College for Creative Studies: Art Practice (Fine Arts)


David Peterson

Independent Artist

As a college sophomore, David E. Peterson made one of the “best decisions” of his life; he changed his major to fine arts. Today, he maintains a busy studio practice in Atlanta and has exhibited work on four continents.

“When I got to my sophomore year, I realized that all of my friends were in fine arts,” said Peterson. “This made me question what it was I enjoyed about art. It was independent projects and object making—exactly what I enjoy most about my career today. The freedom to escape reality and create objects that are 100 percent the way I want them to be—the creative, explorative, personal side of being an artist.

“I also love the global community within fine arts. With social media, artists are able to find other artists that work in the same vein from all over the globe. Changing to fine arts was one of the best decisions of my life.”

As an independent artist, Peterson is solely responsible for managing the administrative, logistic and organizational/business side of his career. In addition to motivating himself to get work done in the studio, he must meet deadlines and confront conflicts and commercial matters that arise.

“The biggest challenge has been sustaining a career,” Peterson admitted. “For the first 10 years out of school, it was up and up. Then, the momentum leveled off. At that point, I really had to dig in and keep making work and exhibiting. Being able to finance all of these projects is expensive, so if you are not selling enough artwork to pay your bills and fund your projects, you need to supplement your income.”

Peterson has had 18 solo exhibitions and been part of over 130 group exhibitions in shows across North America, South America, Asia and Europe. His two biggest solo shows were at VOLTA NY and PULSE NY. Already, he has exhibitions in New York, London and Atlanta lined up for 2017 and is applying for an installation at the 2017 Venice Biannual.

Additionally, Peterson has been represented by galleries in Atlanta, New York, Brooklyn, Miami and London, and his work is included in the collections of the Museum of New Art (Detroit), Progressive Art Collection, Bilzin and Sumberg, and Home Depot among others. The artist has been featured on, Loft Magazine, Southern Living, CNN, New York Times, New York’s Arts Magazine, Huffington Post, the Detroit Free Press, Studio Visit and New American Paintings #112.

“My favorite project was an 82-piece installation based on Asics sneakers that I did for an exhibition in Miami,” said Peterson. “The overall dimension was 3 ft x 28 ft. The installation took me 10 months to complete! It was for my first show in Miami, and the piece was a showstopper!

“I’m currently working on a series called Leaners. They are large, wooden planks with beautiful wood grain, color fields and glass-like clear coat finishes that lean against the wall. I am pushing this series in scale and quantity and hope to do some larger installations.”

Although Peterson now works out of his studio in Atlanta, he treasures the experiences and lessons he learned as an art student in Detroit.

“Detroit is an incredible place to go to art school!” he exclaimed. “The history and energy to be creative is felt throughout the city. It was CCS that gave me the work ethic and drive to wake up every day and create.

“My professors pushed me to exhibit my work, even as a student. They told us to show at coffee shops, friends’ basements, lobbies of our apartment buildings… I discovered how crucial this is to becoming an artist!"

For the first couple of years after graduation, I exhibited wherever I could: pop up shows, furniture stores, fitness gyms, antique malls. This is what helped me get noticed, which led to selling work and my first gallery representation in Atlanta.”

Peterson also recalls an important lesson about critiques and constructive criticism. Specifically, he learned that when critiquing a person’s work, it’s more effective to say “could” rather than “should.”

“This slight change helps prevent the person from feeling judged,” Peterson explained. “It frames the criticism as a suggestion not an attack. This is a great way to approach people in any work environment or team situation. Give it a try. Say ‘could’ instead of ‘should,’ and people will listen.”

In his spare time, Peterson enjoys gardening, woodworking, making electronic music and “pretending to be a surfer.” His long-term goals as an independent artist are to “never stop producing work” and travel.

“I have sustained a comfortable and productive studio practice in Atlanta,” he said. “The joy from being in my studio is truly wonderful! I would like to do exhibitions with other artists that I like from Australia, Germany and the US. I would also like to participate in artist residencies around the world. More traveling! There is nothing better than traveling to a new place and experiencing it with all of your senses.”

To see more of Peterson’s work, visit