When Google failed to spotlight Juneteenth in the daily doodle on its homepages, Georgia artist Davian Chester went into action, creating an illustration that generated praise from around the country.
Chester’s alternative doodle -- hands breaking shackles that spelled out Google -- went viral, helped by celebrities including “Blackish” star Anthony Anderson and comedian "D. L." Hughley sharing it with millions of followers.
Then, came a call from Google: Would the 26-year-old artist and art teacher from Columbus be interested in becoming one of the “Doodlers” who creates the logo on the tech giant’s main page each day?
“A recruiter told me that my doodle got attention at the director level at Google,” said Chester, adding the interview and selection process will take several weeks. If hired, he would leave his hometown of Columbus, likely for either New York or California.
In Atlanta this week to visit family on July 4th, Chester took a break at his cousin’s house in Decatur to talk about his art, his teaching and the frenetic two weeks since posting the Juneteenth tribute he created in an hour.
African Americans began the Juneteenth celebration on June 19 to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States. Instead of Juneteenth, Google doodlers marked the 158th birthday of Filipino author and physician José Rizal.
When he saw that, Chester drew and posted his image, captioning it, “So, I noticed @google didn't create a doodle for Juneteenth. So, I decided to help out.”
In his art, Chester often focuses on overlooked black America, including the beauty of black women. “I really didn’t see black women in art when I was growing up,” he said.
A fan of the graphics in Disney movies, Chester reimagined Disney princesses as black women in a set of images shared by Buzzfeed earlier this year. Those portraits drew thousands of admirers, but Juneteenth went bigger.
The artwork drew so much attention that Columbus friends collected money to turn it into a congratulatory billboard for Chester, raising enough in two days to erect a billboard on 13th Street near Veterans Parkway.
Columbus and its schools nurtured Chester’s love of art. “I really feel the entire city of Columbus has got my back and is by my side,” he said.
Chester attended public schools and always liked art but became even more inspired when teachers introduced him to digital drawing in high school. He then earned an associate’s degree in design and visual communications from Chattahoochee Valley Community College.
While he considered continuing his education, Chester discovered he could earn a living on commissions for logos, custom pieces, and portraits. He also teaches art through the Empowered Youth of Columbus program.
He wants children to see all the possibilities for expressing themselves. “They begin feeling they can’t do art,” he says. “But I show them there is so much art everywhere, that it is more than painting pictures, that it can be digital or structural.”
Chester credits his cousin Delores Gardner Thompson with supporting his dreams. “She was a big sister and mentor, always pushing me, pushing my creative ideas, seeing what we could do next.”
And that included illustrating the cover of a children’s book written by Thompson, an aerospace engineer turned attorney. (Thompson writes her science-inspired children’s books under the pen name Morgan Young.)
“Art is Davian’s gift. It has been a pleasure to support his work and witness him get his due recognition,” said Thompson. “I am so proud of him.”