Wednesday, February 29, 2012

David Cunningham - Painter

 Lighting Up
David Cunningham

Name: David Cunningham
City/State: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Email: profile:

David Cunningham’s interest in art began early due in part by the influence of his older brother and cousin who are also artists. In fall 2000, at the age of 16, David started attending classes at The Atelier Studio Program of Fine Art; A traditional art school that adheres to the French academic tradition of the 19th century. David completed the program in 2006.

After completing the program, he took up studying landscape painting while living in southern Argentina and became tuned into tonalist painters George Inness and James McNeil Whistler. Their atmospheric paintings along with the works of countless other painters, musicians, writers, and photographers continue to influence his work.


Tell me about your work? What are you currently working on? How is this different from past projects?

As a painter, my goal has always been to convey an emotion to the viewer with the simplest means. I was trained as a portrait painter and have emulated the work of John Singer Sargent, Anders Zorn, and Joaquín Sorolla for their fluid use of paint. As far as subject matter goes I was raised in a blue collar family and that shows in my work. I prefer to paint ordinary people in public settings such as bars or cafe’s as well as on the streets or waiting for trains. 

Lately I’ve been really focused on street photography and begin every day shooting photo’s for the first 30 minutes of light. I think of these photo’s as studies for paintings. Since I started shooting street photography, I’ve been integrating it into compositional techniques such as viewpoints between 1 to 3 feet from the ground as well as the golden light that’s too fleeting for me to ever paint on the spot.


"What is Art?" is certainly too big of a question to ask here, but what do you hope your audience takes away from your art? What statement do you hope to make?

Art to me is about encapsulating an emotion within a picture. I will have succeeded if the audience feels that emotion when they view the picture.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist? 

To always keep my mind open to other ways of seeing the world. I consider myself a realist painter but that does not limit my interests to just realists work. Mark Rothko’s one of my favorite artists.

Tell me about your work space and your creative process.

I work out of a north light 500 square foot studio in The Casket Arts Building.

I always have my journal near in case an idea comes to me. I keep my work fresh by never sticking to one process. With that said, the genesis of my latest work starts with the question “What are we dealing with.” Every painting must be about something. From there I draw out the composition, or rather the big picture. Then I seek that layout on the streets and bring back photo’s which I use as studies for backgrounds. After that, if I can I work from life on location with small studies and work from life with models in my studio. 

Working from life is the most essential aspect of my creative process. Mostly because it entails time constraints and forces me to get the most out of every brush stroke and I have a difficult time getting inspired if the piece is done strictly from a photograph.

Image of workspace

Who are some of the Minnesota artists you enjoy?

Steven Levin -
Joshua Cunningham -

If I were to follow you around to see art in Minnesota, which places would we go? What would we see?

Minneapolis Institute of art -
The Russian Museum of Art -
The Rogue Buddha Gallery -


Where do you go online for good art resources, whether to find a new artist, or to see what is going on in the art world locally and otherwise? - Networking and checking out other artists work - Local news/opportunities - Competitions and other opportunities - Other opportunities - Links to dozens of helpful artist websites

The night passes by

Do you have any exhibits to promote in the near future?

308 Prince St, St Paul, MN 55101
Reception: Friday 3/2/12 6-9 PM
Through March 2012


Cafe Maude / Solo Show
5411 Penn Ave S
Mpls, MN 55419
3/12/12 Through June 2012

David Cunningham

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