“I interdisciplinary artist scholar who resides in Oakland, California – USA. My artistic creations and writings explore the intersections between art, aesthetics, and spirituality.
As a little boy, I loved going to the grocery store so I could pour over the comics while my mother was shopping. I was always captivated by the images and the colors long before I began to actually read any of the content. These early experiences provided me with a wealth of information and inspiration to fuel my expanding inner world.
As I grew into a young man, I came to the realization that I was most happy and fulfilled when I was engaged in creative pursuits. Most of my middle and high school years were spent traveling back and forth between the art and music rooms. When the time came for me to make decisions about college, I realized that creating art was my deepest passion. Luckily, I had the benefit of a very caring art teacher who helped me to develop a portfolio for submission to an Art & Design college.
After completing my training as an Illustrator at the Kansas City Art Institute, I began doing freelance illustration and graphic design. However, midway into my career, a series of life experiences led to what can best be described as a spiritual awakening. As a result of these experiences, I felt compelled to pursue a spiritual calling which resulted in my entering seminary.
While pursuing a Master of Divinity degree I struggled to understand how I could integrate my identity as an artist with the theological and philosophical training I was being exposed to. I continued to create works of art and complete commissions but the content and focus of my work had begun to evolve. During this period, I began to incorporate my creative activity into my spiritual practice. A product of my struggle (and the incorporation of creativity into my spiritual practice) was discovering that I needed more in-depth knowledge about the connections between art and theology – so I entered a Doctoral program at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA.
The focus of my research was an interdisciplinary study that integrated, Theological Aesthetics, Art, and Black American cultural theory. My time spent at the Graduate Theological Union culminated in the production of a research project that utilized both my illustrations and my doctoral research. The extensive research required for my dissertation allowed me to integrate theological insights and my creative artistry into a cohesive way of being which combines, theology, art, and my ongoing spiritual practice into an overarching vocational vision. My artistic practice is an integral part of that vision.
At present, creations reflect my efforts to explore the connections between artistic creation, aesthetic experience, and spirituality. My mission statement is:
“To give divine light form through the manifestation of symbolic images that encourage reflection upon the myriad ways the divine reveals itself within our world.”
Most of my images are birthed from my study of various theological/philosophical texts, or images that come to me through my daily meditation practice. My primary mediums are scratchboard and watercolor. I occasionally work with acrylic paints but maintain a consistent portfolio through the use of style and content that supports my vision statement. I always begin with meditation before engaging in the creative process. I meditate at a small altar located within my studio. My goal is to infuse each creation with higher vibrational energies that are interwoven into the fabric of the work. This process not only involves meditation and prayer while creating, but also involves in-depth research and meditation upon the best ways to convey complex spiritual concepts in visual form through the use of color, line, and symbol. I strive to make each and every image highly vibrational, inspiring, didactic, and iconic.
Last year I wrote and illustrated my first book, “When We Pray: 8 Meditations on the Aesthetics of Prayer & the Spiritual Life”. When We pray is available via my website or Amazon.”
Tell us about your artwork, medium, style, subject matter, etc.
Damon: All of my images are spiritually based works that I create in one of three mediums: Acrylic paint,
Scratchboard, or Watercolor. Most of my creations are based upon imagery that was downloaded to me
through my meditation practice, or through inspirations, I have received from my reading and study of
various spiritual texts (Bhagavad Gita, Christian Bible, Koran, Buddhist Sutras…). I have attempted to
place these into a visual form.
My primary means of doing this is through the use of creativity. I employ the visual arts, writing,
and the spoken word as a means of reminding others that the spiritual dimensions of our lives are present
in every experience. If we remain grounded and aware, we will always find the light and assistance we
need to navigate every situation. In keeping with that goal, my mission statement is, “To give divine light
form through the manifestation of symbolic images which encourage reflection upon the myriad ways
that Spirit reveals itself within our world.”
I don’t believe I have a particular style if you define it as being able to identify one of my
creations based solely upon the use of figure, brushstrokes…but I do believe that my work carries high
vibrational energy that is linked directly to my unique signature. Although I also tend to use lots of
symbols, bright colors, and what some have termed “odd” color combinations. I do this on purpose to
help give the work a sense of presence that is based more upon a spiritual reality than a physical one.
