Interview With Artist David Lloyd

Houston artist David Lloyd's sketches struck a chord with me on sight.

At first, I was at a loss when I tried to find the words to identify what it was that drew me to his art in that way.  I felt the connection, but couldn't quite point to why his work triggered something both familiar and emotional within me.

Then I knew.

In my youth, we often visited my grandparents during the summers and holidays. Sometimes my parents would send us to stay with them for a couple of weeks. We played croquet or makeshift softball in the backyard. We played board games and card games with my grandparents. (My grandfather loved Skip-Bo. It was his game of choice.) In many ways, as my grandmother said more than once, she and my grandfather were like a second set of parents for us. We were so lucky to have that kind of bond.

The time with them was invaluable and I believe their love and encouragement did much to make us who we turned out to be.

My grandparents  kept a large collection of Reader's Digest Condensed Books around, and we read a lot when we were with them. Many of those books were written in the 1950s and 1960s. If you are not familiar with Reader's Digest books, they are (or were) illustrated every so often within each condensed book. and each volume would contain three or four books. I would say from reading those books that sketch illustration was very common in those particular decades. 

I enjoyed the fact that in the way the illustrations were drawn, the gestures and postures of the characters were suggested, yet the reader had some leeway in deciding what the characters might actually look like in the flesh. Some aspects were hinted about much more than defined. I read so many of those books, and even as a young adult, I appreciated that the stories were illustrated. (Which may be why I enjoy picture books both as literature and as an art form to this day.)

 In this interview, David Lloyd discusses paintings as time machines, taking us back to another time, evoking a memory. In style, his work certainly does that for me. Additionally, I cannot help but notice the freshness and a unique sophistication to his work.

Artist David Lloyd


What catches your eye in a scene that makes it something you want to sketch?

Light, first and foremost.  Subjects, no matter how inherently interesting, are not worth painting if they are not lit well.  Light is key.  As for my choice of subjects, that is based on a combination of my own interests and my best judgment of what my audience enjoys.  With my representational work, especially, I cannot afford to be passionate about every subject I paint.  But I do try to ensure that at least some viewers will be.

There are so many styles of painting and illustration. What made the sketch appealing to you? What do you think makes it interesting to viewers?

For me, sketches are a release valve.  As you may know, I make my living painting larger, fully rendered paintings for galleries.  This can be a tedious and stressful process accompanied by heightened expectations.  By comparison, sketches are raw, down to earth, and almost immediately satisfying...a real joy to do.  I think viewers appreciate sketches for the same reason.  I think they show an artist at his least inhibited, most relaxed, playful, and experimental.  It is a bonus, too, to have work that can be offered at a fraction of the price of gallery works.  There is nothing quite like owning original art, and sketches help make it financially accessible.

Do you remember when you realized that you had an interest and a talent in art?

Like most of us, I've been making art since childhood.  But I also learned early that while I had a natural interest, I didn't exactly have a natural talent.  I remember being very competitive about it with a cousin of mine, who was much more skilled than I.  We'd copy what we saw in comic books, and mine were always worse than his.  That must have really gotten under my skin, because here I am.  Of course, talent is a tricky term.  I believe less in talent and more in the repetitive building of skills and good habits.  I've always had the will to create art, but have worked my entire life to improve technically...a pursuit that continues to this day. 

The Train


Green Vespa
You have sketched various types of transportation. Do you have a favorite car to sketch? What interests you about transportation as subject matter?

If I had to pick a favorite, I'd say the Airstream travel trailers.  Not only because of their fantastic reflections, which are a lot of fun to replicate, but also because of what they represent.  I love traveling by highway, and there is no more stylish and romantic way to go than in one of these.  Though I am not a motorhead, per se, I do love looking at vintage cars, especially the quirkier models.  I find it remarkable how emotionally connected we are to our machines.  I don't suppose anyone could fully relate their life story without recalling some of his or her more memorable cars.  I know that when our family album comes out, attention is always paid to the dozens of cars mounted on those pages...each sparking numerous stories and delineating the various eras in our family history.

