Introducing Your New President

Exhibition secretary David Cromack was elected as President at the Society’s AGM in April. Here he talks about his background, his interest in art and current motivations.

I joined the Society three years ago as I felt I needed to challenge myself by exhibiting work on a regular basis instead of simply creating works that only saw the inside of my house or garage! Though I graduated with a fine art degree in Western Australia half a lifetime ago, most of my adult life has been taken up with magazine journalism, and more recently book publishing, so it is only now, in retirement, that creating art can be more than a part- time hobby. I was the Editor of Bird Watching magazine for 20 years part of the EMAP stable in Peterborough, where I now live. As I approached the end of my time working for a big company, my wife and I relaunched Birds Illustrated, a quarterly title dedicated to celebrating birds through art and photography. Though it was a guaranteed way to lose money, Birds Illustrated provided me with the opportunity to meet many of the leading wildlife artists in the UK and this led to our book publishing company, Buckingham Press, sponsoring prizes at the National Exhibition of Wildlife Art (NEWA) on the Wirral and the annual exhibition of the Society of Wildlife Artists, held at the Mall Galleries in London. Since taking over as the exhibition secretary for WVAS, we have introduced a prize for the best abstract or non-figurative work in each of our shows. When I was accepted as an Exhibiting Member, I was told “It’s great to have another artist interested in abstract work as we don’t have many at the moment,” so I hope our prize will stimulate more local interest in this aspect of painting in the future.

David poses with one of his paintings from the 1980s called Forest Fire
David poses with one of his paintings from the 1980s called Forest Fire


So what sort of painting do I create? A kind person might describe my output as ‘eclectic’ as I don’t have the mind-set to stick to a particular style. I’m quite happy to tackle landscape scenes, particularly those where trees dominate, in a conventional realistic way, but I gain the most stimulation from creating abstract images where the source material is not evident. Needless to say, this greatly diminishes my sales potential, but I plough on regardless. Landscapes seen from the air have often been the trigger for a new painting, but often I will simply dash different coloured paint onto a board to see what inspiration will follow. One recurring theme I’ve pursued for many years is trying to create a visual equivalent of Ambient Music, a concept developed by composer Brian Eno, which ignores traditional musical structures to create slow-moving works that put the emphasis on tone and atmosphere.



My goal with ‘ambient paintings’ is to create an image where the viewer’s eye is continually engaged in movement because there is no focal point on which it can rest. An all-white canvas would fulfil this description but be boring to look at, so my challenge is to create a surface that has plenty of colour and texture to interest the viewer’s eye.

This large painting of an old plum orchard in Slovakia was commended by judge Peter Barker in one of last year’s WVAS exhibitions.
This large painting of an old plum orchard in Slovakia was commended by judge Peter Barker in one of last year’s WVAS exhibitions.


Lastly I must mention my ‘dot paintings’, a few of which have created some interest when they’ve been selected for WVAS exhibitions. When attending a huge show of Aboriginal art in the Brisbane Art Gallery a few years ago, it struck me that the dotting technique could be adopted to create ambient surfaces. While the native Australians use dots to illustrate their myths and history, my works are solely concerned with the effects created by placing different coloured dots next to each other. They can be quite time-consuming, but because I’m using acrylic paints, I can mix small batches and work for short bursts over a long period, rather than labouring for hours at a time. Long ago, I accepted that I was not a naturally gifted painter (my best subject at college was art history), but the creative challenge of trying to do better with every new work is what keeps art alive for me. I hope it’s the same for you.