Interview: David Donald Sutherland


Los Angeles, United States.


Hey David, could you tell us a little about yourself about how your journey to the world of art began?

A long story short, I grew up in the Detroit area, at 18 I enlisted in the Coast Guard. After finishing my enlistment, I drove to California in order to pursue my education. Amidst that, I began my art practice in the professional sense of the term. With the exception of a few minor detours here and there, I’ve been on the same road ever since.

Your education is not related to your art practice, right?

I believe in some ways it was. I mostly studied Spanish and Economics related courses. With the Spanish related curriculum were cultural courses where I had the opportunity do study the Mexican muralists and Latin American literature, two things I found very inspiring. Economics though seemingly unrelated, being at its essence a study of human behavior, is hugely important when exploring art history and having a contextual understanding of the work, as art is always a reflection of not only the artist but the environment in which it was made.

We would like to know more about your style, you always use bright and saturated colors, what ideas do you put into your work?

The bright and saturated colors are often a reflection of how I perceive the world. We are generally inundated with stimuli which tend to make everything seem muddy, this I think can be attributed to an ever diminishing ability to focus on any one thing, from emotions to the physical universe which surrounds us. If you can take the time to appreciate these things on an individual level it becomes easier to reflect them back out into the world in a clear and consolidated format, in a way which is abstracted, but somehow simultaneously more honest. literal, and concise. For myself, the bright and saturated colors are the resulting sense impression which come as the result of almost all other stimuli, and so; it is the simplest way for me to articulate, in a visual format, what I want to express.

How this or that emotional component is reflected in your work, I mean color or technique. Could you give an example?

Its as simple as relating the colors as I perceive them and how they make me feel. Using a more subdued pastel driven pallet and then including a violently bright red or a deep black, for me, doing something like this might portray a scene where everything is otherwise at peace apart from an individual circumstance of disruption. Each color serves a purpose and contributes to the balance of the moment.

Tell me about your studio, what kind of place is this, have you been working there for a long time?

My studio lives a life in a constant state of flux. Before I begin working on something I clean and organize everything. This phase of existence is short lived. It usually descends quickly into a state of chaos, with pools of paint on the floor, mixing bowls strewn about, half emptied tubes of paint scattered atop a pile of brushes and knives. The deterioration of order normally continues until a piece is complete.

It seems you spend a lot of paint on the floor, haha. How long does it usually take to create one piece?

That all depends on what you define as the start and end point, but for the sake of generalizing the process… 2-5 days.

Could you describe your everyday life in the studio? What does a working day start with?

A working day could be building canvases, planning paintings, or my favorite physically painting. Whatever day it is, it always starts with a song. Music plays a big part in my practice. It serves not only as inspiration, but as a sort of meditative aid. Not every artist functions as myself, but I find I spend a lot of time staring at blank canvases, not figuring out what I’m going to paint exactly, but where I’m going to start. The first step carries you to the second and so on until the end.

Oh, what kind of music usually accompanies you? It can also affect work, right?

It can be anything really, I usually try to draw up a playlist or find an album that I can play on repeat for hours, something that suits the tone of what I’m working on. I believe it affects the work on occasion. I think while working to music you naturally start to set your flow to the tempo, rhythm, melodies, etc. 

Plans and goals for this year, are there already planned exhibitions?

This year I’d like to finish my next body of work. It’s a sort of evolved version of the style people have come to know. An exhibition would be nice, but not necessary, nothing is planned yet. Completing the work properly without the influence of pressures that it is to be exhibited here or there is important to me. Of course the audience and the stage where the work is to perform are important, but attempting to cater to those things can easily turn a work into a contrivance.

Will you tell us about this series of works? Or is it too early to talk about it?

Mostly it’s using different physical techniques to articulate a similar concept. Experiment, let the paint lay where it falls and post rationalize the process in order to repeat / refine. I think this is the most effective means by which to achieve growth for myself.

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