Originally created 05/01/00

Ex-newsman changes medium

Having stared into a television camera every night for nearly 30 years, Jim Davis has every right to be tired of the spotlight. But he soon may find himself back in it when he makes his artistic debut with a showing of watercolors at First Friday, a local arts showcase.

By the time he left broadcasting in 1982, Mr. Davis was virtually the Walter Cronkite of Augusta. From 1956 until his retirement, he worked at television stations WRDW (Channel 12), WJBF (Channel 6) and WAGT (Channel 26). He's the only person to serve as news director for all three stations. And the face that delivered the latest news to Augustans for so many years still gets recognized in the street.

"People still come up to me and tell me I should go back to broadcasting," Mr. Davis said. "What's even more flattering is when people recognize my voice."

Soon, people may also begin to recognize his art.

"I've always used art as a way of escaping," he said. "Like other people go fishing, I sit down and paint to get away from everything."

After working first in pencil, then pen and ink and later in oils for fun and relaxation throughout his life, Mr. Davis began to focus more seriously on painting a couple of years ago.

"People kept telling me to try my hand at watercolor. But I was always scared that I would ruin a perfectly good piece of paper if I tried it," he said with a smile. "But once I tried it, I was hooked."

In 1998, Mr. Davis took a course from Judy Avrett at Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art on Telfair Street. Following her suggestion, he began studying with artist Jim Gensheer of Dunlap Gallery on Broad Street.

"Jim has made a tremendous difference in my art," Mr. Davis said."He has showed me how to make better use of color in my paintings, and it is at his urging that I'm having a showing this soon."

The showing will be at Dunlap Gallery on Friday beginning at 6 p.m. Mr. Davis will include 23 paintings in the show, 16 that are framed and seven that are matted. All paintings are watercolor.

"My big passion is to paint marinescapes," he said. "I served in the Navy for four years during World War II and I've always loved the sea."

Mr. Davis said his career as a news anchorman has not influenced his art. But one of his paintings, which depicts two fishermen as they untangle their nets after a day's fishing, hints at its creator's past.

"I call it Networking," Mr. Davis said with a laugh. "I thought that was appropriate."

After leaving broadcasting in 1982, Mr. Davis joined Georgia Federal Bank as vice president for marketing and public relations. He retired in 1990, thinking it was for good, but six months later he found himself editing the magazine HealthScope 2000. When the magazine was sold in 1993, he chose not to continue with the new owners.

He now considers himself officially retired, choosing to view his painting as a relaxation rather than a profession.

"I look at my first showing as an achievement in itself," Mr. Davis said. "Naturally, it would be great if I could sell some paintings, but I'll be happy even if I don't. This is sort of like winning your first golf tournament or something."

Reach Jon Forsling at (706) 823-3339.


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