Artist Studio | David Everett

David EverettText by Wolf Schneider;Photos by Brent Humphreys

Your main focus is colored wood sculptures, along with some bronzes and works on paper?

And woodcuts.

For your sculptures, the hardwood is milled, laminated, carved, glazed, and the pieces have movable joints?

Yes, it’s kiln-dried hardwood, which means you’ve taken the natural tree trunk and cut it.

Do you do all of this personally?

I do all of it. I start with a black-and-white sketch, anticipating elements of the composition and the engineering of the movable joints.

A typical piece takes you two or more months?

Yep. The largest ones are 6 feet tall, some are tabletop size. It’s mainly carving time.

It looks like you’re pretty partial to fish, horses, buffalo, and jackrabbits as subject matter.

Well, I grew up in southeast Texas on the coast, near Louisiana. It’s a part of Texas called the Big Thicket, which is an ancient primeval pine and hardwood forest. It’s all swamps and bayous, alligators, snakes, turtles, and fish, and on the coast the sea life. All of that imagery is what I grew up with.

What part of Austin is your studio in—anywhere near the state Capitol or Willie Nelson’s ranch?

Willie’s ranch is west of town. The state Capitol is just 15 blocks south of me. I’m in the middle of the old town of Austin.

A Sculpture by David EverettYour studio’s got big glass windows, and plenty of fossils and skulls?

The studio’s about the size of a two-car garage. It’s got nice windows, ambient temperature, unheated. I’ve been collecting the animal bones since I was a kid.

Do you have a dark Goth side, Dave?

No, I’m an amateur paleontologist. It’s more about anatomical study.

Could this be a cover-up for some Louisiana voodoo type of thing?

[Laughs] Oh, well there are certainly spiritual elements to any animal’s bones.

Are you playing Dr. John’s bayou tunes while you’re sculpting?

Yeah, and also Billie Holliday and Wes Montgomery.

I hear you played lead guitar in an East Texas garage band called Six Deep that had a 1967 single called “Girl, It’s Over.”

A copy of it sold on eBay two weeks ago for $450!

Would you have made it bigger if not for the competition that year from The Doors and Jefferson Airplane? Oh hell, yeah. Believe me, we weren’t even close. [Laughs] We were like early versions of punk rockers.

How did you go from rock guitarist to sculptor? During college?

Yeah, basically. I started art school in college. I still play guitar, although now it’s pop and jazz standards in a band called The Occasionals. We play at Mirabelle in Austin.

So you’ve pretty much been in Austin since the early ’70s?

Yeah, I went to the University of Texas. I have a real traditional, academic figurative background. I can rattle off all the bones and all the muscles.

What do you consider your forte as a sculptor?

It tends to be allegorical figures of animal totems, or animal and human totems. A rather poetic take on a natural order.

Do you keep businessman’s hours or musician’s hours in the studio?

Oh, I usually get here at 8:30 or 9 o’clock in the morning and leave around 6.

At 55, what quality have you decided an artist must have, and what quality will only do an artist in?

An artist must be patient. And they should not have a five-year plan. It’s day to day. You bait the hooks and see if the fish are nibbling.

What’s your mantra?

There’s a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot. [Laughs]

On what occasion do you fudge the truth?

In Texas there’s this great tradition of the tall tale. Y’know, you look for the chance to josh somebody or pull their leg a little.

Which artist, living or dead, would you most like to trade a piece of art with?


Which artist would you most like an hour of advice from?


What’s the range that your work sells for?

The sculptures go from $4,000 up to $20,000.

What does an artist need most: a good accountant, a good truck, or a good red wine?

A good truck, by far and away. I have a 1992 Toyota Corolla pickup that has 180,000 miles on it.

When your time comes to kick the bucket, what sentence would accurately sum it up for your life?

I’m going to rip off something an elderly friend said: What was that all about? [Laughs]

Everett is represented by Valley House Gallery, Dallas, TX; Davis Gallery, Austin, TX; and Adair Margo Gallery, El Paso, TX.

Featured in “My World” July 2005