Excerpted from the Daily Nebraskan
Sophomore fashion merchandising major Keenon Davis, Nebraska ’22, has never met the famous rapper, but he devotes anywhere from 10-15 hours a week working with his idols like Rocky, Juice WRLD and Jay-Z. He isn’t a big-league producer or musician, and he doesn’t even need to acquaint himself with the celebrities before he goes to work. Davis is a portrait artist who creates images of his heroes through graphic design.
A typical college student in most aspects, Davis has many interests outside of his art career. He enjoys getting involved in his fraternity Phi Delta Theta, jamming to hip-hop, skating around Lincoln and hanging out with his girlfriend, Maddie Leblanc. Unlike his fraternity brothers, however, he spends his free time running a business off Instagram that sells portraits he creates of who he considers hip-hop’s most influential icons.
In Lincoln, his vibrant, geometric depictions of Billie Eilish and Kanye West are on display at several stores. The prints, stickers and posters capture the celebrities at defining moments and are supported by colorful shapes and abstract swirls, often followed by a quote or phrase that helps spectators identify the celebrity.
Davis began selling his artwork after an encouraging nudge from a teacher his sophomore year of high school. When the handmade prints began to sell quickly, Davis knew it was the beginning of a successful business venture.
Davis is also fueled by seeing pictures from satisfied customers of his artwork being proudly displayed in their homes. The purchases and kind words from non-family members have assured Davis that he has a worthwhile talent.
Says Davis, “It’s one thing when your family or friends [compliment you], but when a random person off the street comes up and says something, that’s the best.”
Davis said his success at maker events and selling stickers to his Phi Delta Theta brothers is recent, considering he started learning digital art just this past summer. Though he’s been peddling handmade art since high school, he picked up his new artistic method of graphic design using an application called Procreate while spending his summer vacation doing farm work in Sumner, Nebraska.
Leblanc said she isn’t surprised that the newly acquired skill has been a success for her boyfriend. Leblanc prides Davis on his art as well as his unwavering character. She said she can’t see any future success distracting him from his craft.
Davis hopes to eventually combine his knack for funky thrift finds and design into T-shirts that reflect his streetwear style.
For now, he continues to sell his art and tag his celebrity icons in his Instagram posts, hoping someday one might give his art a repost.