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David Ashwell

Why Landscape?

David Ashwell doesn't consider himself to be a landscape painter, at least not in the plein air sense. While his coastal and beach scenes are an attempt to find motifs that resonate with life in Southern California, he is also looking to express a more abstract feeling of optimism—a feeling that brought him here in the first place.

Arriving from Britain in 1984, Ashwell was struck by the intense light that greets us nearly everyday. "By comparison," he says, "living in Britain was like living under a 40 watt bulb." At that time Ashwell was a director of television commercials. When he began painting, he drew heavily from this previous career.

Having spent 30 years looking through a camera, Ashwell was familiar with the different spatial relationships created by using different lenses. A wide-angle lens separates elements in a picture while a long lens stacks them together. With the eye always having the same focal length, he was excited to play with this extra dimension offered by painting from reference photographs that have been shot with a variety of lenses.

In the same way he would look for a film location, Ashwell visits a likely painting spot at various times of day to photograph the different lighting effects created by time and by weather: early morning cross light – intense white-hot top light – magic hour evening light - and everything in between.

Ashwell photographs, sketches and makes detailed notes of these changing effects, returning to his studio to explore the possibilities of light, space and composition as if he were making an abstract painting.

Born in Britain, David Ashwell studied graphic design at Kingston College of Art. After working for 5 years as an advertising art director, in 1971 he began a new career as a director of television commercials. For the next 30 years, he created more than 800 commercials in over 30 countries. He has won awards in every major advertising competition in both the US and Europe. In 2001, he gave up directing to become a full time painter, focusing mostly on Malibu landscape. He was discovered by gallerist Lia Skidmore who gave him first gallery exhibition in 2000.

This is his 7th exhibition at Skidmore Contemporary Art.