Pop artist and Roman Daniel Livingston is making a name for himself painting the portraits of the rich and famous — while also giving back.
Livingston’s family moved to Rome from Izmir, Turkey, his father, an airman, rotated to Griffiss. He recalls his childhood fondly — “it was a beautiful place to grow up,” he says now of his hometown.
As his years at Rome Free Academy came to a close, Livingston found himself without a plan.
“In 12th grade, I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life,” he explains. His first period art class with the late Claude Merrill that year would inspire a creative career.
“He was the one that introduced me to airbrushing,” Livingston says.
For a few years after high school, he travelled the country. “I sort of wandered, airbrushing bikes. I was in Texas for a while,” he recalls.
By 1993, Livingston was back in Rome, continuing to provide custom airbrushing for a living. He had family in out west, in Arizona, he explains, piquing his interest in the region.
“Business was slow in Rome,” Livingston says. He decided to move west, after seeing many businesses like his own thriving in the Phoenix area yellow pages. “There was more demand for it here,” he said.
Since the move to Arizona, Livingston’s career trajectory shifted from the functional to the aesthetic. For nearly a decade, he’s focused on oil painting, especially portraits of celebrities. “It took me almost ten years to catch on how to do it,” Livingston jokes.
“Compared to painting with an airbrush, it’s a whole different monster,” he says. “I just love it.”
Next month, says Livingston, he plans on asking rock musicians Slash of Guns ‘n’ Roses and Marilyn Manson to autograph his paintings. It’s not the first time, either, that his work will bring him face-to-face with stars.
Among others, Livingston has met Van Halen frontman Sammy Hagar while promoting his art, with whom he spoke about David Lee Roth, who Hagar famously replaced.
“He actually approached me,” Livingston says. “I said David Lee Roth was my man, but I told him he took the band’s sound to the next level.”
“He was a nice guy.”
In addition, his position at the Solid Rock Teen Center in Phoenix, where he teaches youths to paint, has given him the chance to meet with that organization’s founder and benefactor — rock legend Alice Cooper.
“He’s a great guy,” Livingston says of Cooper.
As part of the rock supergroup The Hollywood Vampires, Cooper occasionally tours with guitarist Joe Perry of Aerosmith and actor/musician Johnny Depp. Livingston met both.
“Johnny was great,” he says of the encounter. “Really down-to-earth. I mean we were just talking — just like you and I.”
“I asked him how it was playing guitar with Keith Richards,” referring to the storied guitarist for the Rolling Stones, who at times plays with the Hollywood Vampires. “He said it was just incredible.”
“He’s an incredible musician,” Livingston says of his meeting with Perry. “Very pleasant, too.”
The glamor of rubbing shoulders with rock royalty isn’t lost on Livingston, but he doesn’t lose sight of the “biggest reward” — his opportunity to play the same role in the lives of today’s youth as his art teacher played for him.
He recalls an anecdote about working with a youth at the teen center, teaching him to paint his guitar using airbrushing. The youth was thrilled, says Livingston, and some time passed before the two would meet again at the teen center.
When he returned, Livingston says, it was to airbrush paint another guitar. “He sold the other one for big bucks,” Livingston explains. “So he had like a business going.”
“This is me giving back for what my teacher did for me,” Livingston says proudly. “To make a difference in a kid’s life — it’s just priceless.”
“Teach a man to fish, you know?”