David Goddard BSoA 1958-1962

The Last of the Few.

All nature is but art, unknown to thee;
All chance, direction, which thou canst not see;
All discord, harmony, not understood;
All partial evil, universal good;
And, spite of Pride, in erring Reason’s spite,
One truth is clear, ‘Whatever is, is RIGHT

An Essay on Man Epistle 1
Alexander Pope 1688-1744

Dave Goddard’s work is a joy to behold. It is an oasis in a world of contemporary art where for the most part, genuine artistry has been replaced by anarchy. The examples above, and more to follow show an artist dedicated to detail, where every object is meticulously researched and rightly placed within the scene, and unquestionably the product of a master craftsman. Botanically correct and painstakingly executed, his choice of subjects and their depiction are truly the work of an artist of much integrity, a rare quality today where the most popular ‘artists’ have abandoned excellence, craft and skill. Each of his compositions has been carefully planned as leaves, petals, trees, branches, the placement of rocks and distant fields, skies and clouds reflect a mind that gains immense pleasure from the natural world and wishes to share it with us. Brimming with growth, creeping and twisting plants are shown claiming their place in nature. Nothing is left to chance as each blade of grass, stem, each bloom and leaf is observed and placed exactly as nature intended. The depiction of the bark on the tree trunks, the crests of waves, the seeds displayed on the plants, the seemingly random array of branches, and the ploughed furrows of fields are right, and in so doing make other contemporary artists who have approached similar pastoral vistas pale in insignificance.

Where Dave has concentrated on animals, they too have been researched with the same precision and passion as did Thomas Berwick with his woodcuts. Every feather on a bird, for example has been noted and placed exactly right, much as a Victorian ornithological encyclopaedia would have shown. As a consequence, bird species are immediately identified, as too are their flight formations in the sky. Look carefully, for his art and craft requires patients and time to fully grasp, for like all great works, the more you look the more you see. Note for example, the loose wooden plank on the facia of a house, or that the species of butterfly and insect are not only scientifically correct in their depiction, but are the right ones associated with the flora they are seen in. Dave’s colouring is also most subtle, economic and to the point. Too much colour and the magnificence of the detail, density and texture of the drawing would be muted. Where man-made objects are included such as fences, gates, fishing boats, oast houses, and villages, each has been thoughtfully placed in the composition.

The examples you see here are the work of an artist who has mastered one of the first needs of a true artist, observation. The work also displays Dave’s advanced understanding of perspective, gradients in the size and scale of shapes to show depth, and an acute sense of composition where the eye is led into the scene and then invited to wander and wonder at will. Clearly, this artist’s drawing ability and sense of design are faultless. Such could have only come from completing an art education during the golden age of art schools when every student actually had to learn to draw, master colour theory, perspective, and copy and learn from the great masters of the past before indulging in the abstract. Additionally, the work also shows a clear mastery of the technical knowledge required to work in the chosen medium.

The reasons for the choices and placement of each item in each scene is because they are right. They may seem to be there by chance, but they are not. Rightness prevails throughout Dave’s oeuvre, and it is this empathy with nature and truth that the observer needs to understand. It is pertinent to recall Leonardo da Vinci who decreed:

Nature must be your guide, if you have no care for nature, you are wasting your time. Nature begins with a cause, and ends with an experience. So begin with the experience and investigate the cause. Nothing is superfluous in nature, and nothing is lacking in nature. Nature is perfect and will always give you something to imitate.

Dave’s work is evidence enough that he has taken such guidance to mind and deed.

It is unfortunate that in an age where deskilling has taken over from genuine creativity, where rigour, reverence for the great masters of the past, rote and routine learning in the pictorial arts has been replaced by the breaking of rules before they have even been tried and tested, we see in Dave’s work an art of a bygone age of excellence that few people today recognise. His art is not of the shock, sensation and prompting an instant response school, but one that is meditative in form and function, calling for the observer to indulge in a journey of discovery. We look forward to more from one of the last of the few. Perhaps there are sanctuaries out there where these fine works can be exhibited and celebrated for what a genuine artist and craftsman can do.


