One Day with David Paul Kay
Visual artist and muralist
We are introducing a new column, “One Day With,” where we chat with the most interesting people we can find and pick their brains about their inspirations, passions, and how they turned that into a career.
For our first official installment, we spoke with visual artist David Paul Kay. A native of the former Republic of Georgia, David witnessed the collapse of the Soviet Union before moving to NY and finding his calling as the visual artist he is today. “David before the Kay” he likes to call it. Not limiting himself to a canvas, David work can be found all over New York City on commissioned street murals, rooftops and venues. He is also no stranger to the digital space and has a strong presence online with the art and lifestyle communities.
In conversation, we discuss David’s artistry, inspirations and how drawing on the NY metro lead to his now prosperous career as a visual artist.
Who are you?
David Paul Kay, visual artist / muralist.
What do you do?
I paint, I draw, I make.
What’s your favorite thing about your New York City?
My city made me who I am. I grew up in Eastern Europe, I’ve lived at or visited lots of places but not until I moved to NYC did I feel home. The pulse of the city and my heartbeat intertwine. The city made me who I am. I always made art but only after moving here and finding my home I found my language as an artist, as a creator. The city inspires, the city feeds the mind. You don’t have to leave to travel. If it’s happening, it’s happening here. I can go on endlessly about how the 8 million people I share the home with make me feel every day.
Where do you draw inspiration?
Anything is an inspiration and anywhere is a gallery. My inspiration often gets triggered by small things happening in my life. People I run into, people I fall in love with, people I admire, the ones that hurt me or try to. I don’t look for inspiration; it has it’s way of finding me every day.
I recall when I first saw a panorama of the battle of Borodino at a museum in Moscow. Every detail of that day, standing next to my mother staring at this massive mural feeling every fiber of my body, that was the first true powerful inspiration.
What profession did you imagine for yourself as a child?
I was involved in everything and anything: music, drama, arts, journalism. In my early 20s I was hosting a show on a National TV channel, while at the same time having a full-time job working for the US government on a criminal justice development program and going to school for my law degree. I grew up with the ideology that I could be anything and anybody but not knowing what I WANTED to be and do. Not until my first years of living in New York City I finally realized I want to do… Make art.
When did you realize you would do what you do?
I could never not do it. It was always there — even when no one around you cares about what you make. After being exposed to New York, the Met, after being invited to be a part of an exhibit here, and then another one… and another one, after constantly drawing while taking long subway rides and after counting 100+ people who called me “a great artist” for which I’m thankful and humbled, I realized that art is what I will be doing for the rest of my existence.
What is the best advice you’ve received and from whom?
Pablo Picasso once said “Everything you can imagine is real.” and that to me is the key to everything I do and believe in.
What excites you in our culture today?
The speed of life, the speed of progress has quadrupled. We live in the era of swiping left. Fast moving images, words, information. 140 characters is all it takes to “lead the world”. It’s magic, it paints the intricate picture but at the same time it’s scary, stressful and intense. What is happening today, how it’s happening and how fast it’s developing is to me an exciting thing to witness, be a part of and get inspired by.
Why do you do what you do?
I do what I do because I can’t not do what I do. There are times when I wish I could be doing something else. When you do what I do you get a lot of attention but it all comes with a price; a lot of it is an unwanted attention, people approaching for all the wrong reasons. As an artist you are giving the entire world (and the generations to come) the power of the opinion. Obviously there will be hate. Art is a conversation, my job is to find the most unique and interesting way of passing on my message, my story.
At 85 what do you want to be known for?
At 85 I want to be known as someone who lived for a reason and left a lot behind for the generations to come.