Blog posts

Radio Interview

It was great fun and such a privilege to be interviewed on BBC Radio Sussex just before Christmas about our Lighthouse Keeper books. Below is the full interview on BBC radio Sussex

Beachy Head lighthouse showing the wires. Photo by Rob Wassell
Ronda and the kids
The seaguls trying to steal Mr Grinlings lunch!

We will also be featured on BBC South East Today soon! Filming tomorrow… updates to follow.

Read about our latest Lighthouse Keeper book The Lighthouse Keepers Mystery.

2020 Review

Well, crikey what a year!

We all wait indoors for our post to arrive – perhaps we should have brought back the pigeons to give the postie a rest! (Image from Schwanengesang)

I don’t think anything has gone to plan for anyone this year. I never would have thought back in January, when planning my big Oxford exhibition, of the dark and difficult days this year would hold.

You Green and Mourning Garlands, Winterreise

Firstly I want to say a big thank you to everyone who has continued to support the Arts this year in any way they could. And in turn I hope that us artists have been able to provide you some beauty and solace; some light in the darkness.

To everyone who has continued to work; from NHS staff, delivery workers, and teachers, to gallery owners and event organisers a huge thank you.

Detail from Aurora.

Alongside planning for my Oxford exhibition, I had two large illustration projects. Last year myself and Ronda were asked by Scholastic to create a new Lighthouse Keeper book. From the germ of an idea about ocean pollution came The Lighthouse Keeper’s Mystery, 43 years after our first book, and with a poignant message about protecting our environment.

The second project was to complete the illustrations for my third Schubert book, Die Schone Mullerin. Being in Lockdown actually provided the time to focus on this, and using the wonderful music as inspiration the images flowed out naturally. After completing the paintings, it was then the task of my great friend and graphic desinger Paul Hayes to compile and arrange them into book format, with the text from the peoms alongside.

Both books were printed just in time for my exhibition in Oxford which featured some of the original illustrations.

I feel very fortunate to have been able to continue to show my work this year. My exhibition at The Jam Factory in Oxford was pulled together within weeks thanks to a passionate team. Having been delayed and close to being cancelled, as the first lockdown lifted we all sprung into action to get the show marketed and hung. With three exhibition spaces spread across the venue, it was ideal for showcasing my wide range, from illustrations to large abstracts. The paintings shone in that wonderful space and I was very pleased to receive positive attention from the press, as well as the many visitors.

The Boiler Room at The Jam Factory, Oxford

Hot on it’s heels was Lewes Artwave. With a few Covid safety adjustments, the studio welcomed many visitors – all masked of course! But that did not stop many interesting conversations, and a few sales. (More on that below.)

Left to Right: Auto Da Fe; Initiation Figure; Azrael/Queen of the Night; Catedral, Listening to Bruckner

Lockdown 2.0 put an end to my idea of an additional studio show for Christmas, so I turned my attention online. I joined the dreaded Twitterati! And I am building up my online shop, which now has a selection of quality giclee prints, as well as my Schubert illustrated books.

Stuck indoors again! (Image from Winterreise)

Lastly a special thank you to my patrons and followers. Your support is ever appreciated, and I have happily sold many paintings this year, large and small. I hope that my work has enriched your homes (god knows we could all do with a change from staring at the same four walls!!) and lifted your spirits.

Below is a selection of the work I have sold this year which now resides in homes as close as down the road and as far away as New Zealand.

Best wishes to you all for the Holiday season and here’s to vaccines and a better 2021! I shall now be putting my feet up next to the fire with a large glass of fruity red.

ARTWAVE 2020

OPEN STUDIO WEEKENDS 5 – 20 SEPTEMBER

Visitors are welcome once again during Artwave Festival, when artists from Lewes and surrounding areas open their studios to show their work . This year’s event was slightly delayed by the small matter of a global pandemic, and of course I will be following social distancing and safety guidance. Being out in the countryside helps, my studio is spacious and there is plenty of room outside for anyone waiting.