Foyer and Staircase

Dining Room with Decorative Plates

Dark Study
What do you look for in your creative process to create a sense of atmosphere? 

Light, again!

What makes a room interesting to sketch?

My studio, my life in general, is an absolute mess.  My interiors, though real places, are essentially fantasy pieces...any room that I can imagine myself spending a quiet moment in will do.

Are the scenes that you sketch completed exactly as they appear to your eyes, or do you imagine for instance a bookcase where there actually isn’t one and put it in your sketch? Do you use props in your sketches?

I do not intentionally add objects or rearrange the scene, though I often edit things that interfere with the composition, like awkward angles, clutter, etc.  I rarely depart from what is presented to me, though I am a great believer in simplifying as much as possible.  I am not freakishly interested in accuracy but I do try to get a fair representation.  I do not use props, unless I'm doing still life.

 What influences you as an artist?

As far as style is concerned, my initial influences have kept me on a path from which I rarely deviate.  My style is rooted in impressionism, and that's probably where it will stay.  I do still look at my contemporaries, but mostly to admire their creativity.  A patron of mine once insisted that an artist must look around and see what others are doing.  I think that's only true if the artist really wants or needs to.

How would you describe your art? 

A fellow artist once referred to my work as telegraphic, and I think that is an apt term.  To some degree I am a minimalist, seeking to find the most direct, efficient and straightforward ways to portray my subject.  But these moments of clarity are often interrupted by the occasional abstract shock, or subtle, whimsical passages easily missed if the strokes are not inspected.  To me, a successful work should look like it is struggling to hold itself together...as if the elements have materialized just long enough for you to admire them, and that it all might fall apart at any moment.


Gray Paris

Would you mind talking about ‘Gray Paris’? What inspired that painting? Where in Paris was it sketched?

I visited Paris in the year 2000 and came home with ten rolls of film.  I sort through them from time to time.  I came across this photo and was drawn to the combination of people and traffic, especially that white compact car.  I also liked the typical gray weather and thought it all added up to a great version of Paris.  We were just wandering about when the photo was taken so I have no detailed notes about the location.  It is so typical, it could be anywhere...I suppose that is, in part, what makes it a successful painting.

Have you sketched Houston landscapes?

Very few.  I have been asked to do more...perhaps I will in the future.

Do you have a favorite sketch that you’ve done? Why is it your favorite?

I have a small, relatively simple landscape that I kept for myself for no particular reason.  I framed it and happened to situate it in such a way that I see it every day.  I've grown to love it and I could never let it go.  The piece is nothing out of the ordinary, but my relationship with it, perhaps out of sheer repetitive exposure, has elevated it.  Precious few pieces stay around long enough for me to get so attached.

Great Dane

Tabby Cat Birding

Are animals difficult to sketch?

My answer is going to sound like a lecture, but here goes:

In theory, good technique renders all subjects equal. A good representationalist will trust his training and will look past his subject, especially if he feels intimidated by it.  If you understand the principles of your medium, subject and difficulty are not related.  There is no difference between rendering a tree, a boat or an animal when you consider that they are all created with color, edges, shape, tone, etc.  I submit that a painter could paint a perfectly described scene without understanding at all what she was looking at.  It is an obstacle, in fact, to know a subject as anything other than shapes, colors, values...when your psychology says to you "this is a dog...this is going to be hard" you've already made your first big mistake.

Retro Typewriter

Rotary Phone
What draws you to nostalgia as subject matter?

As with vintage cars, these objects have the power to evoke forgotten or buried periods in people's lives.  Reminiscing is a sensation like no other, but not something we often intentionally initiate.  Paintings are good catalysts, helping people recall meaningful periods in their lives.  Simply by asking someone to look at an object for a moment, they can be transported, reconnected.  In this way, a manual typewriter is really a time machine.  In my paintings I rarely feel the need to add context...the object itself is powerful enough...an empty room...a car...a rotary phone...because everyone has their own stories they project into the painting.  I do not need to dictate...I merely provide the stimulus to let the viewer make his own connection.  I am not a storyteller, but I like to think that I build great sets.

