Roly David is a self-taught artist who creates captivating landscapes and unique commissioned portraits. Roly used the Hayloft space in Copperdollar Studios to photograph some of his pieces for his art website. Inspired by the sea, he works mostly with acrylics and watercolours to paint both colourful, abstract pieces as well as eery black and white scenes.
Hello! Can you please tell me a bit about yourself?
My name is Rollison David, or “Roly”, originally from London but lived and worked in USA and Europe for a long time. I currently work for Network Rail based in Brighton as a Rail Tester. I really wanted to have a career in synthetic chemistry after studying in college. However, this was cut short by my love of travelling. I have always liked art and often used to cycle through the Rijksmuseum when I lived in Amsterdam for a number of years. This doesn’t mean I wanted to paint though.
I always had a real interest in foreign people, places and culture. This broadened my mind. It may seem crazy, but when I was about 6 or 7, I had this feeling that drove me to learn languages. Even crazier, when I was 5 and in infants school, I used to see the planes in the blue sky above flying, taking people somewhere.
There was a wooden bench in the playground where I used to run off and hold my arms out like an aeroplane and try to stay in the air as long as I could. So I can go just like them. In the end I got up there and the language learning that was driving me became the part of me that makes me happy. That’s just something about me wanting to be free as a bird!
I think if something can be done then there are no limits on expression. I have never been one to claim to know all about art, but I have been detail-orientated since I was a child. I enjoyed taking things apart to see the mechanics on how they work and how best they can be improved upon. There were those who considered it destructive, but I had a bigger picture in mind.
Just like the colours, I paint in. There is a method to the madness. Some or the majority in a landscape paint the sky, the scene then the ground. I sometimes paint the centre of the canvas then build a bit at a time in a circular fashion. It makes me keep changing brushes and paint! Sure I know but it ends up as the artwork I want. Crazy, backwards, irregular. I know, but it turns out the way it should be!!!
I like helping people and my nieces and nephews and daughter (when I’m lucky enough to see her). I teach these young kids when I can to mix skin tones and to paint the eye and lips with proper depth and values. I’m not the best artist in the world but hopefully not the worst….
What artistic mediums do you work with and why?
With acrylic paint, I can achieve a range of textures which stands out in the painting. Such as a pebbled beach. I used to be an impatient artist and could not wait to see the final piece, that’s why fast-drying acrylic paint was my first choice. Also, I was not sure how good or bad an artist I would be!
When using oil, I like the array of infinite colours that can be created and the brushstrokes can be seen. When I thought of art and famous artists, automatically oil paintings seemed to be what they all excelled in. I think oil paintings command an age-old ‘Mystique’. When I look at an oil painting I have done, the really tiny details I can achieve seem to draw me into the painting itself. Strange but true.
Watercolours have an amazing way of colour flow that no other medium has. It requires great skill to master this one. Due to that fact decision making has to be quick and decisive. It also has a delicate ‘Mystical’ attraction. The simplicity mixed with a high degree of difficulty makes me enjoy using watercolours. The artworks I can produce in this medium gives a lightness, not specifically ‘values’, but as in a refreshing feel.
My only explanation of this is, if I were to paint the same flower in watercolour and oil, the oil painted flower would have a certain weight to it. Whereas the watercolour flower would create a light feeling from the paper.
Do you have favourite places, people or things that often inspire your subject?
For me, I’ve always loved the beach or the ocean. I get such an energy from the sight of the waves or water on the beach. It’s just incredible and immense. Fortunately, we can see the ocean from our lounge window!!
Every time I see the ocean it puts me in the mood to paint. On Pinterest there are many old photos of 1940’s scenes in black and white. I paint these also. They take one back in time !
My favourite places for art Musée du Louvre and Montmartre – Paris. The amazing thing about the Musée du Louvre is not just the brilliant paintings and artwork. It’s the walls and architectural design which compliments the paintings. I think it’s this that gives it such a unique captivating aura!
Canaletto is one artist I like!! Because his painting named “A Regatta on the Grand Canal” is amazing. The boats on the Pthalo Blue water and the thousands of people in the boats at the water’s edge is something I’ve always contemplated painting.
Can you remember the moment you first picked up a paintbrush?
For me, it was April 2008. I went for a break to Cornwall and took some lovely photos of St. Ives. While there we went on a day trip to Padstow where there was an artist doing local paintings. After asking her if she could do a commission painting of one of the photos I had taken in St. Ives, she quoted me a price I thought was high.
Maybe not knowing about artwork and values of them caused this, but now I understand why she quoted those prices. It’s not just the size of a painting, it is what it means to the viewer!!!! I have painted a few commissioned pieces and am not surprised any more by the prices they pay me for them. The meaning of the artwork far outweighs the cost!!
I left there thinking if she can do it I can as well. So, on my return to London, I went to the pound shop and bought a £1.00 canvas size 20″ x 16″ and a £1.00 set of 10 x 12ml acrylic paints. I painted my printed photo exactly the same. Since then, I launched rolysamazingart.com and have not looked back since!
What requests do you typically receive for commissioned work?
I get many requests to do portraits which I considered daunting at first. Because I believe that I would want it to be a perfect match. People want it to look the same. My first was one of my daughter, Lilyána, at 3 years old. The second was of my girlfriend’s sister’s partner’s late mother. He asked for it after sending a photo WhatsApp. I only had watercolour paper, oil paints and no brushes. So painted it with a toothpick! This one can be seen in the ‘Commissioned Paintings sold’ section on rolysamazingart.com
I also painted a commissioned portrait for a couple awarded the MBE by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. How ironic, as in 2015 I was giving her two of her grandchildren HRH Prince Harry and HRH Pince William orders when they were called in by Network Rail to assist. I was in charge of them and the British Army contingent during the floods in Datchet and Windsor.
I get many requests to paint holiday photos instead of just having a print on canvas from the high street. Clients tell me the paintings mean much more than a print. Some bring back sand from the beach where they have holidayed for me which I mix with my paints. It gives a personal and original connection.
You work using both vibrant colours and black and white in your paintings — how does colour affect your work?
I use black and white to give a feeling of times gone by. I hope these types of pieces bring back memories of the times to those who view them. I am not that old to say I was there. But when I look at what I have painted I get a strong feeling of being there and how far we have come. How modern things are!
With using colour, I can create, what I think to be very striking artwork. It depends on the medium, oil or watercolour, how deep or light the values affect my artwork.
How did art and creativity, in general, help you during the height of the UK’s lockdown?
I found myself painting a lot more which I shared with many on social media. This gave me satisfaction in cheering others up through such a difficult time. I learnt a few more tricks and techniques during this time.
How do you think the art world will be different post-covid?
I think there will be a lot more artwork relating to stress, mental states of mind and wellbeing.
Is there a project or series of art you are working on at the moment?
I am working on creating a series of watercolour paintings. As before a black & white series, a watercolour series of buildings with a lot of characters. There will be a third and fourth series of watercolour paintings with masses of people in them and rainy street scenes respectively. Currently, I have a few commissioned requests in the pipeline so I do have room for some more.
Where can we see more of your work?
I had an amazing experience at Copperdollar Studios and hope to, in the near future, hold an exhibition there. I’ve launched my website rolysamazingart.com where my paintings can be seen and purchased. My website is the only place at the moment where my artwork can see other than Instagram. I am in the process of building this mode of exposure. Facebook has more of my paintings, but my website is the main place.
I was preparing to do a Pop Up Gallery in Brighton this summer, but this Covid-19 put a stop to that! So maybe later in the year. Or next year.