I hope that you have your passports ready for this week dear readers as we are heading down under to Australia to meet an exceptionally talented figure & portrait artist by the name of David Newman-White who lives and works in Lithgow, New South Wales in Australia.
As is becoming tradition on these posts, I should introduce you to David so that you can meet the man behind the words.
*gestures towards picture* – Readers, this is David Newman-White.
David was sent the same list of questions that all of the Worldwide Wednesday participants were. This is what David had to say about his life and work.
Please can you provide a brief introduction to yourself, where in the world you are and let everyone know what you currently do in the arts/crafts industry.
My name is David Newman-White & I come from Lithgow, New South Wales in Australia.
My art practice includes both figure & portrait painting & drawing.
I have been teaching drawing & painting at the Nepean Art & Design Centre, TAFE NSW for the past thirty five years.
I also work for the National Trust as life drawing tutor for the Norman Lindsay Gallery & Museum, Faulconbridge NSW where I have been working now for sixteen years.
When did you begin working in the creative industry and what was the seminal or defining moment that put you on that path?
My career as an artist painting figure & portrait began with an exhibition at the Hogarth Gallery in Paddington, Sydney in 1977.
The most defining period of my life was participating in a group exhibition at the Agora Gallery, Manhattan, New York in 2004 titled ‘Genesis’.
My exhibits consisted of paintings & drawings using a ‘Men in Buildings’ theme.
Is what you do now what you imagined you would be doing when you first started out?
I always knew that I was interested in portraiture from the age of about ten when I painted a portrait (with oil paint on hardboard) of my best friend at the time, Jeffrey.
At a much younger age I once dreamed that I was grabbing hold of a persons face and manipulating it as if it were putty. I’m sure that it was an old man’s face with lots of wrinkles.
Thinking back through the years, what memorable responses have you had to your work?
The driving force with anything I do is acceptance and the pleasure and enjoyment others get from experiencing your artwork. I really enjoy portrait painting and drawing in particular and choose to study faces which have a great deal of character, usually male and often over 50 years of age.
After joining Saatchi online a few years ago I was encouraged by a sale of one of my favourite mixed media drawings of fellow artist ‘Ray Harrington’ which was sold to a collector in Calgary, Canada.
Saatchi had been a wonderful opening to other experiences also.
In early 2012 I received an invitation from a Gallery in Lausanne Switzerland to exhibit drawings of which I submitted ten and they chose four to be exhibited for one month in the Swiss Art Space Gallery.
This was very encouraging.
One day I saw this person walking up to the main shopping area of Lithgow, an elderly gentleman wearing what looked like a drover’s hat and overalls, his arms were going like clockwork as he walked. I began to think along the lines that if I were to meet him somewhere so that I could ask if he would mind if I did a study of him.
The day did come about as I was walking back home from the shops and I turned the corner into the main plaza, there he was, my heart skipped a beat but I proceeded towards him and posed the question. Would you mind……?
He replied, ‘Well… If it will keep you off the streets then OK!’
I couldn’t believe my luck!!!
What has been most important to you as an artist or crafter – a mentor, support, knowledge, advice, information, funding, family, friends … etc?
Mentors are thin on the ground these days as most people are too busy to take the time or to develop an interest in what other people are doing. Indirectly I feel that I mentor students that I have both at the college where I work and at workshops that I do throughout New South Wales. I really enjoy encouraging others. While I was studying myself it was a period of unlearning (1970’s) and I teachers made the point that they were not going to teach us anything, I guess it was not the fashion at the time. There were a few who did impart some knowledge and skills but not many. We were generally on our own and had to do our own research seeking answers to questions from other sources.
I must say my greatest period of learning has been through my teaching career which has now spanned 34 years. My motto now is ‘teaching is learning’.
My personal development as an artist has been self funded. Any grants I have applied for over the years have been unsuccessful.
Family & friends have always been encouraging, particularly my three children who are all adults now & my wife Lesley.
How have you changed during your career and do you see room for more changes in the coming years?
As I have grown and developed in my art practice I have developed a stronger commitment to portraiture.
My subjects I feel have been largely Australian characters, some Aboriginal and others simply locals who live not too far from me with faces that I have been inspired to draw.
What work do you most enjoying doing?
My best experiences of late have been through studies I have done of an Aboriginal author Harold Hunt.