As some of you may know I currently have a large exhibition up in Oxford, but there is still plenty of work on show in my studio including some of my early paintings from Australia; new paintings completed this year from the puppet series; and the original illustrations for the new Lighthouse Keeper book, The Lighthouse Keeper’s Mystery.

Marie Antoinette; acrylic and dye on canvas; 127 x 76cm

I will also be joined again by my assistant and fellow artist Abigail Myers who will be showing a few of her abstract paintings, along with some small prints and works on paper. Her work is a different take on the abstract aesthetic, informed both by the abstract expressionists that inspire me, but also later eras of pop, street, and conceptual art.

Imperturbable 2; Mixed media on canvas; 78 x 78 cm; Abigail Myers

The studio will be open the weekends of 5/6, 12/13, and 19/20 September from 11am-5pm, at my studio just outside East Hoathly. Use the interactive map below or type BN8 6Qp into google maps or your satnav. This will bring you very close, then just look for the Artwave banner!

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Mystery

The latest book in the much loved series is out on 6 August!

In this latest addition to the classic childrens book series, now in it’s 44th year, Mr and Mrs Grinling return, with other favourite characters with a message about the environment and conservation.

After a clean up at the Lighthouse Mr Ginling is worried: it seems that someone is dumping rubbish into the sea! His great-nephew George thinks it might be the work of pirates. But could the culprit be closer to home?

Everyone’s favourite seagulls are causing trouble again! Along with a cast of sea creatures, and help from Hamish, it’s time to clean up the ocean…

…AND defeat the pirates.

You can read about the creation of this book in my blog post here. I think the publishers – Scholastic, have once again done a great job of bringing together the words and pictures and have stayed true to my original illustrations and maintaining the painterly quality.

Of course there is a happy ending and a positive message about what we can all do to help keep our beaches – and the rest of planet – clean.

The book will be released on the 6th August 2020, and is available from many local bookstores including one of our favourite shops: Much Ado Books in Alfriston.

For online purchases you can pre-order from Waterstones and Amazon, where it is also available on kindle.

There will also be a limited number available pre-release at my exhibition at The Jam Factory in Oxford from 31 July.

A Survey Exhibition

Oxford 2020

This exhibition will now run for a full 10 weeks, from 31 July – 18 October.

This exhibition will present a full range of the artists practice, from large scale abstract paintings, to colourful illustrations. At first these may seem like disparate fields, but on closer inspection, the techniques involved inform each other, and at times interconnect; as in the Earthwatch series of paintings on paper which utilise the techniques used in his illustrative work, but resonate with the passion and vibrancy of his abstract expressionist canvasses.

Gethsemane, Dye and acrylic on canvas, 158 x 140 cm

Armitage’s abstract paintings have long been admired by patrons and critics alike, and his work has developed a rich and distinct character over decades of artistic practice. Large canvases resonate with deep rich colours, inspired by his native Australia and world travels, classical music which plays in the studio as he paints, and the abstract expressionists such as Helen Frankenthaler.

Smaller works include semi-figurative subjects and landscapes, where he distils the vibrancy of his larger works to a more domestic scale, depicting snippets of the world from everyday still lifes to the darker side of humanity and the victims of war and violence.

Warrior Rod Puppet, Dye and acrylic on canvas, 120 x 75 cm

The other main aspect of his practice is illustration, to which he brings the same mastery of colour and composition whilst embracing chance and accident. His methods combine watercolour, monoprint and ink drawing, creating a unique style that can be fun, beautiful, but never mawkish.

Winterreise 22, Mixed media on paper, 36 x 55 cm

The Lighthouse Keeper book series, written by his wife Ronda, have delighted readers for generations. The first book, the Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch was inspired by the Beachy Head lighthouse near to their new East Sussex home in 1977. Over 40 years and many successful sequels later comes a new book; The Lighthouse Keepers Mystery. This latest installment encourages young readers to look after the sea and the animals that live there, as Mr Grinling solves the mystery of who is polluting the sea with rubbish.

Some of the original illustrations from several of the favourite books will be on display, along with exclusive pre-release copies of the new book.

