COLUMBUS, Ga. (AP) — Columbus digital artist Davian Chester didn’t think a piece he created a few weeks ago would receive the attention that it did.
It was two black arms in shackles. The chain connecting them was broken, and the broken chain formed the word “Google.”
Now, he’s talking with the tech giant about a possible job, and there’s even a Columbus billboard featuring the work he made to honor Juneteenth, a holiday celebrated yearly on June 19 that commemorates the emancipation of slaves in Texas, and more broadly, the end of slavery in the United States.
Chester, 26, is a Columbus native and a 2011 graduate of Northside High School. He first started drawing in the 4th and 5th grade. At first, his subjects were his favorite comic book heroes. He was particularly fond of Spider-Man, he said, because of the hero’s backstory and his trademark red and blue suit.
“I was always drawing Spider-Man,” he said. “As I learned more about him, I just loved his story. He was basically just a kid.”
In middle school, he started drawing pieces that friends requested for fun. When Chester was a student at Northside High, his teachers introduced him to digital drawing tablets. He started drawing comics of himself and a few friends.
Soon, others wanted to make an appearance in Chester’s comics.
“I had to get used to it,” he said. “But after I kept practicing, I was like this is amazing. I just fell in love with digital.”
He went on to Chattahoochee Valley Community College where he studied graphic design. Around that time, he started charging for portraits. He was getting freelance work then, too.
“I started doing more black art and custom pieces for people,” he said.
Now, Chester’s work consists primarily of social commentary and conversation pieces. Some chronicle the experience black men and women have in America. Others address society’s standards of beauty.
Some seek a response from viewers. One piece — which shows a taller man surrounded by two women and a shorter man alone and off to the side — asks if women miss out on a good man because of his height.
“I like to tell stories with what’s going on the black community . . . or display black is beautiful,” he said. “When I post regular black beauty stuff, I like seeing the responses and how people feel about that.”
He’s experienced some internet fame before. In February 2019, Buzzfeed wrote about Chester’s reimagining of the Disney princesses as black women. But the magnitude wasn’t the same as the unofficial Google Doodle he made in honor of Juneteenth.
Chester already had plans for a piece to honor the holiday. The original idea was a piece of art depicting someone in chains. He didn’t finish it.
But when he got on Google that day, he noticed there wasn’t a doodle in honor of Juneteenth.
Google often changes its logo to a doodle meant to celebrate holidays, anniversaries and lives of famous artists, scientists and other change-makers. For instance, on July 2, the logo was changed in honor of the Women’s World Cup.
“I always wanted to do a doodle, I was like can I make one really quick and see what it would look like,” he said. “Our ancestors, everything that dealt with slavery, I think a lot of people should know and acknowledge that we came a long way and it’s just something that should be celebrated and talked about.”
Chester sketched it out, creating the design of the black arms breaking the shackle chain. The word “Google” appears in the broken chain.
He quickly created the piece on his tablet and published it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram asking why the tech company didn’t create something in honor of Juneteenth. He was traveling to Atlanta when the piece began to attract attention.
“By the end of the day, it was everywhere,” he said. “It was wild.”
The doodle prompted questions from some about what Juneteenth was. His doodle helped bring awareness to the holiday which, he said, is exciting.
As of July 2, his original post has been shared 64,000 times on Facebook alone. Chester said celebrities such as Anthony Anderson of ABC’s Black-ish are among some of the people who shared his doodle on various social media outlets.
A Google employee reached out to Chester to talk about the doodle and asked if he was interested in a design job. Things are in the works but the process will take several weeks, Chester said.
Google representatives did not respond to an L-E reporter’s questions before publication.
“It would be a blessing and amazing,” he said. “I’ve been looking for graphic design work because I always wanted to either do illustration or graphic design for some big company. My dream is Disney.”
Friends created a fundraiser on Facebook to have a billboard put up on 13th Street near Veterans Parkway to honor Chester’s doodle, and it’s now up.
“I was very surprised and grateful,” he said of the billboard.
The doodle has brought Chester a larger audience. He’s been flooded with requests for freelance work. But he’ll keep doing what he’s been doing as he waits to hear back from Google.
“Just the same old, really,” he said when asked what is next.
Information from: Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, http://ledger-enquirer.com
SOURCE: NICK WOOTEN, AP