Artist David Bromley can currently be found working on a mural in Urunga town centre, which was commissioned after the Bellingen Shire Council secured a grant from the NSW Department of Trade and Industry.
David has called the Coffs Coast home since returning from London, where he worked as a cartoonist and illustrator for many top newspapers. Before that he worked for many years at the Sydney Morning Herald, and has won many awards and much recognition for his art. These days he does a lot of linocut, wood engraving and printing from his local studio.
Hey David. What brought you to the Coffs Coast?
After living in London for 19 years, I’d always planned to return to Sydney. I had a look at this area and liked it. The unspoilt beaches, purple mountains and beautiful sunsets reminded me of my childhood in Sierra Leone, West Africa. I also needed space for a studio and printing presses and that was unlikely in London.
You’re a very well known artist in these parts, but art is something you accidentally got into. Where did it all start?
I won a nationwide award in grammar school in the UK when I was twelve, and I was encouraged by the art teacher there. In Australia, after leaving school, I started off in architecture, but was getting cartoons published in student newspapers and then the Fairfax press. I was offered a full-time job with Fairfax at the age of 23 and won a Walkley Award at the age of 24.
How would you best describe your personal style of work?
I think there’s a boldness that comes across. Decades ago, the reproduction of images in newspapers was very poor, and my strong graphic style worked well. Somehow I still retain that ethos.
You use many different mediums for your work. What would be a favourite and why?
I like the impact you get from the incised line in linocut and wood engraving. Engraving a woodblock with the scorpers, gravers and spitstickers reminds me constantly that I’m practising a craft that is hundreds of years old. Most of my equipment, including the Albion press, is antique, and belonged to a revered English printmaker called John R Biggs. I like working digitally. I’m still learning, but am pleased that some of my favourite illustrations are digital.
You have received many awards for your work. What award stands out and why?
An illustration I did for the Financial Times in London won Gold at The World Press Cartoon awards in Portugal. The cartoon was about the Death of Arafat and Palestinian elections. We were hosted for four unforgettable days in Lisbon and surrounds. The awards ceremony was in the stunning small city of Sintra and was televised in Portuguese. I gave a speech in faltering Spanish and found myself on stage clutching bottle of champagne and a statuette, arm in arm with a sequined Portuguese dancing girl on one side and Portugal’s answer to Bert Newton on the other. I was privately complimented by the organisers and told that what I did was “consistently excellent”. The statuette I was given as a prize was a large pointed pencil piercing the world. Unfortunately, under X-ray at Lisbon airport, it looked like 50 millimetre anti-aircraft ordinance and lights flashed and a siren went off. I said, in Spanish, “Es un premio” (It’s a prize)!
Your art has taken you all over the world and you have worked with some of the biggest newspapers both nationally and internationally. Where has been one of the most memorable places you have worked?
I have very fond memories of my days in the Herald Building in Jones St, Broadway, Sydney. There were long lunches, often in Glebe or the Sri Lanka Room at Broadway, and a constant stream of Sydney’s literati calling in to the office. At the Financial Times in London I worked alongside a couple of very talented illustrators. There were regular evening dining outings with the FT graphics people, and this spread to dining in Calais and then Paris and Brussels. I’ve been very lucky to enjoy both these periods.
What do you find more challenging – personal work or commercial work, and why?
Illustrating a complex piece about the machinations of the EU, or UK or world politics, written by an expert, was far more difficult than deciding on an image to please yourself. The reward is thinking laterally and coming up with something that is not a cliché and is intelligent in its concept. This all has to happen from start to finish in about six hours for a typical editorial opinion piece, so the pressure of deadlines is stressful. The briefs for book covers and advertising are always very tight and clear. A book cover feels more permanent than a newspaper illustration. It was also nice to buy wine with my illustrations on the label. Printmaking is challenging as well. There are issues with papers, inks and pressure to get a perfect print.
What would you say would be your greatest accomplishment as an artist?
I can’t think of any one thing that fits the bill. The mural in Urunga is my largest undertaking. I’m particularly fond of the painting I did of a street corner in Cuenca Ecuador. It think it captures the mood of the place. I’ve visited there a few times and have lovely friends there and hope to go back soon. Moving from London to the coast here is something I’m happy about as well.
Where can we find out more about your art?
My website is www.davidbromley.com and it needs updating.