I primarily consider myself a watercolorist (my favorite) and a draftsman (hence the
scratchboard) who experiments with acrylics. Many people are not familiar with scratchboard and often
think they are viewing etchings. Scratchboard is composed of a white clay-covered board that is then
blackened over with ink. It is considered a subtractive medium because the artist then takes the
blackened board and scratches out the light areas from the blackboard using various scratch tools. In
contrast, when one drawing on paper the artist will add darker tones onto the white paper.
What is the message you are trying to impart with your art?
Damon: My overarching vocational vision is to bring light and healing into the physical world. For me,
this goal is expressed through a desire to emphasize the role and presence of the spiritual within our
daily lived experience. We truly are spiritual beings having a physical experience and I try to remind us of
that in every creation. It is my hope that viewers will be uplifted by my creations as I try to imbue them
with higher spiritual vibrations that give the viewer a sense of anagogy -that is uplifting that is not
just emotional (as in feel good) but psycho-spiritual as well. This uplifting is one that elicits both
psychological, emotional height, and spiritual states of wellbeing (bliss, joy, ecstasy, happiness,
In many instances, I am not only trying to depict a spiritual reality but to also work through my
one understanding of what can often be complex psycho-spiritual concepts and their meaning and
application in my own life. So in some ways, my works are a visual journal of my own spiritual
development. I don’t see these two purposes as divergent but complimentary.
What is your process from start to a final finished work of art? Do you envision it
from the beginning or is it a different kind of process?
Damon: From a practical perspective, my actual working process varies with the given medium. The
set-up and way of working with each one is so very different that they can’t really be compared. For me,
the vision always determines the medium. If the vision is one of high contrast then I will usually go with
scratchboard, but if it is more light and airy it will be watercolor. Acrylic is a bit more versatile in this
regard so I will use it when I need a bit more wiggle room with the overall mood.
Despite the fluidity in my medium of execution, my overall working process is the same. I either receive
an image download during my meditation practice or a concept from a text or my own life experience
will inspire me. The next step is to begin doing in-depth research on the image. This could involve
symbol study, more in-depth reading on a topic in conjunction with prayer and meditation. Then I will
begin some initial small (2×3 inches) thumbnail sketches to get an overall feel for what I want as I work
out the image and composition. After I decide on 1-3 thumbnails that I think have potential, I will begin
image research which could involve searching images from google images, sketching friends, and/or
setting up my own photoshoots. Once I have the reference I need, I begin producing another series of
rough sketches (3×5 inches) to work out any other details and make sure the composition and feel are
in-line with my initial vision. After I have decided on 1-3 of these sketches, Then do 1-2 color roughs of
(4×6 inches max) of the thumbnails until I have a good sense of the color combination and imagery. Then
I lay the larger portions of the image out using a projector and then hand-draw the finer details. Prayer and
meditation are integral parts of every stage of this process.
Many artists have asked why I don’t produce a more detailed final draft, but I refuse to do so
because I want to intentionally leave room for more spontaneity in the actual creative process. I rely
heavily upon my intuition and things do sometimes change while I am in the midst of execution.
What is the most recent piece of art you have enjoyed working on lately?
Damon: About two weeks ago I completed a piece as part of the virtual exhibition sponsored by the
International AIDS Society, and their (now virtual) International AIDS Conference – AIDS2020. The
exhibition is entitled “Profiles in Resilience” and pairs an artist with a local HIV/AIDS activist. The artist is
provided with a brief Bio on the activist along with a quote from them. The artist is then given the
opportunity to create an image-based upon the theme and the information provided about the activist. I
really enjoyed this project immensely! I have been active in the field of HIV/AIDS for the past 11 years
and actually know some of these activists. It was a real privilege to be offered an opportunity to serve in
this capacity. My piece was entitled, “A Global Harvest”.
