Artist In The Spotlight: David Walker
"My paintings aim to express a kind of curious beauty of the everyday, and record glimpses as almost abstract compositions of colour, light and form..."
By Daniel Lee-Jacobs
Prize-winning figurative painter David Walker caught up with ArtsHaus to discuss his latest work, focusing on London, its ever-changing architecture and unique atmosphere.
David is a three times winner of the Frank Herring award at both the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours and the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, as well as a recipient of the Rowland Hilder award and ‘The Artist’ magazine award.
He trained and practiced as an architect for 12 years, a pursuit which developed his love and interest for architecture and how it shapes our urban environment.
You trained and worked as an architect and architectural visualiser for over a decade, what gave you the impetus to switch to a career in painting?
I primarily left architecture to see if I could establish myself as an architectural visualiser, with a mind to go back to architecture at some point. The visualising work really took off and enabled me to also develop my other life long passion of painting in both oils and watercolour.
It gave me a bit more freedom to express myself and create work which wasn't wholly representational. To try and capture some of the atmosphere of places. I still work as a architectural visualiser however, and it's still something I enjoy.
Sunlight Through The Tower - Watercolour on canvas
What makes the urban landscape so fascinating to you and why do you keep returning to it as a subject?
Urban landscape, as a subject, has long been a subject for artists. It is a big part of the the modern human experience and for those of us that inhabit cities, it is the backdrop to our lives. It’s full of metaphor and symbolism.
The play of light and atmosphere on the manmade forms of our cities is something that always intrigues me. The paintings aim to express a kind of curious beauty of the everyday, and record glimpses as almost abstract compositions of colour, light and form.
Usually it's London that is the inspiration for your work. Is there a particular reason for that? A personal connection or fascination?
London is the city I know and love.
It's like painting a portrait. You need to know the person, or get to know the person, in order to capture some of their character. I feel I know London well and I can therefore convey some of its personality and its atmosphere.
Ordinary Places - Oil on Canvas
What's your process for choosing a subject or a scene? Are your paintings all representational of places you have yourself visited or is it more of a memory of things you've witnessed?
I will visit an area, then work instinctively, using photography to record glimpses, the play of light, the composition of built forms.
It’s usually not immediately apparent what it was that inspired the photographs; so I keep them and at some point, maybe months later, I will be able to see them with much more clarity and the painting will start to emerge. I think the passing of time filters out the unnecessary information and the memory of the inspiration is much clearer.
As a result the final image will be only a version of what I saw, and I can play with the composition in an attempt to realise a feeling. Whether that's more abstracted, more colourful, more paired back, it's all quite instinctive.
Blackfriars - Oil on Canvas
You didn't study art formally yet you've had some great success, winning awards with the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour and in Oil Painting. How did you hone your craft and master your control of these mediums?
I’m not sure that these days art schools teach you how to paint, the emphasis is more on how to think.
I have always been able to draw well. The thinking side of it, for me, is a combination of the more academic aspects of architecture and design with an appreciation of art history and in particular, modern and contemporary art.
Light and Shade - Watercolour on Canvas
And do you have any advice for those who perhaps are, where you were a few years ago, pursuing art as a part-time passion?
The goal for any aspiring artist should be to find a visual language that can communicate with the viewer and is relevant to today. I’m not sure I’ve got there yet, but that’s my goal.
The Powder Tower Prague - Watercolour on Canvas