David Natale is an internationally exhibited artist whose work depicts fantasy figures and creatures in vibrant prismatic hues. We are honored to feature one of his hybrid sirens in ourMermay exhibition.
Interview by Waiton Farrell
WF: Hi David. How are you doing during shelter-in-place?
DN: Things have been going pretty well considering the circumstances. I’ve been trying to keep a positive attitude during shelter-in-place. Being able to spend days with my wife has been fantastic. In trying to maintain some amount of normalcy I’ve been staying busy working out some new personal projects. Also, spending some time just relaxing, which is easy to forget to do. At this point I’m really eager to get out and take a hike once the trails are open again.
WF: You reference nature and empathy in your work. How do you consistently capture that on your canvas?
DN: I think that as more and more people become concentrated into major urban settings there is less of an opportunity to experience natural environments in our daily lives. Some exposure to nature on a regular basis is extremely important to our overall well being. Empathy comes into play when we can see the importance of a forest or a park or even some plants on a windowsill. The flora and fauna that we so often overlook could play a more central role in our lives if we understood its importance more or even just its beauty.
One way I am able to capture this empathy with nature in my work is to blend it directly into the figures. Once a vine or some coral is part of a figure it becomes indispensable. Its cultivation is no longer optional and instead is necessary to one's well being. The figure is clearly part of its environment. Fauna interacting with a figure can also help to further this idea of empathy and create a more immersive narrative.
WF: Your blend of strong female figures with flora and fauna makes your images incredibly striking. Your painting The Unlikely Pearl for Mermay is a perfect example of this. Where does the creative process start for you?
DN: My creative process is sort of always rolling. I have lists of flora and fauna that I find fascinating to reference. I also have quite a bit of photo reference of various plants I’ve shot over the years. From these lists I make sketches of my own hybridized versions, which make their way into my paintings. There really is an inexhaustible amount of inspiration to be found in nature let alone what an imagination can provide. For my Mermay piece I knew I wanted coral to be woven into the figure. For this piece in particular the internet was useful as I’ve never been scuba diving for reference. From there it’s just a matter of doing a bunch of thumbnails and sketches to zero in on how I want my model to be posed.
WF: As a self-taught artist, how did you develop the techniques to create your unique style?
DN: I think the best way to develop technique and a unique style is to produce as much as you can. For me a style happened naturally after quite a few hours at the easel or drawing. The more I worked with subjects that hold meaning to me the more my style emerged. With the internet as a tool I don’t think I can claim to be “self-taught” anymore. There are a ton of amazing instructors providing content for technique out there. I have also been fortunate to have attended Smart School online and Illustration Master Class in person where I learned from some very talented individuals. Trying new materials and methods has helped advance my technique considerably. Don’t be afraid to fail at something new.
WF: Who were the artists that most inspired you?
DN: There are so many amazing inspirations out there. I’ve always loved the paintings of Godward, Bouguereau, Mucha, Rackham, Parrish and Bierstadt. As far as cultivating imagination I would have to say Jim Henson and Hayao Miyazaki (not to forget all the artists that helped them realize their visions).
WF: What have you learned that you would like to pass on to new artists?
DN: The most important piece of advice I can offer is to create things that are meaningful to you. Honestly, I still have to tell this to myself from time to time. The work will benefit greatly from a solid understanding of why you are making it in the first place.
Next I would say to put in the time. It takes years to develop technique and style. More hours than I care to count. This is where enjoying the work really comes into play.
WF: As more of the art world goes virtual during this time, how are you adapting your outreach to your collectors and fans?
DN: I’m really just figuring out how to adapt to this. I’ve been trying to stay active on social media a bit more. I have a bad habit of getting buried in the work and not posting anything for a while.
WF: What upcoming projects or shows for the coming year are you most excited about?
DN: At this point I have the convention Illuxcon lined up for October. I’ll be preparing for that over the next few months. Fingers crossed that we have Covid-19 under control by then. Other than that I’ve tried to clear some time to work on some new personal pieces. Sometimes, it’s great to simply make some art without concern for where it will end up.
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