Any upcoming shows or exhibitions you want to mention?

I am taking time off from shows.  It is an exciting but very draining process.  For now, I'm letting my galleries handle things while I focus on making better paintings.  You can see what's new at Edward Montgomery Fine Art in Carmel, California.

 What do you like the most about what you do?

The opportunity to achieve a peaceful, meditative, creative state of mind on a regular basis.  And the commute.

 David, thank you so much! I really appreciate your time and thoughts for this interview. I especially appreciate what you said about not being intimidated by an image when trying to paint it. Speaking for myself, I had not thought of breaking it down in that way, and I genuinely appreciate your perspective!

In addition to Edward Montgomery Fine Art listed above, David can be found through The David Lloyd Gallery on Etsy or you can stop by his blog.

All images in this interview are used by permission, are property of David Lloyd, and are copyright protected.


Interview With Sculptor Kim Beaton

When I first viewed this tree troll sculpture image, the very first thing that came to mind, other than of course the size and aesthetic magnetism of the sculpture itself, was the troll's eyes coupled with that benevolent expression. He looks powerful and able to crush human beings if that were his aim.  Yet, looking into his eyes, and with that contented smile he wears, he radiates gentleness.

I wanted to know what it would be like to build a sculpture of this magnitude in tandem with twenty-five other artists. When reading about the sculpted Tree Troll for this interview, it was mentioned that the artists were hoping to find the sculpture a permanent residence. Not only did I want to know more about the creative process of sculpting the tree troll, but felt I needed to know that the troll did in fact have a home. (Just look at that face.  Can't have a tree troll with a kind face like that out in the cold.)   ;-) I'll leave it to the reader to discover his creation, inspiration, and good fortune.

Sculptor Kim Beaton

In 2006, with the help of twenty-five volunteer artists, you built a giant tree troll.
How did you recruit your 25 volunteers to build this troll?

I have been a working sculptor in Seattle for 30 years. I just called up about a dozen friends and asked them to put the word out that I was building a big sculpture. It was done with word of mouth rather than emailing.

What was that like, working with twenty five others for this purpose?

There were never more than ten at any given time in the studio. The studio was open for volunteers between 10 am till 10pm. This way, whether someone was going to work, attending school, or came from across town, there was always a window of time for them to show up.

Did the vision change as the efforts progressed?

Oh yes, daily. You rapidly discover what people can do, how many volunteers can show up,  or whether the materials are doing what they are supposed to do. My rule with any big project is that I need to already know how to do at least 50% of the work. Everything else you can learn on the job. This way each project is teaching you something new and allowing you to work with new people. This keeps your mind fresh to new ideas and techniques. 

The materials you used were non-toxic. What sorts of materials were involved?

Paper, glue, acrylic paint, wood, screws, metal plates. Nothing that gave off fumes or couldn't be washed of with soap and water. 

 What challenges did you run into?

Getting the materials in the late evenings for the volunteers to work on the next day. Occasionally there were personality conflicts, but those are resolved by folks just coming in at a different time.

Does the tree troll have a name?

We came up with the name Jotuntre, which is king of the trees in Norwegian (I think), but it never caught on. We always called him the Tree Troll. 

What sort of reaction did people have for him locally?

He traveled around Seattle for about 2 years. He showed up at Fairs, parades, markets and such. The Reaction? Genuine love.... Reverence.... Joy.... Delight.... It isn't that we didn't expect these reactions, we just never expected anything to begin with. We loved building it. The response took a long time to grow. The Tree Troll began to slowly get seen around the city many months after we built it. 


How do you store a work of that size?

It might have been difficult, but so many people and places wanted to borrow him that there was never a time that he didn't have a home. He sort of sofa surfed for a few years. 

Has he been given a permanent home since 2006?

