Artspan Sits Down with Painter Pete Davies

Five Questions for Pete Davies

First published in 2015.

 


1. I love your story of rediscovering art after a decades-long hiatus. Did art play a part in your life in the interim? Did you visit museums or read art books?

I didn’t make a point of visiting galleries, museums or reading art books. Painting hadn’t played a part in my life during the time I worked offshore in the North Sea and any artistic abilities I had I guided into other creative forms of expression once I returned home, such as guitar playing, gardening and cooking. 

I’ve always thought certain people look at the world with a painterly eye, whether or not they actually paint. Is this true of you?

I don’t think that’s particularly true for me although I’ve always tried to express my artistic feelings in some way or another but not always through paint.

Do you feel as though you had years’ worth of paintings stored in your head, or did it all feel new to you?

Painting does feel like a new and refreshing medium for expression. Once I started I realised straight away that I had a lot of catching up to do in order to put together a portfolio of work. So far I have completed 23 paintings.

2. You say your only prior experience as a painter was a painting when you were twenty, which I take to mean that you don’t have any formal education. Can you describe your method?


The first painting I completed was in 1974; I found oils very difficult and had no idea how to manage them.  Prior to that I was considered to be a good artist at school and when I left I took up a Foundation Course at Eastbourne Art College. However I only lasted about 6 months; at that time in my life I wanted to play the guitar and was a very poor art student. In terms of painting and drawing I learnt nothing worth remembering during those 6 months and I’d forgotten all about that part of my life until February 2015 when I decided to teach myself to paint. 

shes-a-doll-reduced
She’s a Doll – Pete Davies Art

Are there particular artists, living or dead, who inspired you?

Back in February I was intrigued by the glazing techniques of artists such as Vermeer and Holbein, I had never heard about this method of painting and it was a style I was determined to perfect. My painting which was recently pre-selected for the Royal Institute of Oil Painters Annual Open Exhibition in London, was based on this technique. However quite recently I have adopted a more impressionistic style of painting influenced by artists such as Edgar Payne, Frank Henry Mason, Winslow Homer and Henry Herbert La Thangue.

Your paintings seem very accomplished. How did you learn your technique?

I learnt through study. I suppose that my age is an advantage. I’d spent the last 35 years taking exams, usually for offshore work, so studying was not too difficult particularly as art was something I really wanted to do. I knew that in my case I would have a far more mature and professional approach to my art than I’d ever had when I was 18. I taught myself by downloading paintings from the internet, reading and studying the techniques of the artists I liked.

3. You work offshore in the oil business. Does this take you away from home and from your studio for long periods of time? 

Yes it does. As I said previously; I started painting this year and from February to July was away at sea for more than half that time.  However I took some pencils with me which gave me the opportunity to start recording on paper the faces and events of a time which will eventually come to an end.

How does this impact your creative life? Does the sea creatively inspire you?

I think the sea is often inspirational at about 5 in the morning when it is flat calm; then it looks like a primordial soup made of waves of chocolate. Other times it bounces you about so much that all you can think about is hanging on. 

pete-davies-art-shetlands
Leaving the Shetlands

4. Everyone gets a question from the Proust Questionnaire, and here is yours: “What are your favorite qualities in a man?”

I think my favourite qualities in a man are the same as those I would find in a woman; there isn’t a massive difference. These would be empathy, warmth, humour, enthusiasm, strength, kindness and encouragement.

5. Your portraits are so full of life and personality, whether of pets or people. I think this is a function of expression, but also of your use of colour. Do you work from photographs?  When you talk about finding the “actual colour”  is this the exact colour in nature, in your head, or just what’s best for the painting?

I was interested to find that when I saw all my paintings together they were instantly recognisable as being mine. I still have my first painting from the 70s which has the same style and which I will soon add to my website.

pete_davies_art_girl_at_table
My Time

sometimes work from photos, sometimes from drawings, sometimes both. I read an article today stating, ‘the photo is a mechanical translation. Sight is a living process. People tend to think that a photo is visual reality, but it is very different’.