Is there a real-life situation that inspired your artwork? And if yes, tell us about
Damon: The answer to this question depends upon each particular work. My work is in part a visual
journal of my own life and spiritual development. It serves as a visual embodiment of my desire to
understand and apply spiritual principles within my own life in a very pragmatic way.
My Chakra series was birthed around my own desire to better understand the chakras and open
them within myself. The initial image was of the fifth (throat) chakra as I was struggling to find my own
voice and speak forth my truth to the world. My research into the piece and its subsequent creation
helped me to both understand and process these issues within my body and spirit. I had no idea a series
was in the works, but I was led to the creation of the next image (the third chakra), and then the
next…until they were all complete.
How has your art evolved since your “spiritual awakening” and where do you
think it has gone from there?
Damon: The work I create now is vastly different from the work I was creating before and for many years
after my “spiritual awakening”. It took a long time for me to find myself as a spiritually-themed creator. I
knew intuitively that there was a connection between my creativity and my spirituality but I initially did
not possess the technical knowledge or resources needed to identify and articulate it. It was this quest
that led me to seminary, and then on to an interdisciplinary doctoral study. I had a thirst for exploring
the ways in which the spiritual, aesthetic, and creativity intersect. The journey has been long and intense
but well worth the effort. It took some time to put all of the knowledge into a cohesive model of
understanding and even more time for that understanding to make its way from my head to my heart. I
have only been on the current path for the past seven years but I have no regrets.
What story you’ve read has inspired your artwork the most, and why?
Damon: In terms of my personal development, it would have to be the story of Siddhartha the Buddha. I
love this story because it provides seekers with a realistic picture of what it means, and looks like to walk
a spiritual path. It takes a great deal more time, effort, dedication, and struggle than most people truly
realize. It reminds us that as in all things we must count the cost and be prepared to play the long game.
From an artistic perspective, I resonate very closely with the life and works of Aaron Douglas.
Douglas was the artistic father of the visual arm of the Harlem Renaissance. I quote him in some of my
research works and really identify with some of the issues he had to face and the struggles (both
artistically and in life) discussed in his biography.
What is the best way for people that are interested in your art to reach you?
Damon: The best way to reach me for correspondence is via email firstname.lastname@example.org. But the best
way to view my work is by visiting my website www.damonpowell.com where you can view and
purchase prints and original works of art. If you are ever in Oakland, California feel free to contact me
about a studio visit (by appointment only) to check out some originals.
Are there any upcoming shows or workshops we should know about (or that
were canceled due to the Covid-19 situation)?
Damon: My Chakra series was also part of a show entitled “Unbound Roots: A Paradigm for Intentional
Healing” at the SOMart’s main gallery in San Francisco. The lockdown began just a few days before our
grand opening and very few people actually got a chance to see a really great show. My pieces are still at
SOMarts and I am not yet sure when I will be able to retrieve them?
I am currently about 2/3rds of the way through the completion of a series of images on yoga.
This is my first time working in collaboration with others and it has been an enjoyable and challenging
process. I am working with a small group of professional yogis and yoginis who have served as models
for the imagery and will be helping to promote the project upon its completion. I will complete the
series by the end of June and will be meeting with the group to discuss the details for future showing
and promotion. I should have more details by mid to late July. If you would like to know more, you can
join my mailing list for monthly updates.
Do you see your art as serving a purpose beyond art itself?
Damon: Yes, I truly believe that my work is a form of channeling and manifestation that enables me to
lock in higher vibrational energies into this plane. Artists in general often do more than we can say in the
creation of an image. But when that doing is done with mindfulness and intentionality that is
spirit-directed the effects can be exponential. It is this awareness that I bring to every creation.
Would you like to share something with our readers who are searching for
inspiration, and want to expand their artistic expression?
Damon: Please know that you are innately creative. Creativity is the basis for all manifestation in the
physical world. If we view creativity from this perspective that everything we do is a creative act, that
can become its very own artistry. Art goes beyond what we think or traditionally known as the “Arts”
and is really an orientation toward creativity and striving for excellence in whatever you choose to do.
Our very living is a unique, creative, artful form of manifestation.
To learn more about Damon and his art, make sure to check: