David worked for more than thirty years teaching Art & Design in a local college. He has exhibited his work in this country and abroad. His new exhibition is at The Customs House, South Shields where he took time out and talked about his influences… ‘Very early on in reception class at school we got bits of paper and plasticene and we had to make something for the flower show in South Shields. I made a small dog and ended up with 2nd prize in my age group, and got half a crown ha ha. Art continued through junior school, the seniors at St Josephs in Hebburn and of course being influenced by living next to the sea. In art school I had a step up in learning, where you do something for a while then suddenly you notice that what you are producing starts to look better. It can be an enormous difference and through teaching you can see it in others’.
How did the mural on Commercial Road in South Shields come about ? ’I went to an interview to be part of the newly formed South Tyneside Community Arts group. I talked about painting murals around the town and the guy interviewing said that sounds great, we’ll employ you to paint a few. So I got involved with the YTS scheme and was put in charge of some 16-17 year olds. Then a guy in South Tyneside Planning Department said we’ve got this wall in Commercial Road do you fancy taking that on’.
‘Some of the young people were interested in art, but one left to be a fireman, one joined the RAF, above all they had committment. Some enrolled on art courses, that’s when the college asked me to do some part time teaching. That snowballed, but I was still painting and doing my own stuff’.
What is your latest project and exhibition ? ‘The last two years of my degree I’ve just painted the sea, nothing else. Just the water and sky nothing around the edges. Waves upon waves. Then abstraction became part of what I was doing because the clouds are fairly abstract themselves. I liked the fact you can look at a picture of Marsden rock and it’ll never change from one day to another, but clouds constantly change and you see different shapes in them. The changes can happen pretty fast. Watercolour artists get out there and make the swift changes of colour and light. Plus working outside is quite exciting – something I done quite a lot when I was at Fine Art college. Then bringing it inside to draw big canvases.
It’s all about the process, these paintings around us are all provisional, they are on their way to somewhere else – the next page in the sketch book. This art is all about the things you can’t freeze. Within the abstract stuff I try to put in the history of the making. The layering of it. That history begins to have a depth. You can’t put a name on it. There’s maybe some pictures in this room which I can say are complete, they have gone their journey. I don’t want to make any changes to them but the next one can add something to that’.
Has there been a time when you haven’t painted ? ‘When I don’t paint it feels a bit weird, then something pops in yer head, get quite excited about it and where the next layer is going to go. I really like that… I like making images I suppose. But when I worked teaching at the college things would sit and gestate at certain times of the year. You might jot down ideas, do drawings, take photographs but then something would bubble, a crack of light in a cloud and you’d work on it. But there’s never been a time when I’ve said I’m not going to do this anymore – think that would feel very weird’.
Interview by Gary Alikivi May 2018.
Sea, Sky and River: Fixing the line about it’s edge.
Exhibition in The Upper Fusion Gallery, The Customs House, South Shields until 31 August 2018.
Thanks to Julia Northam & Fietscher Fotos, South Shields for the mural photographs.