly line work is not strong, but sure, reflecting the fact that Davies always knows where his hand is going in the drawing. These thin lines layer and snake past each other to put together jaunty rock spires and the occasional happy animal, such as a leaping trout in a river.
Davies has had many Missoula studios over the years, mostly a collection of downtown coffee shops. He’s been working out of his home studio more recently, and frequents Kulture Kava, sitting at the counter and drinking coffee out of a 16-ounce paper cup.
“He’s our resident artist, kind of a grandpa figure,” Kulture Kava owner Nick Chlebeck said, adding Davies sometimes helps out around the shop. “He’s a Missoula staple.”