Greyson Davis, a.k.a. Haji P.—“the ‘P’ is for pajamas”—became immersed in art at an early age. It was his antidote to boredom. Admiring the work of puppet-maker Jim Henson, illustrator Charles Schulz, and pop and graffiti artist Keith Haring constantly inspired him to take a pen wherever he went. In essence, he was churning out cartoons and stories in the form of comic books throughout youth. By high school he was writing songs.
“It was a way for me to trick people into listening to my stories because my peers were not trying to read any of the nonsense I was writing at the time!” he quips. “I’d invested a lot into music, so drawing started to become a side dish to me.”
As fate would have it, the artist ended up in the hip-hop business for 10 years. He made records, toured and had the time of his life on the road. Still, something was missing.
“It wasn’t until my daughter was born that I turned my focus back around to art,” he tells. “It was something I really wanted to share with her. I wanted to be able to illustrate stories, draw pictures for her, and have something I could pass down. Then, later, some battles with mental illness led me into a hospital for a while, where the only thing I did was draw; it just became extremely cathartic.”
While doodling was his passion, a career in social work also called to him; specifically, he loved working with kids. He had garnered experience working for the Boys and Girls Club in Santa Cruz and Wilmington before doing foster-care work and leading positive parenting classes. He also was familiar with various nonprofits that help youth.
“I was asked by somebody at DREAMS of Wilmington to lead an arts activity for GLOW Academy at one of their ‘Learning Circles,’” Haji P. remembers. “I’d say about two weeks later, I was contacted by the principal to visit the school. A week after that, I received a call asking if I wanted to be their fine arts teacher. I was like, ‘Word? So what you’re telling me is I can work with kids … and draw … for a living!? Abso-dang-lutely!”
That was a year ago and today he couldn’t be happier combining his passions: art and inspiring young minds. Still, he constantly draws when not in the classroom, and this Friday his artwork will be on display at “Happyfangs Art Show.” “Happyfangs” is a phrase Haji P. uses to refer to his style of doodling; though, he use to call it a different toothy name: “Butt Biters.” Haji P. would sketch his favorite cartoon characters biting people’s rumps. “Because I thought it was hilarious and I’m still a 12-year-old,” he jokes.
After illustrating a children’s book, “But Daddy, I Don’t Like That!” for author Terrence Lovett of Fayetteville a few years ago, the two went on a whirlwind book tour. Parents began asking Haji P. about his artwork, and he couldn’t call it “Butt Biters” with a straight face.
“‘Well, ma’am/sir, I mostly enjoy drawing things biting other things’ butts,’” he jests. “Big teeth and exaggerated smiles had always been my signature, so I took that and ran with it. The name ‘HPFangs’ (Happyfangs) came from the idea you could slap a smile on anything.”
“Happyfangs” will open this weekend at Wabi Sabi Warehouse and feature a lot of doodles inspired by ‘80s and ‘90s pop culture. As of press Haji P. was dwindling down what to exhibit, from 100 or more pieces. Prices will range from $20 to “400 giggledeebillion dollars,” according to the artist.
“Not to be all old-timey-geezer-fart, but I feel like the [‘80s and ‘90s] were exponentially more fun,” he says. “I hella like fun. That’s the ‘happy.’ It’ll also include work I’ve done during more dispiriting spells. That’s the ‘fangs.’”
Haji P.’s materials consist of brush pen and Copic markers, on blending card paper. First drafts easily occur on napkins and scrap paper, as the artist says his head is full of creatures saying, “Let me out!” numerous times throughout the day.
“The inside of my head is like a g-dang episode of ‘The Muppet Show,’” he explains, “with a bazillion frenzied thoughts and ideas fighting for stage time.”
One of his works—“Zoinks!”—came to be after he was talking to an 8th-grader about cartoons. She casually mentioned her adoration for “Scooby-Doo.”
“I was bugging ‘cause it’s rare that kids appreciate the OG cartoons, so I figured, ‘Yep! Scooby Doo!’” he says. So later that night he churned out a piece in ode to the 50-year-old cartoon.
“Lately, I’ve been letting some of my brain goblins do the drawing for me,” Haji P. explains of “Fowlerism.” “I was in a pretty deep place that night, so I just picked up a marker and mindlessly started drawing. It was a total brain barf.”
The artist will be at his Friday night art show to chat up attendees. Though he focuses more on living in the moment than planning long-term goals, being a good dad and continuing to lead by a good example are at the forefront of everything he wants to endure.
“I just know in whatever I do, my thought is always, Will [my daughter] think this is dope? Will I create something for her to be inspired by and/or influence her to be a good person/ do good for other people? I’ve been sitting on a book I want to write and illustrate for her. Hopefully, in five or 10 years, I’ll have pulled it together enough to get it finished.”