Dave Meister Autobiography
David Meister was born in the Bay Area, Northern California the 20th of May 1983. He is the son of Leah and David Sr., and sibling to his elder sister Jessica and younger brother Derrick.
From an early age David has been an artistic and creative person. According to his mother, even a pre-school age David began to exhibit a talent for finger and splatter-paintings, particularly in this choice of complementary colors. As time progressed so did his skill and propensity to doodle. ‘As early as first and second grade I recall drawing vampires and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,’ David said.
At the age of nine David found an interest in comic books, “Not so much for the stories, but for the dramatic artwork. I didn’t like to read – or anything that I saw as school-related.” Although he gave his bare minimum to his teachers — earning then and later in his scholastic career a steady C average – David excelled in other ways: “By eleven years I could freehand a convincing human body, involving natural looking hands and feet, which many beginning artists struggle with, and I could use perspective and light accurately. All of which I learned from tracing Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, and Deadpool.”
At the age of twelve, having relocated to Seattle of the 1994 death of his father, David began to experiment with canvas and oil paint. “My family fell on hard times after my father’s death. My mother worked many long, hard hours to support three children on her own. I ended up providing a lot of after-school care for my younger brother, which kept me at home instead of terrorizing Seattle’s streets with my skateboard buddies. But this home time gave me the opportunity to draw and paint. We were poor and couldn’t afford cable television, but I frequently watched Bob Ross on PBS. He taught me how to paint scenery and about color value.”
By thirteen David began tattooing his friends with homemade equipment. The experience sired a life-long passion for skin art, which eventually caused him to drop out of high school at the age of sixteen (By this time David and his family had relocated to northern Idaho) to pursue a career as a tattoo artist. He bought his first set of professional tattoo machines from a local pawn shop and began learning from the few other amateur artists of the rural Idaho area.
David ventured from home at the age of seventeen, moving south to Moscow, Idaho, where he would room with a high school friend who was attending the University of Idaho. It was while living in Moscow in 2000 that David was exposed and impressed professionals who made their living in the tattoo industry. “I was working minimum-wage jobs, tattooing on the side, and just having fun being a kid. I would visit both the local Moscow tattoo shops and just watch. I learned about tattooing but I also increased my artistic knowledge in general. I would talk to the artists and check out their portfolios. If they were more adept than I was, I got jealous. Then I would learn their techniques and try to outdraw them. This competition spurred me to develop my skills; it’s when I really started to grow as an artist.”
Eventually David would take on a full-time apprenticeship under an artist who owned one of the tattoo shops in Moscow. “I only apprenticed for three months — up until I was arrested — but I absorbed a great deal about tattooing and technical aspects of artistic development.”
At the age of nineteen, in 2002, David was arrested for murder. After a protracted and taxing trial David was convicted of both First Degree Homicide and Conspiracy to Commit Homicide, for he received two life sentences. The State’s account of the events was that David was asked by a friend to kill his then girlfriend in order to end their tumultuous relationship. Throughout his 2002 and subsequent 2012 retrial, David has maintained his innocence and does to this day.
“I’m now thirty. I spent all of my twenties in prison. But I haven’t been idle. I’ve kept busy by studying as a hobby – law, logic, philosophy, mathematics, everything I ignored while in school — and by drawing. I’ve done some time in [segregated detention] for tattooing, too.” David does indeed make the most of his time, producing dozens of pieces of artwork each year despite the restrictive conditions.
David intends to one day produce a masterwork, although being incarcerated necessarily limits his access to reference and art supplies, but this circumstance, much as his unfortunate circumstance in life, never depresses his creative drive nor his optimistic spirit. “I use what’s available and mix mediums when I need a specific result. That’s Prison — use what you can find; make the best of things. This is true of life in prison and art as well. The key is to improvise and to be positive about what you can ultimately achieve — for a good life and for good art.