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.

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