The artist whose work adorns the west wall of the Village Theatre in Qualicum Beach is holding a two-day workshop at TOSH to share his experience and knowledge as a portrait artist.
David Goatley, originally trained in London, England, said at age 15, he knew he wanted to become a portrait painter.
“It was just as clear as a bell,” said Goatley. Upon visiting the National Gallery in London, work by Rembrandt, especially a self-portrait and one of an old man in an armchair, Goatley said he was “struck and moved by them.”
“I just thought, ‘that’s what I want to do with my life.’”
Despite going to art school during a time that large, abstract work was in vogue, and then working in the ad industry for some time, Goatley became a full-time painter in his mid-30s.
Having created hundreds of portraits, with subjects ranging from royalty, politicians, university heads and even ECHO Players actors, Goatley said he strives to learn and capture his subject’s character.
“You’re trying to create a living sense of the person portrayed,” he said.
“People do, you know when you paint them, they do reveal a lot about themselves, which is a privilege to share… I’m looking for the thing that expresses — the gesture, the mood, the expression — that best expresses the person I met, so that someone else looking at it afterwards can say, ‘Oh yeah, I see what they’re about. I understand that.’”
Part of the job is developing a sort of relationship with the subject either while they are sitting for the painting, or having photographs taken to use as reference.
In the upcoming workshop taking place at TOSH on Sept. 12 and 13, attendees will work from a live model, which Goatley said is important to do whenever possible.
“It’s more difficult,” he said, but added, “it develops skills that copying or working with photographs doesn’t.”
Some of the benefits include more time to get to know the subject, as well as seeing them from the perspective of the eye rather than through a lens and camera, which can distort images and provide inaccurate or incomplete colour pallets.
Another important skill the workshop will develop is working alla-prima, which means “all at once,” said Goatley. It’s the process of continuing to paint without allowing different layers of the painting to dry.
“It’s the fastest way of getting down a record of what’s in front of you,” he said, and has become an important technique in portrait painting.
But one of the most important skills Goatley hopes his students will come away with is that “likeness is contained in big shapes, not details.”
“If you’re walking down the street and you see a friend of yours approaching and they’re 200 yards away, you know it’s them.
“You recognize them and what you’re seeing at that distance is the big shapes of them — the large shadow-forms, the large shapes, their stance, their gate, the tilt of their head. You can’t, at that distance, count their eyelashes or see what colour lipstick they’ve got on. You have a feeling of them, and that’s how we recognize each other.”
The workshop will take place at TOSH on Sept. 12-13, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and costs $190 for members and $250 for non-members.
For more info, go to www.theoldschoolhouse.org/ClassesOverview.html.