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April 2014 Volume 3 No. 4

VISUAL LANGUAGE contemporary fine art

David Yapp


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VL Artspan Studio Visit A Painter’s Journey David Yapp

Cutting through the chalk downland of Salisbury plain, in the southern English county of Wiltshire, is the gently flowing River Avon. The river runs south from its source in Pewsey Vale, through the medieval city of Salisbury, to the sea at Christchurch. It was along this river that I grew up on a small farm on the edge of a village not many miles from the ancient monument of Stonehenge. The Wiltshire landscape is one of Neolithic burial sites, windswept hawthorn encrusted plains and chalk stream valleys, strewn with villages dating back to pre-Norman times. And above all this is the sweeping drama of the constantly changing sky. The landscape and towns of the county are rich in history and have fed the artistic hearts and minds of many writers and artists. The penultimate scene of Thomas Hardy’s novel, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, is set at Stonehenge, and his fictitious city of Melchester, featured in Jude the Obscure, is based on the city of Salisbury. Artists Sir John Constable and J. M. W. Turner found a source for creative expression in the gothic splendor of Salisbury Cathedral and in the rugged forms of Stonehenge. Like the River Avon, my own creative path has been a meandering one. Growing up on a farm, I spent much of my youth exploring

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and observing nature along the banks of the Avon and throughout the surrounding countryside. Paint and brush gave me a vehicle to portray the beauty I saw around me. My interest in observing nature developed during my teens. A family friend who was studying zoology shared with me his fascination of entomology (the study of insects). We searched the water meadows, for exotic-looking beetles and metallic clad dragonflies. At night we set up a light trap to see what nocturnal winged beings we could discover. I started to paint some of these finds in watercolor, along with the flora they inhabited. In the following years, at the local college, I made another connection to the animal kingdom. The biology professor, Patrick James, was an eccentric and interesting chap who had majored in zoology. He spent much of the lecture time talking about his fieldwork—time spent diving, and dodging sharks in the Caribbean. I had planned on working towards a zoology degree, but I soon realized that I was more interested in observing nature than analyzing it scientifically. After seeing my plant and animal drawings Mr. James suggested I look into pursuing wildlife illustration.


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Bird Island, 9 x 12”, Oil on Canvas

As a precursor to that I attended Salisbury Art College. The foundation art course I took was an opportunity to explore a range of disciplines, from drawing, painting and printmaking to illustration, and then to decide which one to pursue. That first year was a challenge for me, as for the first time I had to really get to grips with the rudiments of drawing, painting and . . . seeing. Following on from this course I studied for a diploma in wildlife illustration in Carmarthen, Wales. This was an opportunity to establish and sharpen the skills I had developed the previous year. Many professional artists and illustrators

came in to tutor us. They passed on to us their great enthusiasm for their given disciplines. One such person was the artist Gordon Stuart. I did not fully appreciate at the time how accomplished Gordon was as an artist, with work in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery in London—he painted the last portrait of the poet Dylan Thomas. Gordon encouraged me in my nascent abilities when I had little confidence in them and said, “You will always paint.” He also wrote to me a letter of encouragement to wish me well on my first solo art show. http://www.davidyappfineart.com/ VisualLanguageMagazine.com - VL Magazine | 5


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Studio Visit

David Yapp

Mid Summer Oak, 9 x 12�, Oil on Canvas

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artspan That first solo show was held at Oxford University in 1988. I owe much to my sister Maria, not only for suggesting the idea but also for getting me connected to the appropriate parties to make it happen. After completing my time at college in Wales, it became apparent that I was not really cut out to be a wildlife illustrator, but was more interested in painting landscapes. One college professor said he saw me as someone who wants to be down a country lane painting scenery—I think a “picture maker” was how he called it. And so, eventually, after having pursued several interim jobs, that is what I did. The next five years proved to be very rewarding, but also financially rather challenging as I pursued my art. Initially, as I sought to pursue my art full-time, I felt like I had just walked off the end of a plank into the deep. I literally prayed to God for help, and He strengthened me in a way I had not known before. He also brought people into my life that spoke words of direction and encouragement to me.

