Davis developed his wood-carving skills on his own over a period of more than fifty years, beginning during his childhood in Fitzgerald, Georgia. He carved portraits of historical and biblical figures, realistic animals, and fanciful portraits of African tribal leaders as well as dragonlike beasts. Although he stained many of his carvings, his use of paint was relatively rare. Despite persistent pleas from art collectors and dealers, Davis refused to sell his works throughout his lifetime, making very few exceptions. "They're part of me," he insisted. He called them his "treasure," and said, "If I sold these, I'd really be poor."
Tom Patterson Contemporary Folk Art: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum (New York and Washington, D.C.: Watson-Guptill Publications, in cooperation with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2001)