For me this is a mistake. No matter whether we look at a tree or a photograph it is still seen by our eye, translated and processed by our brain. How we see things and relate them to our own individual experience in life is a very personal thing. The trick for the artist is to reverse this and re-interpret the process with the abilities specific to him or her. For me, my purpose is to reveal the world in a pleasurable way to others. When I find a colour I’m looking for, something that maybe only I see, it isn’t always there.

First published in 2015, follow Pete and see what he’s up to now by registering at his website  www.petedaviesart.co.uk

 

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Always Paint a Direct Sketch from Nature Every Day

Jean-Léon Gérôme
Jean-Léon Gérôme

When you draw, form is the important thing. But in painting the first thing is to look for the general impression of colour.  Always paint a direct sketch from nature every day – Jean-Léon Gérôme

What Sculpture is to a Block of Marble, Education is to the Human Soul

Years ago I went to the local library to ask if they had any books by Joseph Addison. ‘You mean Addison and Steele?’ the librarian said. ‘I don’t know,’ I shrugged.

‘You haven’t heard of Addison and Steele?’ She paused. I hadn’t, but  realised that I was about to get a lecture. For those of you who like me, didn’t know, Joseph Addison was an 18th century essayist, playwright and poet who together with Richard Steele, founded the Spectator. The title of this blog, is Joseph Addison’s.

The idea that education sculptures the human soul is an attractive conceit and reminds me of Jean-Léon Gérôme’s painting of Pygmalion and Galatea in which the figure is emerging from the block of white marble and kisses her creator.

Pygmalion and Galatea by Jean-Léon Gérôme
Pygmalion and Galatea by Jean-Léon Gérôme

For an artist however education is often thought to be a stumbling block to human creativity. The cliched idea of the primitive noble savage creating art instinctively is contrary to Addison’s thoughts on the soul needing to develop through teaching and instruction. Picasso, whose father was an art teacher and had a traditional art education said, ‘every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.’

Some children seem to be naturally gifted in aspects of the arts and have a nack or ability that others will never attain. Likewise in the world of music, musicians are sometimes described as having a ‘ good feel,’ an ability to play their instrument well regardless of what type of music they are performing. The same goes for art, some children are said to be ‘really good at drawing,’ they are born naturals without the help of education.

Does it matter whether you are educated in art or not? I personally think that a basic understanding of perspective is one of the vital building blocks on which to build a firm foundation in art, but I would say that. Others won’t agree.

But in the end whether you aspire to clamber up and be the next Jean-Léon Gérôme or are just content to once be the winner of the school prize for drawing, everyone meets the same end. As Borg said in Star Trek, ‘resistance is futile’.

Addison summed it up best of all in his Reflections in Westminster Abbey:

‘When I look upon the tombs of the great, every emotion of envy dies in me; when I read the epitaphs of the beautiful, every inordinate desire goes out; when I meet with the grief of parents upon a tombstone, my heart melts with compassion; when I see the tomb of the parents themselves,

Westminster Abbey - Canaletto
Westminster Abbey – Canaletto

I consider the vanity of grieving for those whom we must quickly follow. When I see kings lying by those who deposed them, when I consider rival wits placed side by side, or the holy men that divided the world with their contests and disputes, I reflect with sorrow and astonishment on the little competitions, factions, and debates of mankind. When I read the several dates of the tombs, of some that died yesterday, and some six hundred years ago, I consider that great day when we shall all of us be contemporaries, and make our appearance together’.

Wilde About Nature? Yes and No.

When I look at a landscape I cannot help seeing all its defects. It is fortunate for us, however, that Nature is so imperfect, as othewise we should have no art at all.

Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde

Once in a Lifetime, a quote from Leonardo Da Vinci

La belle Ferronière
La belle Ferronière

When you put your hand in a flowing stream, you touch the last that has gone before and the first of what is still to come. Leonardo da Vinci

Do You Paint from a Photo or Paint from a Model?

Francis Bacon by Reginal Gray
Francis Bacon by Reginald Gray

‘I’ve had photographs taken for portraits because I very much prefer working from the photographs than from models…I couldn’t attempt to do a portrait from photographs of somebody I didn’t know…’
Francis Bacon