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Modern Living in the Old South

Modern Living in the Old South

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The Southern Pop Star-David Boatwright

With a paintbrush in one hand and a passion for the City of Charleston in the other, DAVID BOATWRIGHT is
on a constant mission to keep the South creative.

David Boatwright is an artist who paints the town—literally. A Carolina boy with a style that is as nostalgic as it is current, Boatwright has been painting the town from a young age, and there is no stopping him now.

Not many artists can say their first commissioned piece of art happened when they were in elementary school, but David Boatwright is not just any artist. His art teacher saw his great potential when Boatwright was in the fifth grade and asked him to paint a mural that represented Charleston inside of their school in Columbia. Boatwright had never been to Charleston, so he was invited to join a field trip to the city to gather research for his mural, and traveled with a bus full of students three years his senior.

On the trip, he fell in love with the beauty and history of the Holy City and took note of its unique qualities and characteristics for his project. Upon returning to his hometown in Columbia, he was given his own studio in the school—an honorable gift that no other student received—and finished what would be his first of many Charleston-themed murals.

Boatwright’s passion for all things artistic followed him throughout the years and, as he got older, he adopted a “jack of all trades” aspect to life. He graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute with a major in painting. After graduation he experimented with short films, some of which were showcased in Europe. While he enjoyed making films, they weren’t as successful as he wanted them to be and Boatwright began to feel a calling to leave the state of California and head east. Remembering the love he felt for Charleston as a child, he packed his bags for the Holy City and has never felt a desire to move anywhere else.

In Charleston, Boatwright’s first mural was for the well-known restaurant, Hank’s Seafood, and as the old saying goes, “the rest is history.” Other local businesses saw the obvious talent of the artist and he started getting requests from all over town. If you’ve driven around the Charleston area at all, you have seen, and surely admired, the work of David Boatwright. From the iconic Hominy Grill painting to the sign that welcomes you to Folly Beach to the mural on the Market at Market Street, Charleston is covered in Boatwright’s art. You’ll pass his East Central Lofts sign as you’re driving on the interstate, see the logo he designed at Taco Boy on Folly Beach, and be awed by his beer-themed mural at Palmetto Brewing Company. The list of Boatwright’s notable projects is as expansive as his talents and only grows as the years go on.

The process of creating a mural in a historic city is not always an easy one. When approached with a commission Boatwright researches the business, considers pathways of focus for a while, and ultimately chooses one or two options to sketch up. He brings his ideas to the client, where they decide which one is a good fit for them. After they make a final decision for the project, the piece must then be approved by the city and any further changes must be submitted for review following the initial approval.

Once Boatwright receives the final “green light,” he can get to work. In some cases, like the painting on Market Street in downtown Charleston, he will paint directly onto the building, using scaffolding and various types of paint to achieve his desired look. If he is not painting “on the scene,” he will work on the commissioned project inside of his studio, oftentimes using multiple giant pieces of plywood or canvas, moving them to their destination upon completion.

Working on his murals in the studio provides a barrier of safety not commonly felt during one of his on-site mural paintings, which come with their own set of challenges. People, cars, bikes and horses often travel through or dangerously close to his work space, and in one instance, a horse got spooked and knocked over scaffolding holding paint and supplies, spilling it all over historic Market Street. For Boatwright, such accidents have no real impact on the pursuit of his passion and he views any challenge as just another part of his job.

Aside from local murals and signs, Boatwright’s downtown studio is filled with paintings. Some are new, completed, and ready to be displayed, while others are older pieces that he felt didn’t work out, pieces that he revisits and reinvents until he is happy with the final product. He works with a variety of mediums including chalk, charcoal, spray paint, silk screening, and more, to create art that he feels best reflects the message that he would like to share.

With a tendency to source and reimagine imagery and fonts of days gone by in his work, Boatwright’s paintings call to mind the works of Andy Warhol with a decidedly Southern slant, leading some to describe his style as “Southern Pop Art.” Recalling the hand-painted store signage and advertising of yesteryear, the artist puts a new spin on classic trends, making fine art out of fine memories. He starts small on his studio paintings, adds to the piece, takes away, then adds some more, ultimately seeking to simply paint what he likes, and what he would want to see. As an artist, Boatwright endeavors to please his first audience, himself, before he will show any work to his second audience: family, friends, colleagues, and the general public. For Boatwright, painting is where he finds his happiness and he has an “if it sells, it sells” attitude regarding his creations.

A man of many talents, Boatwright still holds on to his love of filmmaking and recently made a film for Fort Sumter. He also has a history and background in architecture, and is responsible for the design of nearly a dozen houses in the Charleston Area. As for future plans, the artist is open to whatever may come his way. In his own words, “whatever happens, happens.”

He does plan on holding gallery shows in his downtown studio, on continuing his mural business, and on freely painting his studio art to his heart’s content. Boatwright’s love of Charleston has done nothing but flourish over his many years in the city, and he hopes to add more creativity to other small Southern cities, such as Augusta, Georgia, and Greenville, South Carolina.

David Boatwright is a true inspiration to everyone that has the opportunity to lay eyes on his artwork. As he walks around his private studio, showing off some of his most recent projects, the pride and enthusiasm in his voice and movements is obvious, and for good reason. This is a man who brought, and continues to bring, a certain artistic energy to the beloved city of Charleston, and whose paintbrush adds even more color to an already colorful city.

For more information about David Boatwright visit his website at

By Jessy Mitcham

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