Artist Interviews - David Mankin

Artist Interviews - David Mankin

We talk to David Mankin, a contemporary Artist based in Cornwall, whose work is a direct response to his environment. David explores texture, colour, shape, sound, movement and spaces, communicating a sense of the freedom, the vastness, the rhythm and the ebb and flow of nature, which is characteristic to his home in Cornwall.

Q: Can you tell us about your Artistic background/education?

I have always painted from an early age, but was waylaid by a career in commercial art for many years. Around eight years ago I had an opportunity to make some work in the famous Porthmeor Studios in St Ives, which reignited my desire to be a painter. It allowed me to re-engage with painting. It was a catalyst to change my career, developing from there. In 2016 I was approached by Cornwall Contemporary Gallery in Penzance to make a small number of pieces for their 10thAnniversary exhibition. In 2018 I had my first solo exhibition Perpetual Flux with the gallery. The success of this led to Sightlines, asolo exhibition in 2019 and Thresholds in 2020. I have been painting full time since 2016.

Perran sands

Q. Do you work in a studio or from home?

My studio is based in the small coastal village Perranuthnoe near Marazion, Mounts Bay in West Cornwall. The studio is part of a group of old farm buildings that has been converted over the years. Mine is an old hayloft and I’m very fortunate that it looks out to sea.

Q. Who are your Art Influencers? And inspirations?

Many other artists influence and inspire me. I’m a keen collector of art books and enjoying reading widely about the lives of different painters, their experiences, processes and techniques. Early influences include Monet and the French Impressionists, Constable and Turner. In more recent years Prunella Clough, Roger Hilton, William de Kooning, Matisse, Patrick Heron, Peter Doig, Peter Lanyon, Richard Diebenkorn, Robert Rauschenberg, William Scott, Hans Hoffman, Howard Hodgkin, Robert Motherwell, Milton Avery, Nicolas de Staël,Cy Twombly, Oscar Murillo, Mary Heilmann, Amy Sillman and Joan Eardley

Q. What helps get you in "the zone’ to create your work, music? out in nature? quiet?

Primarily it’s the sensory experience of being out in the Cornish landscape. Experiencing its beauty together with the constant change and flux. When I come back in the studio it’s the opportunity to shape something from nothing. To see where I can take the process and to remember in paint what I’ve experienced in the landscape. I have this quote stuck to the front of one my A3 sketchbooks as constant reminder.

Abstract painting is on a level with music. It’s a physical outburst from your whole being. Its not an idea that is created and then you start painting. It’s always a challenge to shape something from nothing, to do the impossible.” John Grillo 2001.

Music is certainly a driver in getting me in the zone and I rarely paint without itI enjoy listening to soul, disco and in particular trance music. I find the emotive and euphoric quality pushes me and inspires me to get more physical with the surface and take risks with the process. I often wear wireless sound-cancelling headphones which gets me deeply involved with both the music and the painting process. It can be invigorating, inspiring, and liberating.

Q. Do you keep a sketchbook? How often do you use it and do you travel with it?

I make small micro sketches in different sketchbooks and on different sheets of paper. I like to spend several days a month sketching and developing ideas, thoughts and compositions. These small sketches are made using a variety of materials at hand – pastels, crayons, pencils, pens, biro, charcoal and paint. Every few months I collate my sketches into one sketchbook with notes, quotes from books I’ve read and small collages I’ve made. These sketches and collages are used for reference or as starting points for both works on paper and larger canvases.


Q. Where does a piece of work begin for you? Can you describe your process?

My process starts with my experiences of being in the Cornish landscape. That initial visual and sensory stimulation; the textures, the colours, the shapes, and the movement; It all collides together, creating a wealth of spatial relationships and perspectives. That’s my source material. When I’m walking things are just constantly catching my eye, and I’ll take a picture or make a sketch.

When I’m back in the studio it becomes almost an explosion of mark making, free association and gestural paintwork. It’s really about engaging with the materials and exploring possibilities in paint and surface.

Then it becomes important to edit the painting, and I start layering; painting over areas; scratching into it and unearthing marks. It is like the process of the elements on the landscape – the weather acting on the coast. During this process things develop and connections are made. I aim to try to balance the composition in terms of the line and the texture and the scale and the colour. My process is one of intuition, change, transition, improvisation, embracing accidents and taking risks in order to see how far I can take a painting.

Paintings can take weeks or months or sometimes years. I might put them to one side and go back to them, maybe add a new element. It’s an incremental, emergent process. I’m searching for something in my own mind that feels right – it’s a kind of mood, a feeling of rightness that I want from the painting. When I get to that point, it comes close to being finished!

Q. What technique do you prefer to use?

Change combined with an element of chance. During the course of a day’s work, a painting may change completely as elements or relationships are discovered, buried, lost and re-found. I value accidents, chance encounters, mistakes, tactility, transformation, and destabilisation.

Q. What are your most important artist tools?

Liquitex freestyle and Omega red silk brushes. I also use large decorating and masonry brushes together with various scourers and pads for different effects. I have a collection of wallpaper scrapers and home-made tools which I use for scratching through wet paint layers. Princeton Catalyst wedge tools are always part of the mix together with several large flat palette knives. One of my favourite activities is beachcombing along the coast near my studio. Often items I find on the beach will be used as stencils on my paintings and in some instances I physically glue the found object to the canvas.

Q What are your favourite materials?

Golden heavy body acrylic paints are my chosen medium for all my paintings. I also use Golden gesso to prepare my canvases. My larger paintings are on canvas and I have these made by a small company in Cornwall. When I’m working on paper I use Clairefontaine paper for acrylics. It’s a heavy stock 360gm which allows repeated layering and physical interaction. I also enjoy working with charcoal, Unison pastels and NeoColour crayons.


Q. What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on two exciting projects for 2021. This first is a new body of work for a solo exhibition later this summer in Cornwall with Cornwall Contemporary Gallery in Penzance. Encounters opens on August 28thuntil September 25th. The second project is a book, which will focus on my process and work, and include over 200 images of paintings. It will be published to coincide with the Encounterssolo exhibition in August at Cornwall Contemporary Gallery. The 176-page book is a collaboration with the arts publisher Sansom and art writer Kate Reeve-Edwards. The copy is being written now and I’m busy collating all the imagery and photography.

Q. Where can we see more of your work online or in person? 

On my website and in person at several UK galleries. These are Cornwall Contemporary Gallery in Penzance, Cricket Fine Art in London and the &Gallery in Edinburgh. You can also see a short documentary film about the making of a painting commissioned by English Heritage called Passage.The painting was a response to Tintagel Castle and gives an insight into my process. Click the below for all these gallery and film links. In addition you can follow me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter for studio updates and to see new paintings in progress. Links below.

Click here for links to all the above




Catherine Peters
Catherine Peters

3 Responses

Neil McBride
Neil McBride

April 19, 2021

Great article about a lovely painter. I can see parallels with my own career path and working practice except I quickly transitioned from abstraction to figuration. Time for a shift back in the other direction now.

Maria Motowylczyk
Maria Motowylczyk

April 19, 2021

A really inspiring and insightful interview from one of my favourite contemporary landscape painters. Hope to catch the show in August.

Rena Diana
Rena Diana

April 06, 2021

Wonderful article. Wonderful artist!

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