Although his art would adorn one of his record releases from time to time, Miles Davis didn’t begin to draw and paint in earnest until he was in his mid-fifties, during the early 1980s and a period of musical inactivity. Miles being Miles, he didn’t merely dabble, but made creating art as much a part of his life as making music in his final decade. He was said to have worked obsessively each day on art when he wasn’t touring and he studied regularly with New York painter Jo Gelbard.
His style was a sharp, bold and masculine mixture of Kandinsky, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Picasso and African tribal art. I also find his work puts me in mind of the output of painter Phil Frost.
Davis’ paintings weren’t exhibited much during his lifetime, but since his death in 1991, his estate has mounted several traveling gallery and museum shows. Quincy Jones is known to own a number of Miles’ canvases. In 2013, Miles Davis: The Collected Artwork was published.
“I’ve been painting and sketching all my life. Also, for my tailor I used to draw my suits, ‘cause he couldn’t speak English.”
“It’s like therapy for me, and keeps my mind occupied with something positive when I’m not playing music.”