YouTube star Mitchell Davis lends valuable advice to aspiring artists and writers
As a young writer, I deal with anxiety over my future on a daily basis. Last week I spoke with my classmates in the Creative Writing department about how competitive and draining a writing career typically is; some of us have been in tears while others rethink their direction. Seeking some guidance and positivity, I sought out Mitchell Davis, Youtube celebrity host of the channel LiveLavaLive and artist. Davis has been able to construct a creative outlet for himself while accumulating an enthusiastic audience. Over the years LiveLavaLive has thrived; Davis has become known for his random and high-energy videos wherein he participates in skits, dances around in a zebra mask, collaborates with his friends and fellow Youtubers, or simply just rants into the camera. He experiments with music and video, enjoys Polaroids and participates in Youtube projects, which are all things that many UBC Okanagan students also involve themselves in and enjoy. Davis describes himself as “just a regular guy,” or one of us. So therefore the future is not bleak for artists; we have many resources for success at our disposal, just as Davis had.
While I have enjoyed everything Davis has done over the years, I am particularly impressed with the artwork he has managed to share with the masses through his art channel MM and other social media outlets. Davis’ experimental videos and rich visuals have spread through the online community with great speed, gathering recognition and admiration along the way. His youthfulness and inviting personality makes his work that much more enjoyable, and fellow artists and writers can learn a lot from his experiences and techniques. I recently had a Skype interview with Davis, who lives in Ohio, and was able to learn a lot about evolving as an artist and sharing your work with the help of the Internet. Despite feeling under the weather, Davis, who describes himself as a cross between Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Back to the Future II, was able to share some helpful creative ideas and address the flexible and mysterious future of LiveLavaLive.
LS: How do you think your art has evolved since you first started your work on Youtube?
MD: It’s definitely gotten a little more risky I think. Now that I have a little bit of an audience I’ve gotten more comfortable in my skin in terms of how I draw and how my style has evolved. Before I was always wondering, am I weird for drawing monsters and writing poems that are semi-creepy? Now it’s become more of a very comfortable t-shirt that I am proud to walk around in.
LS: Has feedback from your audience pushed you to try new things?
MD: I’d say it’s pretty 50/50 since my audience is pretty young. I try to think about what I was into at that age. But then there’s also a part of me that just puts things out there that I feel like, like the stuff on my visual art Youtube channel.
LS: Right, and speaking of which, you use a lot of different social networking sites. Do you have any tips for artists, writers or musicians on what is most useful out there in terms of putting artwork out for the public to see?
MD: Tumblr is great. I think it’s so insane how it came out of nowhere. It’s a very interesting way for pieces to get out there really quickly, depending on how many reblogs it gets.
LS: I love Tumblr. It’s like a giant collage.
MD: Yeah it’s so great how easily I can find stuff on that site. It’s a great website for artists right now.
LS: This is something I’ve been really struggling with because it’s overwhelming. Do you have any advice for artists and writers who may be feeling overwhelmed by the sheer mass of work out there on the Internet? Like, how is our work standing out in comparison to all this other stuff? It’s hard to feel special, especially if you’re in a small town in Canada.
MD: Oh I completely agree. I mean, no matter what level you’re at right now it can get completely disheartening; the concept of just sitting around and thinking, has everything already been done? Is there any originality anymore? I was just talking about this with someone else. If anything, try not to think about all that stuff and take in what influences you. Don’t do what you think will be popular, but what feels natural. Then what you put out is real, and I think people see that. Simply make it a pure representation of you and what you want to say. I think the weird personal stuff is what makes people think and influences other people.
LS: Do you set aside time each day to work on your art? Is there a routine?
MD: I try to do at least a sketch a day. I like to do something with my hands in the physical world. Again so much is on the Internet and I don’t want to get too lost in it and then have nothing on paper. I carry two notepads with me and create little rules for myself that give me a little spark. Like right now I’m only allowing myself to draw with two colors. I think having little themes like that can help your creativity.
LS: Limitations are very useful. I’ve been using a lot of mechanisms lately in my writing.
MD: Yes, rules are great. The stranger the rules, the crazier things you create. And sometimes they’re the best pieces you’ve ever done. You think wow, if I limit myself I can really push myself to do things I’ve never done before.
LS: Do you have a bigger plan for LiveLavaLive?
MD: I’d love to sit here and tell you I have a grand scheme for the channel.
LS: Grand schemes are overrated.
MD: I’m such an oddball everywhere kind of guy that I try to just get away with everything I can. Whatever LiveLavaLive allows me to do, from creating a t-shirt, to writing a poem, to [making] a weird video, I’m just going to do it. It’s led me to being in music videos to actually acting to doing some of the best sketches of my life. I’m going to keep doing that until it’s time to start again with something new. It’s just a constant rebirth and we’ll see what happens.
LS: Is there anyone that you haven’t worked with yet that you’d like to?
MD: Well I’ve been taking songs that I think are really good and making videos for [them]. Then I email the band or person and say, this is what I saw in my head. I’d love to do more things like that, like open a song submission thing, having these bands send me their stuff so that we can work together.
LS: I think that’s a great idea for artists at UBCO too. How has being a Youtube celebrity affected you as a whole?
MD: It was a little uneasy at times when I realized I had an audience who knew me as this constantly positive…”Hi Hello this is Mitchell Davis and right now everything is going GREAT!” Because as an artist, sometimes the best way to get rid of those negative feelings is putting it down on paper and just letting it go, and that’s what I do. I can be really scared to put things out there, and there are still so many things the Internet has yet to see because I’m afraid it’ll give off a vibe that I’m not ready for these kids to see. Eventually I’ll put everything out there, but for now I’m taking baby steps. One thing I’m trying to do with LiveLavaLive right now is dig deep within my own layers to make my vlogs more personal. Louis CK once said to, every year, throw as much of your stuff away as you can and start over again. Eventually you’re digging so deep within yourself that you’re saying stuff you’d never say. Lately I’ve been trying to take everything I’ve ever done with LiveLavaLive and strip it away and think, okay, if I had to start again without those materials what would I say and do now?