An accomplished businessman and avid sports enthusiast, Dave Collins’ talent for art provides therapy for his soul.
Tell us about The Carer painting:
I wanted to acknowledge my wife Tina’s hard work caring for injured or orphaned animals. It’s such an unselfish task – not always with a happy outcome.
It was important to me to portray the fragile and fleshy skin colour of the joey and also the helpless expression on Tina’s face.
It is predominantly oil on canvas, but there is a side portion which is directly drawn and painted onto marine ply. I also have some highlights in gold leaf. The colour in the background around the joey is an orange tone, which is a discordant colour to pink, but I feel this works somehow, creating visual tension. The key to making colours work together, however, is to put a black line between them. The joey was painted with a few coloured layers and finished with a palette knife. In this work, I like the way it shifts from heavy painted sections to under worked wash areas.
When starting a new work there is an intense initial period where you ‘overwork the surface to buggery until it loses the white canvas’. Why this process?
During art school, a previous lecturer used to drum into me: “Stop being so precious with your work” and would come and scribble over what I was working on.
Although this was devastating at the time, this was such a turning point on my approach to painting and drawing, that the stark white precious surface had to go. So, usually a simple sketch and a series of coloured washes to create energy and a direction to head off on.
If the painting surface gets out of control, I may come back and block in some lighter sections again to start the whole process over until I’m happy. This can be such an anguishing process at times; a result can be great relief.
You avoid ‘painters’ block’ by first mapping out an initial concept for a painting in your head. Tell us about this.
After the initial concept, I plan the colours and approach in my head away from the canvas. The painting process can sometimes be quite quick, until I get to that fork in the road, whether I should go this way or another, always willing to go on a tangent if an unexpected colour or shape takes my fancy. Priority for me is design fundamentals to do with balance. If I put a brush of colour down in one area, I will repeat it throughout the work, to ensure it sits amongst the other colours.
Fred Williams is a landscape painter you admire for his non-traditionalist interpretation of landscapes. What appeals to you about this style?
Williams was one of the first Australian artists to push the boundaries of landscape painting. His work is very abstract and understated. Williams would suggest a tree with a scrape of the palette knife, a line, or dash of colour. The viewer explores the paintings, creating a story rather than the literal. Williams uses rich colours not usually associated with landscapes, and I guess this boldness is what has always attracted me to his work.
Tell us about the figurative suggestions in your paintings …
I spent six years at art school in Newcastle, with life drawing classes every week. The love of the human form is something I can’t shake. There is usually a suggestion of a figure or body part in every work. I am interested in the similarities between the figure and the rolling hills and valleys of the landscape. I like to confuse those two forms in my artwork, to make the viewer question the image.
An artist’s existence can sometimes be absorbed wholly and solely with being creatively productive. It’s important to you that your world isn’t linear and that you have interests other than art …
Well, I do wear many hats! I have a great family firstly, which is always a big leveller. Sport plays a big part in my life. I am totally addicted to kite surfing and mountain bike riding. I support all this with a great job managing Barrier Signs and Voltmeter Graphic Design Studio.
I strongly believe you need a few things going on in your life in order to have balance. Well, that’s the plan, but we all know life is not that easy or simple … but I do know that painting takes me to a place that other activities can’t satisfy.
Speaking of linear, there can be a tendency with painters to treat the canvas as a flat surface … yet, as with Ian Fairweather, another painter you greatly admire, you are passionate about texture.
Fairweather I admire, because he treats painting like a drawing, building several layers or more sometimes … each layer having different content from the next. He built a surface that was totally uninhibited and lives.
This is a bold approach to painting, and the artist can’t be afraid of failure. You can see in his work he loses control at times, but regains composure on the next layer.
You’re dabbling with mixed media in some of your more recent works … Tell us about this process, and how has your background as a print maker influenced the work?
I usually start my work in acrylic, so the various layers can dry fast. My next process would be adding detail or blocking in areas with oil paint, as I do feel oils are much richer and allow you to build texture more easily – though some planning is required, because it can take months to dry.
I spent many years as a printmaker screen printing and etching, which is why my paintings have that linear, layered surface. I try to be loose but controlled, much like a printmaker would produce a monoprint – a process I have always enjoyed, painting onto glass and transferring the image to a sheet of paper.
How can we find out more about your work?
I am working on a joint exhibition with the boys from Juzvolter, Chris and Daniel. The show will be held at the Manning Regional Art Gallery late next year. Alternatively, there is always a couple of paintings hanging up at work, or chase me down for a special peek.
Generally though, I like to travel under the radar, as painting for me is a self indulgent process for my soul.
Thanks Dave. Interview by Karen Farrell.