An Interview With A Speed Painter: From Velcro Shoes to Performing in Asia
Pioneered by the late Denny Dent in the 1980s, speed painting has exponentially grown in popularity and is now a hugely popular form of entertainment due not just to the incredible artistic talent demonstrated in just a matter of minutes, but also its customisability.
Inspired by the live event art produced by the likes of American speed painter Dan Dunn, our Speed Painter Dave has created an incredible show combining true artistic and musical talent. So if you’re in need of some event inspiration take some time to read our interview with our international speed painting master and find out more about him and his art form!
So we imagine you didn't just wake up one day and decide you want to be a speed painter, what led you to this unique career choice?
Dave: Well, I have been drawing since the years of Velcro shoes, since before I was old enough to do up my own laces, but I got into 'Speed painting' 5 years ago.
For a long time I had been torn between art and music, because each allowed a way for me to express myself, just through different mediums and with different forms of fulfillment! I loved performing live on stage as a musician and entertainer, as opposed to being shut away alone in a studio all day creating art, but I knew my strongest and most original creativity lay in painting.
After leaving university with a degree in Graphics Art I got offered a job as a drummer on the Disney Cruise Lines. It was there that I was lucky enough to see the American Speed painter Dan Dunn performing a live painting of Ray Charles! I had never seen anything like it and I instantly knew it was exactly what I had been looking for, that thing that combined my passions for music, performance and art. It’s cool to find something that you are 100% passionate about that is still a very unique area in the entertainment world. I consider myself very lucky to part of the speed painting community and I’m always trying to push its limits as an art form, to progress and move forward and keep it something that is fresh and unique.
What is the highlight of your speed painting career so far?
Dave: This has got to be my audition on Britain’s Got Talent in front of Simon Cowell and a live audience of 4,000 people, with all my friends and family there. It was definitely an early highlight to push me forward.
I have also been lucky enough to tour Canada for two summers, painting over 150 live speed paintings each year, and I also loved performing in the Disney Theatre where I got to rise up on stage from a platform underneath! Ben Sherman has been great to work for; they have such an iconic brand and clothing line, I was proud to be able to represent them as part of an online competition.
My most recent highlight has been performing with The Body Coach - Joe Wicks. The first show I did with him was broadcast live over Facebook to an audience of 300,000 people, it felt great to be able to give a live performance to so many people all over the world at once – especially creating a strong final painting in a tight time frame. I felt privileged to be invited back to paint at his recent book launch party.
Charity auctions will also be a constant highlight of this job, as it feels great to know your paintings have helped raise money for organisations! It’s also really exciting watching your work get auctioned off at events, seeing how much people are willing to bid and how much money is being raised in such a short space of time.
So I guess that’s not really one highlight but many!
How many pairs of shoes and jackets do you think you’ve gone through this year already?
Dave: Too many to count, especially in day-to-day studio rehearsals... I’m considering selling them on eBay, to be honest!! I had to accept early on that certain items get covered in paint too frequently to replace for each show, so I make the jackets and trousers into more of a branded fashion statement that I wear both on and off the stage, but I always replace my shirts and shoes etc as I still like to make sure that I look smart!
What’s your favourite size of canvas to paint on?
Dave: I like using 5' x 4' as I feel its large enough to see on any stage, but can find its place on a large variety of domestic walls!
If you could be hired to paint anybody's portrait, who would it be?
Dave: Well I am a huge Noel Gallagher fan, and it looks like I’m going to be at Festival No. 6 this year, (the annual art and music festival in Portmeirion in Wales for those who don’t know), where I know he his headlining! I would love to get a nod of approval from such a legend, and with his infamous strong opinions, it would certainly make my day!
Can you explain a bit more about how you use music to enhance your performances?
Dave: I use music to create strong dynamics in each performance. The flow of the brushes and the changes in paint colours are all choreographed around the changes in the music that goes alongside that particular piece – I’ve always associated it with forms of dance.
As a drummer I like to use the brushes in a similar way to drumsticks, so hitting them against the canvas on the beat, also a lot of the big changes in the painting are timed to happen when the tempo increases or changes in style completely. It’s attention to the timing and rhythms of the music and using this in the painting that creates a complete show. In my shows, the music and the painting are never independent of each other.
Do you have any more developments on the cards for yourself or your shows?
Dave: Thanks to Scarlett Entertainment I’m looking forward to exciting events this year in Asia and around Europe! So I’m Just happy to keep working hard at what I love to do and get my live painting shows seen by as many audiences as possible because art translates beautifully.
So there you have it a small insight into the life of our incredibly humble, incredibly talented speed painter. A man passionate about creating exciting live art experiences that will captivate audiences, our Speed Painter Dave is one of those entertainment ideas you’ve probably thought of and NEED to book for your event – it entertainment like no other.