In conversation with artist David Brooks
Posted by Aimee Coles on 21/05/2021 at 08:15
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To mark the launch of Abstract Art Canada, we’ve taken the opportunity to interview Production & Marketing Director and Founding Artist, David Brooks, to get his take on abstract art and to find out about his own experiences of painting.
Aimee: When and why did you start painting?
David: I started about three years ago back in 2018. I was looking for a creative outlet. My job as a programmer has a creative element to it but I wanted something where I could create more from myself, at a deeper level. I though why not just give it a try so I bought some supplies and gave it a shot. It was just luck that it turned out to be something that I enjoyed.
Aimee: Did you start off in abstract or in a different style?
David: I started off trying to paint actual things – the face of a monkey, for example – but the end result was a bit frightening. Then I tried to paint abstract landscapes which I found quite easy – blending paints. There have been times when I’ve painted in realism but generally my style is expressionist and you can more or less tell what the subject is.
Aimee: How would you describe your style of painting?
David: I paint in abstract expressionism.
Aimee: Has your style changed or developed over time?
David: Yes, it’s matured through experience and a determination to keep at it. When I first started, I was less able to be expressive. I was concentrating on the delivery rather than the enjoyment of it. I’ve still got a long way to go. I’d like to be able to get to a point where I have something in my head and I can execute it exactly as I imagine it but that’s really hard to achieve. Generally, I start with an idea but by the end it could become something completely different.
Aimee: For those of us new to the world of abstract art, could you give your own interpretation of what abstract painting is?
David: It’s often described as contemporary art but that can include anything such as ethnically inspired art. I’d describe it as anything that’s not traditional or realistic in style.
Aimee: Which artists inspire you?
David: I’ve drawn from ethnically inspired art, in this case, the Japanese artistic style of Katsushika Hokusai. I particularly like Hokusai’s use of colours. I lived in Japan for four years and prior to that I had been visiting regularly over a period of more than 15 years so Japanese art has influenced my style.
Another inspiration for me has been British artist, John Turner – the painter of light. I love the simplicity of his paintings; they are extremely elegant.
Aimee: Where do you seek inspiration or does inspiration strike without warning?
David: Sometimes I will start with no plan and see how it goes and that can be interesting. Other times I’ll start with a bunch of paintings that I like to get ideas from. Or I’ll start with a photograph or an image from a film and I’ll snap a screenshot – this gives me ideas for colour suggestion.
Aimee: What is your preparation and process for starting a painting?
David: I always paint on canvas. A canvas holds the paint in a much better way than paper does. Also, I always use acrylic paint. I start off by laying down a wash – a colour, any colour, not necessarily a primary colour. I also like to explore with collage, bringing in materials such as scrunched up toilet paper, to create different effects.
Aimee: Do you always paint in the same place?
David: Yes, I have an area in my home office with an easel and a chair. The space has great light and it gets more and more paint spattered every day.
Aimee: How long does a painting take?
David: I tend to start two or three at a time. They take about six hours each, over a few days. I like to let a painting ‘bake’ for a bit and then review it with fresh eyes. A painting can look distorted if you’re viewing it at an angle. Also, different details are noticeable when painting at different distances away. I regularly review any painting I’m working on often by taking a high-resolution photo of it and then looking at it on my computer. I notice different details and get a much better idea of what it really looks like. Also, the canvases I use are more than a metre wide so you need to stand a long way back to be able to view it. With larger brushwork, bolder, more vivid colours are needed and you can’t really appreciate this when you have to stand close up.
Aimee: How do you know when you’ve finished a piece? Do you go back over it to change it or ‘correct’ it?
David: After reviewing the painting on the computer, I’ll generally make a couple of adjustments and then ask artist friends for their views but I may just modify it anyway with more colour to really make it ‘pop’. There are times though when you can’t change it if you think you’ve made a mistake because of some of the effects that you might be using, for example, runny paint needs a clear seal to make sure the paint runs in a particular way. Usually I just battle on through and see what happens next.
Aimee: How do you know when you’re satisfied with a painting?
David: With some of my paintings I’ve just thought that it’s ok, but then someone else has loved it and bought it. It’s a very personal thing. Sometimes people like a painting that you don’t expect them to like but this is an example of the viewer bringing their own interpretation to the painting.
Aimee: Is there a ‘right way up’ to an abstract painting?
David: Good question! It depends how abstract it is. So, if it’s an abstract interpretation of something real such as a ship then of course there’s a ‘right way up’. But if it’s a purely abstract piece then it doesn’t matter.
Aimee: What do you enjoy most about abstract painting?
David: I enjoy the creativity of it: playing with paint, the different effects, how you can produce something amazing without thinking about it and when you didn’t think you were capable of it. I like to think the painting was already there but I’m just discovering it, that there is some sort of Muse inspiring it.
Aimee: Would you recommend abstract painting as a hobby?
David: Yes, absolutely! It’s an approachable and relaxing hobby and best of all it is mentally cleansing in a heavily digital world. It provides an opportunity to use the part of your brain that you wouldn’t use in a lot of jobs these days. Also, you can have something that’s finished in just a few hours and get an immediate sense of achievement. It’s nice to be able to produce something for your own wall, knowing that it’s completely unique and you’ve created it yourself.
Aimee: Do you think you have to be a particular type of person or have any innate qualities to be able to paint abstract?
David: All you need is a mindset of ‘I’m going to enjoy this.’ There’s no right or wrong answer with abstract painting. I never took any art lessons. Just be willing to pick up a brush and give it a try. If you can mix two colours on a piece of canvas then you’ve already made your first piece of art. There are little tricks you can learn and follow and you can gain confidence in the process of it quite quickly. With abstract art it’s a constant learning process. You’re always trying to learn new skills but it’s enjoyable to look at the work of other artists to see how they did something and to try that for yourself.
Aimee: What do you think makes an abstract painting good?
David: The uniqueness of the style and the composition. I think good abstract art should remind you of something – it should bring about a feeling of nostalgia: An experience, a book read, a beach visited, etc. A painting should be intrinsically good. Abstract art takes time to create.
COMING SOON… we’ll be talking to Abstract Art Canada’s Art Director and Abstract Artist and fellow Founder, Jim Ulrich, to get his insights into the world of abstract art.