David Curtis’ early career heading a design team in engineering honed his considerable talent for draughtsmanship.He firmly believes drawing to be the essential foundation of painting.
“If the drawing isn’t spot on,” said David, whose work is currently on display at Staithes Gallery, “there’s nothing you can do afterwards to put it right.”
He abandoned engineering in 1988 to paint full-time and is now one of the most successful and popular figurative artists of his generation, with clients and collectors all over the world, including celebrities, large corporations and even royalty.
What David’s admirers find spellbinding about his pictures is the way he uses paint to explore the interaction of space, colour and especially light.
Like the Impressionists who inspire him, particularly the artists of British coastal art colonies like the Staithes Group and the Newlyn School, and contemporary painters like his friend Ken Howard RA, he seeks to capture the optical effects of light, employing a surprisingly limited palette to depict form and colour that is simply breathtaking in its range, delicacy and versatility.
In “A Fine November Morning” the myriad greens and browns of an autumnal landscape are glimpsed through a haze of mist and smoke depicted in lingering shades of mauve and blue that cling to the rooftops.
And through it all, a clear, ringing light positively bounces from the slates.
The sunlight blazes on the sea in the aptly named “Glancing Light from the Nab”, dazzling whiteness contrasting poignantly with the huddle of houses in subtle shadow.
An ‘artist’s artist’, David inspires countless fellow painters, both professional and amateur, and his books and DVDs on painting are eagerly scrutinised by many who would paint like him.
To watch him is mesmerizing. His hand and brush move quickly with the lightness, precision and assurance of an insect or humming bird: a flash of movement, a moment captured.
He prefers to paint from life en plein air, recording mutability within the moment in a way that no photograph could.
A fleeting glance around an exhibition of David’s works or a quick flick through one of his books reveals his passion for the Yorkshire coast and especially the village of Staithes.
His painting has taken him all around the world but here he returns again and again.
In Staithes he is a familiar figure indeed, heading off with his easel and paint box in all weathers, at any hour between dawn and dusk, to find yet another viewpoint: a dizzying view from vertiginous cliff-tops; a glimpse through an alleyway or up from the beck at low tide; an open vista out to sea or across rooftops.
There are countless subjects too: fishing boats laden with the detritus of their trade; piles of lobster pots; cobles flopped at intriguing angles at low tide on the harbour mud; a busy beach in high summer, jumbles of houses with smoking chimneys … and every day, every season, every moment with its own particular character of light.
A selection of paintings by David Curtis is currently on view at Staithes Gallery.
• Visit www.staithesgallery.co.uk or call 01947 841840/07972 012464. Alternatively eamil email@example.com for more information on the exhibition.
Open Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm. Other times can sometimes be arranged by appointment – please contact the gallery.