David Southgate is a Hungry Head based artist whose photo real style of work is awe inspiring. He tells us about his creative passion and the classes he teaches locally.
How did you first discover your creative passion?
I suppose it’s something that goes back to childhood. I was always interested in copying, painting and modelling nature. I grew up in South Africa, so there were always lots of wildlife and nature to copy.
> Did you ever do any training?
No. I have been self taught, really. I’ve had a lot of unofficial training – assistance from friends and artists that I’ve known. It’s something that I’ve built up over the years.
> Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Well, I suppose it’s just my interest in wildlife and nature. As an artist, you end up becoming interested in how light affects colour, and I think that’s the core to all art and painting. It’s that never ending discovery of how paint or colour pigments portray how light affects what we see.
> Describe what your art is about and your style.
It’s a fairly photo real style, and the mediums I mostly work with are oil paint and pastels. They’re the two mediums I enjoy, because oil paints allows you the time before it dries to really play with the image, whereas pastel is very much a drawing medium and it’s very spontaneous – what’s there is there.
I do use acrylics and watercolour, but the two mediums I’m most familiar with and feel the most comfortable with are pastel and oil painting.
> Tell us about some of the pieces you’re working on at the moment.
Because I’m teaching with the Sawtell Art Group and the Nambucca Art Group, a lot of work I do is based on whatever subject matter we’re working with. My specialty has been to do with the wildlife, and the thread still continues – it’s what I’ve based my profession on. The style of work that I do pertains to what I’m most interested in and what I’ve had the most experience in.
> You mentioned that you’re teaching …
Yes, the Sawtell Art Group is a very well established organisation. They have their own premises, and I teach oil painting 2 days a week and pastels 1 day a week – they’re 3 hour classes.
We have a lot of fun. The idea is not to be too serious about it, because it’s not an accredited course, so people just come along to enjoy themselves and learn something.
It’s a great environment for building confidence in people who are interested in painting but are not too sure which way to go, whether they’re good enough, or how to get better. It’s very relaxed, a lot of fun, and I think that’s the main aim.
The same applies with the Nambucca Art Group. They use the community hall in Nambucca Heads, and I have classes there where I teach pastel, oil and acrylic painting. There are some wonderful facilities; the people are organised, and they do a great job.
It just gives locals a chance to get involved, without being committed. A lot of people think they’d like to try it, and this gives them the chance to at least experience painting without having to go out and buy all the equipment. Most of them enjoy it, stay and improve.
> Tell us about your studio in Hungry Head.
I have my art studio there, and I also have another arrow in my quiver – I married a potter. The potter, May, and I ran our pottery studio for about 25 years at Hungry Head, but since then we’ve sold that and have moved just around the corner. We don’t produce a huge line of work like we used to when it was a full time business.
In those days we ran the pottery, we ran a gallery, where we showed a lot of other artists’ work, and we sold from the facility that we had there. Now we just have our studios here, and the teaching, the commissions that I get and the exhibitions that we do keeps us going.
> Do you have a favourite piece of work that you’ve done?
Not really. In production you see a lot of work go by, and sometimes you do think, “Wow, I’ve done something there.”
But in the scheme of things, when you’re making a living as an artist, it goes out the door for the same price as something else that you might not personally like as much.
Personal taste doesn’t always have to be the important factor. It’s what someone else is asking you to do, and you do the job as efficiently as you can.
> How long does it normally take you to complete a piece of artwork?
With pastel, because it’s so immediate, I can finish a work in about a day or two. With oil painting, I think the process is a lot slower, with the drying and also the painting technique. You’re putting layers on, and sometimes it can take months. It’s not a case of you having to spend 8 hours a day, 5 days a week painting; you might do something for half an hour, then leave it for a day and come back and work for 2 hours. It varies really, and it’s very hard to put a time span on it.
With ceramics and pottery it’s a different scale of things, because you have a process you have to follow. The important thing with clay is that you have to apply what processes are necessary at the time – otherwise your work is wasted.
Then there’s a drying process and the firing and glazing, then another firing. From beginning to end, you’re looking at probably around 10 days.
> Where can we view some of your work?
I haven’t got anything on exhibition at the moment. Most of my work is heading towards an exhibition. I’m trying to compile a bit of work at the moment just on some landscapes of the local beach and headland where I live at Hungry Head.
So that’s something that takes a while to compile, and that’s something I’m aiming towards. Other than that, I exhibit with some of the local art groups and organisations.
My website is another aspect of being able to show my work, and I get quite a bit of response from that – especially with the wildlife prints. The website address is: www.hungryheadstudios.com
> Thank you David.