Ocean Ties and Cleanly Drawn Lines

by David Rolland

After years of hard work David Lavernia is starting to think he might have made it as artist. “I just flew into Barbados. A client paid for me to take a surprise surf trip. I checked in on Instagram that I was in Barbados and not a minute later people were hitting me up asking if I could paint something on their wall.”

Lavernia is as happy as one of the clams that might end up on one of his wall sized aquatic murals. Growing up in Miami though, he didn’t always feel his artistic pursuits were encouraged. “I took some art classes in elementary school. In high school I wanted to take art more seriously, but everyone said I couldn’t do it. It’s too risky, I’d never make a living out of it.” He attended college at Full Sail University in Orlando studying graphic design, but got frustrated by it and dropped out. It was while working at the Miami location of BC Surf & Sport that his professional art career began to take off. “I would paint on people’s grip tapes on skateboards and later, surfboards and snowboards. That led to mural projects, ads and logos people paid for.”

With growing confidence, Lavernia decided to pack up his bags and drive around the country searching his muse and finding a following for his art. “I went all over, seeing who I could meet. I knocked on doors of bars, clubs and art festivals seeing if I could paint a mural or display my work.”

Now settled in Coral Gables where he finds himself inspired by surrounding live oaks, he’s pleased that he has a long demand for commissions lined up in front of him. “It’s nice to have plans for the next few years, instead of worrying what I’m going to be doing next week,” he said during our chat. In fact, during the interview he was working on a sketch for just such a commission. “I’m drawing red and green peppers. It’s an anniversary present for a friend’s wife who grows peppers in her garden. It’s always interesting to see what people commission.”

Lavernia’s art focuses on the natural world with a majority of the subject matter being the sea and the life that inhabits it. Over the years he’s developed a process for how he works on a commission. “It will start off with a ten minute conversation with a client. Often times I’ll sketch while we’re talking so they can tell me what they like and don’t like. If it’s for a mural I’ll take some notes and help guide them toward what they’re looking for. I’ll go home to my studio and do some drafts. Then I let them approve it before I start working on the final piece.”

Photo: Marcos Javier Garcia

In the near future Lavernia is opening a couple of studios, one in Miami and another in the Keys where curiosity seekers can stop by and check out his process. For now he has a small tour of finished work he recommends fans stop by to check out. “I did a giant wave with an underwater scene of turtles, octopus, and coral on the Fort Lauderdale BC Surf & Sport. There’s a giant rooster I did right by Marlin’s Stadium and there’s a 3 story flamingo I did in Grassy Key at Keys Cable and Adventure Park.” He was also excited about a 70 foot hallway mural of orals with mermaids in a residential building in Miami. “An artist named Krave commissioned 18 different artists to each paint two hallways. It was really cool to be around all of these artists working at the same time.”

All this work keeps him busy, even during his Barbados vacation. “I did get to surf for five straight days and enjoyed the turtles swim- ming up to my surfboard. Somehow I still ended up painting. I found some old doors and abandoned structures in the surf spots that I thought could use some color.”



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