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Meet the author: Dave White

After 30 years of being in finance, Dave White discovered he could paint, and recognising that we all have creative gifts inside us, bursting to get out, he embarked on a new road of painting people's animals and teaching students how to do it. He exhibits annually at Crufts Dog Show and the New Forest Show, and has done numerous commissions all over the world. Living in the New Forest in England allows an up-close encounter with a variety of animals, including horses and dogs.

An Interview with Dave

Where were you born?
Up North, in Stepping Hill Hospital, Stockport, Cheshire!! My mum and dad were both scousers so my accent is mixed with a soft Cheshire and a harsh bit of scouse. My kids were born as far down south as you can get, on the Isle of Wight, and they are always asking me for a translation!

What is your educational background?
We moved from Stockport to Chester when I was 5 and I was fortunate to get a place at Chester City Grammar School. During my time there, the girls joined and it turned into Queens Park High School which is what it is now.

What first got you interested in art?
Mr John Snell was the art teacher up to my O levels and he had a passion for architecture and I guess I got caught up in his enthusiasm. He definitely gave me the tools I use today in establishing perspective, shape, composition and tone. The problem was he retired. I did A level, got an E with very little encouragement and thought that I was useless because the educational system was telling me I was rubbish. So I did numbers, became an accountant and never picked up a brush until 9 years ago.

How long have you been painting/drawing?   
Doing what I do now, I can say precisely from 1pm on the 27th April 2004. That was the day that BAe Systems made me an offer and I had two weeks to consider the offer. My daughter came home at 3pm and chose a picture for me to paint of  “Moving Water”. So having nothing to do for 2 weeks I found 4 “manky” (northern expression!) old oil tubes of paint from school which still “worked" and off we went. People came round to the house during that time and said “I like that, could you do...?” and I haven’t stopped “Could you.....?” doing since!

Where do you get your materials?
As you can imagine those tubes of oil stank to high heaven so I had to ask around and a local artist introduced me to acrylic (No smell, dried quickly and I loved them) and the SAA (Society for All Artists). So I am now a PA with the SAA and they provide discounted materials

How/Where did Search Press discover you?
We were introduced by Chandy Rogers who is the publishing editor of the SAA. I can’t recall what I was asking her about at the time but in the intervening years I have become a qualified (certEd) tutor through Brockenhurst College in the New Forest. I was not happy with what was being taught (or not) in adult education lessons and felt I could do better, so nowadays I teach in the evening and demonstrate widely to Art Societies and do workshops, so I guess I was interested in how to teach what I do more widely.

What were your first thoughts when asked to write a book?
Shocked! Surprised! What me? And then “what dogs would you like me to do?” But as it turned out Search already had someone lined up to do dogs, but they were looking for someone to do horses. Now I do paint horses but normally just from the neck up. I also do commissions of people’s animals (note I didn’t say pets!) and even now as I write this I am preparing to pack the car to go to set up at Crufts. But when Search asked me to do horses I had to think globally and think what people would like to be able to do. My advantage is that I live in The New Forest where, as most of you will know, we have horses roaming everywhere and so the raw material and the people I needed to help were right on my doorstep. I didn’t want to do a technical book and I didn’t want to do what you normally see, ie horses standing around, so I chose to do movement in paint and to use the methods that I use for painting the dogs in acrylic. So the book we have produced is really how to use acrylics in basic steps, using horses as the theme.

Has publishing a book changed your life in any way?
Well it certainly disrupted my commission flow and when you paint professionally, which I do to support my family, you need a constant income so doing a book is something not to be considered lightly and it’s the first time I have ever done anything like this, so knowing what to expect was difficult. Search do a wonderful job in preparing their “Ready to Paint” artists but with due respect, you are the artist and they can’t tell you what you should be doing. You want to do everything you know and then you realise you don’t know enough so you want to do more. Search approve and guide but there is a limited timescale in which to do the work and so the challenge for me was deciding what not to do, which was a little frustrating. Once the prep, the studio work and the marketing is done, then you realise that your horizon has expanded and although its early days, the feedback I am getting from those who have tackled the projects in the book is very positive. The reason I did this particular book was not for me, it was for all those who struggle with their art and particularly Acrylics and this book has extended my ability to teach! You always wish there was more than one of you when you have to do commissions, well now there is, in my teaching...but in book form!

Any tips for beginners?
Don’t hide your light under a bushel. Start with the intention of selling or giving your work away as a gift, to someone else. That way it’s off your wall and on someone else’s. You will then focus on improving quality and using other people’s eyes to get their opinion, you will see quickly what’s right and what’s wrong and what you and others enjoy. If you make a mistake in acrylics you just paint over it. If it doesn’t sell, then paint over it, if the person you’re giving it to as a gift doesn’t like the painting, then ask what they don’t like and paint over and correct it.

What is your favourite art tool?
I have lots; my H easel, my synthetic watercolour brushes (I don’t like acrylic brushes) my studio where I have 42 paintings (which I need for 3 types of exhibition) but only have room for 26 on the wall, so there’s 16 on the ceiling and hey presto! I have a Systine Chapel! But I am particularly enjoying my rake brushes at the moment; they are making my fur and hair work so much easier!

Have you travelled for your art? If so, where and how many times?
I do 30 demonstrations and workshops a year at the moment, all to Art Societies and groups in the south of England. I used to do 20 shows a year but I only do 2 now; Crufts and the New Forest Show and through them I find the world comes to me rather than me having to go to it. Search have kindly invited me to demonstrate in their marquee at Patchings Festival this year so I am really looking forward to that. In my professional life as an accountant and eventually finance director I have travelled to the USA, Africa and Europe, I have worked offshore with Shell and of course up and down the motorways and flight paths of the UK. Travelling usually means another hotel, another menu and a short time of doing what you do. Its glamorous to begin with, but can be tedious in the end. The satisfaction of being able to work from home and do something which gives me and other people joy is something I am really enjoying at the moment!

Where does your inspiration come from?
As a Christian I believe passionately that we are created beings and that is demonstrated in our having creative gifts. You either believe Jesus told the truth or told a lie, I believe he told the truth. I am constantly amazed by Creation and so that’s what I try to depict as I see it. We are only here for a little while and my late start in art means I am behind where I could be. I am absolutely convinced that each person has a creative gift because the bible talks about it in Exodus 31 and in 1 Corinthians 12. If I can inspire people through what I do, for them to find the time to discover the creative gift in themselves, then I will have done what I am called to do.

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Awards 2020

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