MUSCATINE, Iowa–In his youth, current Muscatine resident Ivan Davis did not consider himself much of an artist. After taking a drawing class in high school and having his teacher disparagingly tell him his portrait of another student looked more like a self-portrait, he did not make any art at all for some time. After graduating from high school, Davis immediately enlisted in the army and hoped to do his advanced training in photography.
However, a shortage of medical personnel led him to getting assigned to a medical unit instead. Davis took a correspondence course in medicine. Not long after, he received an assignment to work in the intensive care and recovery unit of an army hospital in Germany.
While there, Davis struck up a friendship with an army doctor named Frank. One day, Davis recalls Frank suggesting, “let’s go down and get some canvas and some paints and paint how we feel.” Intrigued, Davis took him up on the offer and spent the day creating his first oil painting. Though his friend found its somewhat abstract nature surprising, Davis loved it. From then on, he continued to paint and create other forms of art whenever the mood struck him.
After returning to the United States, Davis took a job as a respiratory therapist at Moline Public Hospital. While there, he met his future wife, Cheryl, a nurse, who he married after living in California and working at Stanford Medical Center for a number of years. After returning to Muscatine to get married, Davis spent a couple years in the hotel industry before returning to respiratory therapy. Over the years, he helped to start respiratory therapy departments at several hospitals in Illinois while his wife continued her 45-year career in nursing. On the side, Davis also learned how to auctioneer, and he and his wife would sometimes hold estate sales or antique auctions on weekends.
Throughout this busy period of his life, Davis still found time to create art. While working at Moline Public Hospital, a wet canvas he brought to work became an attractive painting of a dragonfly when his boss carelessly rushed past it and his tie, remarkably, left a smudge perfectly shaped like a dragonfly on it. While in California, Davis developed his photography skills, catching a rare image of a truck trapped on a bridge torn apart by an earthquake. Back in Muscatine, Davis painted one of his favorite landscapes for his wife and accomplished it in a single day while running the Muskie Motel, only just barely finishing it and hiding it before she returned from work.
To this day, Davis continues to create beautiful pieces in many different media, including both photography and digital art. With works spanning from landscapes to impressionistic cityscapes and bright holiday scenes, his art appeals to many throughout the city.
In recent years, Davis has begun to share his art with the community in the form of postcard reproductions. While out walking his dog, he enjoys giving out his art to those he meets and seeing the smiles on their faces when they receive his unexpected gifts. “It’s kind of fun,” he mused. “The people here really like them.”