Gene Davis, whose stripe paintings can be seen in the Corcoran and in corporate board rooms, paints every day of the week. On weekends, he first paints in the morning, and then he may visit galleries or meet with other artists. He never really gets away from his craft.
Often on Saturdays, Davis and his wife, Flo, make the rounds of the galleries along Seventh Street NW, and wind up at D.C. Space for drinks. "Seventh Street is like a small town as relates to the art community," Davis says. "You can't go down there without meeting someone you know."
Since many commercial galleries are closed on Sundays, the Davises are likely to go to art museums then. At the National Gallery, Davis was overwhelmed recently by a show of small French paintings. In general, he admires the work of 19th-century French painters -- Bonnard, Matisse, Renoir and Vuillard -- but he has a special affection for the "Adoration of the Magi" by Fra Angelico, which is at the National.
Sometimes on Sunday mornings, says Davis, "We take a little trip through Georgetown and stop at a place on M Street where they have warm bagels," he says. "We've done this for years, just cruise around Georgetown, look at the architecture and the people." They also have a ritual of taking their two basset hounds for a romp in the baseball field at American University.
At one o'clock on Sundays, a few artists and art lovers arrive at their house in Friendship Heights for champagne and strawberries -- whole berries drizzled with Cointreau and topped with whipped cream. The Davises and friends sit around and talk about art in a white living room -- the chairs are white, the walls are white -- looking out on a deck dotted with white wrought-iron furniture and scattered with fallen leaves.
Their living space is white "so that the paintings show up," says Davis. "Also the people show up better. If you have everything neutral, the people become more important."
The secret to the success of the Sunday salon is good food, good drinks and compatible guests. When deciding whom to invite, "It's a guess, a gamble," he says, "but I figure if I like them both, they'll get along."
Davis, who teaches at the Corcoran School of Art, just basically likes being around people. "If you don't keep in contact with other painters and people like that, you get stir crazy," he says. "My wife goes to work." (She's a vice president of Riggs Bank.) "I have an assistant who works with me, but it gets to be a really lonely job.
"If you want to be a creative writer or painter, you have to do it in solitude. If you happen to be a gregarious person, it creates problems."
Davis usually guides his visitors downstairs to his studio, a white cavern under the deck, to show them what he's working on.
What they see these days are more of his harmonious stripes taking form on a canvas on the floor. On one wall hang several eight- foot-tall silhouettes -- stark black-on-white profiles that are self-portraits. For a show in New York, a hundred micro-paintings are being prepared as companions; these identical, three-inch-high heads line up on another wall.
In his spare time, Davis organizes shows, draws and reads art books. He regrets that he reads little fiction: "I mainly read art magazines and I never fail to read the Village Voice; that's my bible," he says.
He may go to the Outer Circle Theater nearby to see such foreign films as "Diva" and "Eboli," but, he says, "I don't like the sensibility, if you know what I mean, in Hollywood films: so trivial. 'E.T.' would be the last film in the world I would want to see. The descriptions of it make me want to throw up."
As for exercise, "I like to take a glass of gin and raise it to my lips," he says. But he admits to a daily program of situps and pushups as well.
He rises at 4 in the morning to paint. "I get my licks in before noon," he says. "There's a certain nice quiet time when everybody else is asleep. I turn my stereo on full volume," he says. A frustrated musician who played the trumpet in his teens, Davis always has records playing. His eclectic taste runs from Mozart to Thelonius Monk to Donna Summer to the Sex Pistols. "I don't like the romantic composers at all; even Beethoven is a little schmaltzy for me. This is reflected in my painting," he observes.
Because he gets up so early, Davis' weekend comes to a halt early on Sunday evening. "I'm not much of a nocturnal person," Davis says. "I wish I were. I miss a lot. There's a whole life out there, a night life. But I can't stay awake past 8.""