Cambridge artist David Wood’s work chosen for annual ING Discerning Eye exhibition
Cambridge artist David Wood has been chosen from 7,500 entrants to have his painting of Stourbridge Common at night shown at the annual ING Discerning Eye exhibition in London.
Silent Night – Plein Air is the title of the painting that has been selected for the exhibition which takes place at the Mall Galleries and online from Thursday, November 11 to Sunday, November 21. It was painted one very cold winter’s night in 2020 on Stourbridge Common, close to Chesterton where David lives.
“I remember it was a clear night with a bright full moon,” he explains, “which helped illuminate the scene and create a unique contrast between the natural light and some artificial light from a house in the distance. However, I still needed a light with me to see the painting and to help mix the colours.”
David, 54, says it was a “big thrill” to have his work selected. “I’ve always been aware of the exhibition,” he continues, “and I first got into it in 2008. I never really thought about trying again, to be honest. It just went under the radar.”
He notes that only 25 per cent of the submissions for Discerning Eye come from open submission and that the rest is by invitation only. “Basically, what artists do is they submit work and they pay a fee to the show and depending on the judging panel you get in or you don’t get in. I submitted three paintings and one got selected.”
Originally from Liverpool, David has been painting since around the age of 16 and moved to Cambridge in 1990 to study illustration at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU). He remains inspired by the Cambridgeshire landscape and can regularly be seen out there on his own painting it.
“Currently, I spend 70 per cent of my time doing that, making and selling artwork,” he reveals, “and then also work 20 per cent of my time at the Cambridge School of Art – and 10 per cent of my time is spent teaching as well.”
He works as an administrator at the Cambridge School of Art and, as well as having his own private teaching practice, David also teaches at Hills Road Sixth Form College. He was able to teach online during the pandemic after setting up his own online teaching platform.
As well as capturing scenes closer to home, David also enjoys walking and painting the “amazing landscapes” in the Fens, noting his fondness for the Cambridgeshire countryside. “I must admit, I do miss a hill or a mountain – it would be nice to have a bit of a change,” he says, “but you could go in the opposite direction towards Grantchester... That’s quite a different landscape, a bit more soft and rolling.”
Some artists prefer to paint from photographs, whereas David, whose father was an amateur painter, much prefers being outside. “Absolutely. It’s called ‘en plein air’, which means ‘in the outdoors’,” he explains. “It’s a French term which started during the Impressionist movement over in France.
“It really is the best and most direct way to paint, because photographs have the tendency to... well one, you lose the whole spacial awareness of what’s in front of you – the 3D quality of it all – and secondly the colours aren’t very true to life either so you miss a lot of the subtleties and the true colours of the landscape before you.
“The other thing that photographs do is they’re either over-exposed or under-exposed, and so you can’t really get a true likeness of the life in front of you. I can always tell when a painting has been done from a photograph because people have that tendency to over-lighten the lights and over-darken the darks essentially.”
He adds: “It [painting ‘in person’] also builds up your skills because often the light and the environment are changing constantly as well, so you get a bit faster at painting, a bit quicker at making decisions.”
David, who has been heavily influenced by Suffolk-born painter Sir Alfred Munnings, normally goes out to paint “about once a week” and favours a weekday when it’s a bit quieter. “Milton Country Park is nice – I often go there,” he says, “and places like Stow-cum-Quy – it’s got a beautiful fen out there – and Waterbeach. The furthest I’ve been is probably Thetford Forest.”