Oils & Acrylics|
View Artist Statement
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Gallery Direct Interview with DAVID ROSE|
David Rose is a low-vision artist living in Montreal who utilizes visual aids when creating his paintings. He uses photographs as source material for a variety of themes, such as portraits, natural landscapes, and urban landscapes which often include Montreal street musicians. While his artworks are unified by light, colour and technique, his paintings can also reveal something of the process by which they were created.
At what age did you realize you wanted to pursue drawing and painting as a career, and who gave you the most encouragement to do this?
When I was about 10 years old, my Grandmother noticed I liked to draw. She found an artist / instructor offering classes over an art supply store near our home in Toronto, and she paid for lessons once a week out of her own pocket (bless her heart). From then on I was hooked, and began to get into trouble at school for drawing at my desk instead of listening to the teacher. By that time I realized that art was what I wanted to do in life.
Could you tell us about your education in the arts and how it has helped you grow and develop as an artist?
I majored in visual arts through high-school, then enrolled at the Ontario College of Art (now the Ontario College of Art and Design). But, after one year I found I was dissatisfied with the curriculum, so left to attend The New School of Art. This was an alternative art school where the teachers were active, working artists. Later I earned a degree in fine arts at St. Lawrence College in Kingston, Ontario.
This education influenced me as a painter in a number of ways. It provided a solid basis in the fundamentals of drawing, painting, printmaking, and photography. Equally important was the attitude imparted by the artist / teachers as they were always questioning things, like the traditional definitions of art. They also provided an understanding and appreciation of contemporary, late modern and post-modern painting.
During this period, student trips to exhibitions and art museums in the United States made a great impression on me. The most memorable were an Impressionist and Post-Impressionist exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts, the modernism of Miro and Jackson Pollock at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, and of course the great museums in New York City, including the galleries that showed contemporary works. I found it extraordinary that such powerful images could be created by human beings. By the time I visited the art museums of England and France some years later, I had developed a serious interest in the history of art.
What kinds of images did you first start out with and what mediums did you use?
My earliest efforts tended to be in an expressionist / surrealist style. An example is Tempest Fugit (Time Flies), a black & white dry point etching from 1978. For awhile I experimented with many mediums, including printmaking, gouache and watercolour, mixed media, and painting in oil and acrylics.
However, because I was a fairly good draughtsman, I was most comfortable working in line and tone, with colour as a secondary element. I have since become more interested in the intricacies and effects of colour. Recently, as an exercise, I re-created the black & white Tempest Fugit print as an acrylic painting to see if I could make it work as a full-colour image.
Can you tell us how your life experiences influenced your work and how you overcame the challenges life presented?
One of the major challenges (common to creative artists throughout the ages) has been to make a living while continuing to paint. I had to work at many different jobs which put my art on hold for long stretches of time. The situation was somewhat resolved when I graduated from Concordia University in Montreal with a Masters in Art History. Afterwards I worked at the Canadian Centre for Architecture (Montreal) as an archivist and exhibition researcher, which put me in an art-related field. From the collections of the CCA I discovered that many architects were excellent artists, particularly in their preliminary sketches and the often dramatic “presentation” drawings that were created to impress clients. This type of drawing has influenced my paintings of buildings, such as Big Game at the Bell Centre, which has something of that presentation drawing look to it.
The most serious challenge however has been the onset of impaired eyesight. I have a retinal problem in both eyes that began to show up in the mid-1980s, and now I am legally blind. This situation is not easily overcome, but I have adapted with the assistance of the MAB-Mackay Centre in Montreal, which has been a tremendous help, and the support of close friends. What this has meant for my painting is that over the last few years I have used digital photographs (which I continue to take) as a starting point instead of freehand drawing as I used to do. The creative challenge is to continuously find ways to use and manipulate photos to produce good paintings.
You have a unique way to create your artworks. Could you tell us about the process and technique you use to paint?
A lot of time goes into the preparation of a painting. Since my visual acuity is not sharp, I use a variety of visual aids to examine the image, such as magnifying glasses and a CCT reader (closed-circuit television reader). I also use a screen enlargement program on my computer to view scanned or uploaded camera images. Yet the more I use photos, the more I realize that they have a number of drawbacks for a painter like me - the fixed viewpoint, blacked-in shadows, often arbitrary light and colours, the constraint of the borders, and the excess of detail the camera records. Sometimes initial alterations on the computer can help with some of the problems, but I had to develop a more flexible hands-on working method. Gradually a process evolved by which I enlarged the images as photocopies, so I could see them better, then I constructed collages by cropping, cutting and pasting, drawing and painting on the copies. When the composition has been satisfactorily arranged and I’ve thought through a general colour scheme, I then use the traditional method of drawing a grid on the collage to transfer it to the canvas. Sometimes I have left traces of the preliminary process as part of the finished artwork. For example, in Inuksuk: Sky and Stone there is evidence the painting was created from a collage of two photographs (the rocks in the lower half and the landscape in the upper half), and areas outside the borders of the photos have been improvised.
How long does it take to complete an artwork?
A lot of work goes into the preparatory studies. Then there is the painting itself, which can be slow as I wear prismatic glasses when I work and my nose is practically on the canvas. I paint in acrylics because of the medium’s versatility and quicker drying time, but I rarely finish one painting in a week. Also I often go back to a work for touch-ups after I look at it hanging on the wall for awhile.
Describe your studio and working atmosphere.
Well, contrary to most artists who prefer a workspace filled with natural light, I prefer my studio to be dimly lit to avoid glare, which causes a problem for my sight. So I use directional lighting that I can control more easily. As for the atmosphere, I have installed an old computer to use as a jukebox, as I enjoy all kinds of music when I work.
What are your favourite paintings you have done and why?
My favourite paintings are usually the last ones I have finished. At the moment I am quite enthusiastic about a new series of exploratory paintings of Red Rock Canyon, based on photographs I took of this protected area near Las Vegas, Nevada. The paintings have started out as very representational, but I want to push them towards a more abstract conception with a looser technique on larger canvases. The fluidity of the rock formations and the warm desert colours should lend themselves well to this approach. Eventually I would like to move away from photograph-based work to paintings inspired by inner-visions.
Considering the challenges you have had to overcome, what advice would you give to other artists pursuing art as a career?
For artists starting out, be prepared to put a lot of time into your art. Not just the creative, productive side, which requires a huge commitment, but the “business” side as well – promotion, applications and submissions, photographing, websites, etc. It takes a lot of time and effort, but it’s absolutely necessary. And take care of your eyesight.
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