Yes, The Bellagio Casino purchased him after one of their representatives saw him in the Fremont Solstice Parade. Now, for 2 1/2 months of the year, around Thanksgiving, he is put on display. It is wonderful, about a quarter million people see him during that time. He is kept indoors, and is well cared for in a climate controlled environment. Being paper-mache, this is the perfect place.

Note from Wendy: I found some pictures of the tree troll in his new habitat here.

You mention tree tolls from Scandinavian Mythology. Would you mind telling about them and their common attributes? What do they tend to represent in those stories?

There is not a particular myth that we were taking from. The idea of a man-like personification of the forest goes back thousands of years. In more recent centuries he is pictured as the Green Man that shows up in hundreds of sculptures throughout Europe. Wikipedia says it the most poetically...

His name means the Green One or Verdant One, he is the voice of inspiration to the aspirant and committed artist. He can come as a white light or the gleam on a blade of grass, but more often as an inner mood. The sign of his presence is the ability to work or experience with tireless enthusiasm beyond one's normal capacities. In this there may be a link across cultures, …one reason for the enthusiasm of the medieval sculptors for the Green Man may be that he was the source of every inspiration.

Though, this was not the original reason I organized everyone to build our Tree Troll. That reason is very personal. The Tree Troll is a portrait of my Dad, Hezzie Strombo. He was a lumberjack in Montana for most of our lives. He had died a few months prior at 80 years old.  On June 2nd, at 3am, I woke from a dream with a clear vision burning in my mind. The image of my dad, old, withered and ancient, transformed into one of the great trees, sitting quietly in a forest.  I leaped from my bed, grabbed some clay and sculpted like my mind was on fire. In 40 minutes I had a rough sculpture that said what it needed to. The next morning I began making phone calls, telling my friends that in 6 days time we would begin on a new large piece. The next 6 days, I got materials and made more calls. On June 8th we began, and 15 days later we were done. I have never in my life been so driven to finish a piece.

You have created more than this project in collaboration with others. What do you like about collaborating as an artist?

That is like asking a drummer why they like being in a band. It makes sense that musicians always work collaboratively, so why is such a stretch that sculptors would want to also? The idea of the lone artist creating their vision is true, but it can also be very isolating. I like a 50/50 balance. Isolation for the initial thought, and then get a group together for the construction.  

On your website, you wrote : "There is a great deal of beautiful art in this city, but most of it only looks good standing by itself. The classic monument style is cluttered and diminished if there are people standing in front. I wanted to create a sculpture whose composition was completed when someone was nearby. It should look at it’s best with the public involved.”
Can you think of any examples you have come across of a landmark or statue, any kind of public art that fits that criteria besides the troll you and the volunteers constructed?

One  in particular, a pair of gigantic wings with a circle in the middle that showed up at Burning Man a few years ago. A perfect example of a sculpture that is completed with the presence of people.

Did you (and the volunteers) accomplish what you meant to do?

Yes, we did, what we wanted to do was come together, work collaboratively on big fun sculpture and make some good memories. The fact we also had a sculpture to show for the effort is a plus.

Thank you, Kim! It was a great experience to learn more about your work and the creation of this very unique, endearing sculpture, and it is reassuring to know he has a place to call home. :) To learn more about Kim's work, visit her studio, or her website. Kim may be emailed at Kimsculptor@gmail.com, or may be contacted through the following address:

 Kim Beaton
Unit 14, 1 Duchess Place
Maupuia 6022
Wellington, NZ

All images on this page are used with permission and are copyright protected.

Other Artists Associated With This Project:

Rob Rogalski: Illustrator, Designer, and Puppeteer

The Pacific Northwest Sculptors:
Eben Graber
Patrica Hasse
Heidi Wastsweet
Greg Fields

The Art Institute Students:
Jasmine Gilbert
Pasha Amigud
Sarah Bolte

Local sculptors:
Bruce Johnson
Jina Graham
Laura Toepel
Karlee Anger
Daniel Joyce
Rowan Mullen
Jon Hageman
Marnie Tyson
Jim Burdwell
Julie Wright
Dan Fozzard
Brandy Cannon
Drew Robinson
William Higareda