Close up detail of previous picture

The following Q and A session was conducted recently. It illuminates interesting aspects of Dave’s background, his art education, inspirations and his work process. Included are several accompanying photos showing Dave printing.

Q. What started you off on the path of art?

A. My mother was a professional artist, she studied in London in the 1930s under Russell Flynt the water colour artist. I filled up many books of stickmen adventures. My parents bought me the Eagle comic whose illustrations by Frank Hampson of ‘Dan Dare’ and other illustrations were far ahead of their time and impressed me greatly. I advanced from stickmen and tried to copy them.

Q. Why did you choose the Beckenham School of Art?

A. I went to the BSoA because a friend on my father’s son had been studying there for a year. He said the school had a very good reputation.

Q. What was your opinion of the BSoA?

A. My opinion of the BSoA was that it was an outstanding art school for teaching the craft of drawing, painting, perspective, colour theory, life drawing, still life, sculpture, etching, furniture design, history of art, pottery, calligraphy, graphic design and photography. I found the tutors were very encouraging, they really knew their business. Sadly, the craft of drawing is not taught today. The BSoA also had a fine library.

Q. How did you evolve to become an illustrator?

A. I became an illustrator through my great love of books when a child, especially those books illustrated by Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac whom I especially admired for his great skill in water colours.

Q. Who were your major influences in your country scenes?

A. My influence in my country scenes was the landscape of Pembrokeshire where I have spent many summers wandering amongst the mountains and countryside.

Q. Why did you choose printing?

A. I chose etching and engraving because I love the skill of engravings of the 18th. and 19th Century, many of which I have studied in great detail, especially those etchings and engravings of Hogarth, William Blake and many etchings of the 1920s and 1930s.

Q. What is your working procedure from initial inspiration, drawings to final prints?

A. My working procedure is the following: I have a vast collection of pictures that I have collected over many years of which I select those of interest. I have a good library of which I select books of interest. I make the drawings on a pad, I then trace and retrace the drawings until they are right. I then make a master tracing which is traced down onto a very fine white board, (CS Board, no longer made). Drawings are done using an Indian ink pen and fine sable brushes with distilled water which keeps it fresh and stops the ink blocking the brushes. It also makes the inks run well especially for dots. Any mistakes can be scratched out, burnished and redrawn. For etching and engraving, I clean and lay a wax ground onto 18 gauge copper plate which is then blackened by smoking. When the ground has hardened, I trace the image whose outline and basic tones are drawn. The plate is then etched, then I take a print. I engrave some areas using a fine sharp burin. The plate is then re-coated with wax ground several times until I achieve what I want. A very fine aquatint ground is then laid on the plate where some areas are scraped and burnished. A final print is taken, then the plate is steel faced to stop excessive wear on it. I use a small etching press and very soft wool blankets. The prints are then hand coloured using water colour.

Q. What tools do you use?

A. I have a box of many tools, scrapers, roulette wheels, mezzotint tools, points, brushes, pens, pencil etc.

Q. What plates, inks, papers and printer do you use?

A. I use 16 and 18 gauge copper plates, good quality French etching inks, various blacks and browns. I use Somerset paper made especially for etching at Wookey Hole in Somerset UK, which I find easier to use than soft hand made paper (very nice, but very expensive). I use an 18” etching press made by Harry Rochat UK.

Q. How long do you spend on an average piece of work?

A. I spend 400 to 600 hours on a drawing 10“x 12”, and 40 to 100 hours on a small etching 6“x4” to 6“x8”.

Q. Where do you exhibit your work?

A. No where.

Q. Who owns your work?

A. My prints and drawings are held by the Victoria and Albert Museum, the British Museum, Ashmolean Museum Oxford. My prints and drawings are in many private collections through out the world. I have only had two exhibitions many years ago in Heals London and Maas Gallery London.

Q. What ambitions do you have for more work?

A. My ambition for more work is to make photogravures (extremely difficult), to paint in water colours and oil painting.

August 2013