My youngest son Aaron filmed and edited a video clip of me drawing Harold and uploaded it onto Youtube.
Since then I have done several paintings and drawings of Harold.
Who/What inspires you the most?
The four artists who I find most inspiring are Diego deVelazquez, Stanley Spencer, Lucien Freud, Kathe Kollwitz & Jenny Saville. They are all interwoven into my teaching and art practice. I enjoy looking at their work and giving reference to them when speaking to students of art.
How would you describe a creative life? Fun, challenging, rewarding … etc?
Having the opportunity to do what I most enjoy in life (practicing art), is very rewarding. I can practice the art of portraiture & drawing the human figure exclusively, I can talk about it to others in historical context as well as from my own experience with passion for the subject.
Rather than challenging I find it most rewarding doing what I enjoy the most & I enjoy working with people.
What would be your dream project?
Last week I took part in an Educational Expo at Olympic Park (home of the year 2000 World Olympics hosted by Australia). My job at the Expo was to draw portraits and I had a wonderful time while being paid for it.
In three hours I produced four portraits, two of fellow teachers from other disciplines and after the second drawing a young High School student from an Islamic School here in Sydney asked me to sketch her portrait which I did willingly & enjoyed it thoroughly.
The photography teachers documented the process of the portrait, I could feel large lenses coming over my shoulder but continued to work at it unperturbed.
Upon finishing the third portrait a young Chinese student from a local High School leapt into the chair and I was off again, wow what a wonderful face.
My last study and I was drawing at a rapid pace, so fast that my pencil developed a hook rather than a point. He was such a great subject. At this time I realised that I really loved drawing people of cultural backgrounds other than my own.
It was time to finish, so I packed up, grabbed my gear and headed for the exit when I saw a number of African students come through the door. Truly, I could have stayed for the rest of the afternoon, my real love is for those beautiful African faces just as Peter Paul Rubens had drawn and painted them. It would be a wonderful experience to study not one but several African faces in one sitting.
The pleasure of portrait drawing has gone from being a passion to a necessity.
What wouldn’t you do without?
My needs are very basic, but I absolutely love my pastel pencils and a good sheet of Stonehenge paper, a good face to draw and the time to do it.
Other favourite media are Sennelier oil pastels used in a mixed media process which begins with a charcoal drawing over painted with an ink or watercolour wash and finished with the oil pastels.
What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I am painting the portrait of a Nuclear Scientist called Leslie Kemeny who I find a very interesting character to paint. He is dresses in the style of a character from the 1960’s which is when he was most prominent in his field. To me he is reminiscent of some of the characters of a bygone era.
What future project(s) are you most looking forward to?
In the future I do propose to do another portrait of Harold Hunt but in the context of his face merging into the Australian landscape. Harold was first described to me by his publicist as having eyes that see forever.
What are you doing when you’re not creating? What hobbies (creative or non-creative) do you have?
If I am not painting or drawing I usually work with my wife in the garden or continue with the renovation of our old house which I expect will be continuing for some time yet.
Otherwise we spend some time with our grandchildren and family.
Do you have any tips or inspiring words for others?
If you are interested in painting & drawing, join a local group of artists, find a workshop which offers the subject that you like to draw or paint.
Enrol in a ‘serious course of study’ at your local college or University.
Allow yourself to grow without anticipating anything more than continuing to self develop.
Where else can we find you? (Blog, website, twitter, facebook etc)
I have a Blogspot which is about the development or a portrait done a few years ago, of course about guess who…’Harold Hunt’. The address is – http://www.artlessonswithdavidnewmanwhite.blogspot.com
My Website – http://www.david-newman-white.com.au
Ok, just WOW! David is one talented guy isn’t he?! I cannot begin to tell you how much I admire the skill and mastery of technique that David has.
What do you think? Are you also in awe of David’s talent? Are there any questions that you would have asked that I didn’t?
If you have the opportunity, please do head over and take a look at more of his work – it’s definitely worth the time.
Anyway, I could gush for hours on how much I love David’s work however it’s time to whip out the boarding pass and head home.
Thank you to David for taking part in this post and thanks from me to you for taking the time to read this Worldwide Wednesday post.
I hope that you will have your passport ready for next week – where will we end up next time and who will we meet?