I set myself up with a stool, drawing board and watercolors, traveling by bicycle and train to paint the local scenic towns and villages of Hampshire and Surrey. Much to my surprise, I had many people approach me to ask if they could purchase my paintings, and I was able to sell many on the spot! I continued pursuing this way of working, creating artwork for exhibition and commission, for five years. It was a rewarding time in which I met many interesting folks on my painting adventures. Eventually, looking for a more stable and predictable income, I decided to train in graphic design. Digital design was a new world for me as I got to grips with design principles and learned an array of software programs. The differing perceptions needed for design were an interesting complement to the more organic nuances of painting.

One such person was Trevor Martin, an assistant pastor at my local church, who was also a practicing graphic designer. He took a look at my work—back in those days it was on slides, as we had not entered the digital era. I remember how he would press the slide viewer to his eye and declare “how delightful” as he viewed the artwork. For me this was one of those glimmers of light and encouragement that we all need along the road—especially when you are trying to find direction. Trevor suggested that for the next six months I just focus on doing pen and watercolor views of townscapes and landscapes, and then at the end of it have an exhibition. This gave me not only a goal, but also a focus. http://www.davidyappfineart.com/ VisualLanguageMagazine.com - VL Magazine | 7


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David Yapp

It was when I moved to the Bay Area, that my interest in oil painting was ignited. I started to read about the California plein air painters, a majority of whom were oil painters. In England, the soft light had lent itself to watercolors, but now in California, I could see that the more intense Mediterranean light lent itself to rendering the landscape in oils. I am fortunate to live in San Francisco, not far from the Golden Gate Bridge. This gives me ready access to Marin County, it’s coastal Headlands and Mount Tamalpais. Further afield is the often fog-laden Mendocino coast, and to the East, the Sierra Nevada mountains. All great locations for plein air painting.

Croissanterie 58” x 18” The Secluded Lake— Mount Tamalpais from Bon Tempe 16 x 20”, Oil on Canvas

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Above: God is the Anchor of My Soul 28x22 Left: Gently Letting Go International Guil of Realism Best of Show

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Studio Visit

David Yapp

I tend to paint on canvas, as opposed to panels, as I like the “give” that you get from the nonrigid surface. I enjoy using heavy impasto and find that a palette knife is easiest for thicker applications of paint. But I prefer the softer more subtle effect that a natural bristle brush can bring, so I am experimenting, working with both in tandem. At the moment I am reading and looking at landscape art from those who have already trod the path—John F. Carlson, Richard Schmid and David Curtis, for example. I am also looking at a diverse range of artists who are not associated with the plein air tradition, such as Richard Diebenkorn, and many British artists, such as John Piper, Samuel Palmer and Eric Ravilious. I am blessed to live a five-minute walk from the de Young Museum, here in San Francisco, so I have had the opportunity to view the ongoing collection of art and the special exhibitions. Recently on show was David Hockney’s, “A Bigger Exhibition,” a collection of his huge canvases painted in Yorkshire. His paintings en plein air are a leap away from what is often considered as plein air art, but are nonetheless thought provoking and inspiring. So I continue to pursue my painting adventures, sometimes as in life, with a halting step. I see that the beauty in a scene does not always come from a totality of unhindered harmony. The

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juxtaposition of disparate forms—a shattered rock, a sinuous storm-contorted tree, or a glacier creek—can converge into a harmonious whole, or, may leave us with an unresolved tension. Similarly, life does not provide us with a clear unobstructed path, but in navigating the obstacles we can discover a greater meaning and beauty. As plein air painters, may we not only paint a pleasing scene, but portray in our art this more complex beauty.


Lands End, Summer Fog, 9 x 12�, Oil on Canvas

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Studio Visit

David Yapp

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Pyramid Rock, 6 x 12�, Oil on Canvas

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David Yapp

Mt Tam from Bon Air

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David Yapp Visual Language Magazine April 2014 vol3 no4  

Cutting through the chalk downland of Salisbury plain, in the southern English county of Wiltshire, is the gently flowing River Avon. The ri...

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