Read more about the creation of The Lighthouse Keeper’s Mystery

Alongside these will be David’s own project; a set of three illustrated books inspired by the Schubert song cycles, Die Schone Mullerin, Winterreise, and Schwanengesang.

Schwanengesang / Pigeon Post, Mixed media on paper, 27 x 76 cm

Armitage’s illustrative style perfectly suits the feeling of yearning and melancholy captured in the music and poetry of all three of these works. The original illustrations will be exhibited, with books and prints also available.

Die Schone Mullerin / The Questioner, Mixed media on paper, 27 x 76 cm

David Armitage, A Survey Exhibition will run from 31 July – 18 October 2020 at The Jam Factory, 4 Hollybush Row, Oxford, OX1 1HU

A ‘Meet the Artist’ event will be held on 2 August 1- 5pm. Social distancing measures will be in place, refreshments will be available to purchase from the venue’s cafe/ bar.

Read this article about the exhibition on Ox In A Box.

Die Schone Mullerin

I have just completed the third book of illustrations based on Schubert song cycles. Winterreise was the first Schubert book I created, followed recently by Schwanengesang. This third book reflect Schuberts first song cycle Die Schone Mullerin based on the poems by Wilhelm Muller.

Below are a few of my paintings, accompanied by excerpts of the text, translated by Celia Sgroi. You can also read more about my process in creating the paintings for all three books here.

David Armitage The Beautiful Miller’s Daughter Die Schone Mullerin

Wandering is the miller’s joy,
Wandering!
A man isn’t much of a miller,
If he doesn’t think of wandering,
Wandering!

1. Wandering
David Armitage The Beautiful Miller’s Daughter Die Schone Mullerin

Did she send you to me?
Or have you enchanted me?
I’d like to know,
Did she send you to me?

4. Gratitude to the Brook
David Armitage The Beautiful Miller’s Daughter Die Schone Mullerin

Now shake off the veil of dreams
And lift yourselves fresh and free
In God’s bright morning!
The lark circles in the sky
And sings from the depths of its heart
The sorrows and cares of love.

8. Morning Greeting
David Armitage The Beautiful Miller’s Daughter Die Schone Mullerin

What is the hunter doing at the mill stream?
Bold hunter, stay in your forest preserve!
There’s no game here for you to hunt,
There’s only a doe here, a tame one, for me,
And if you want to see the dainty doe,
Leave your rifle behind in the woods,
And leave your barking dogs at home,

14. The Hunter
David Armitage The Beautiful Miller’s Daughter Die Schone Mullerin

Oh green, you hateful color, you,
Why do you keep staring,
So mocking, so proud, so pleased by my pain,
At me, a poor pale man?

17. The Hateful Colour
David Armitage The Beautiful Miller’s Daughter Die Schone Mullerin

And when love frees
Itself from pain,
A little star, a new one,
Twinkles in the sky;
And three roses spring,
Half red and half white,
That never wither,
From the thorny stem.
And the angels cut off
Their wings
And every morning
Go down to earth.

19. The Miller and The Brook

Die Schone Mullerin will be available soon and will join Winterreise and Schwanengesang on my online shop, where you can also purchase original paintings and prints.

If you are interested in a particular work, please contact me.

Below is a short excerpt of Schubert’s Die Schone Mullerin, performed by Thomas Quasthoff at the Verbier Festival in 2009

Puppets Series

These works represent a lifelong fascination with the powerful imagery of puppetry in all it’s manifestations. It started when I began working in the theatre at the ripe old age of 22.  The puppet shows were, and still are, an international creation,  wonderfully rich and varied throughout its long history. Another world.

Puppets from Giordano Ferrari in Parma, Italy

Puppets can at once be joyful, humorous, dramatic, dark, and even sinister. From shadow puppets to marionettes and a huge variety of other forms, puppets and puppetry dates back thousands of years and across many different countries and cultures.

They also have a place in art history, with puppets created by artists such as Paul Klee and Kurt Schmidt.

Puppets by Paul Klee and Sasha Morgenthaler
Puppet by Bauhaus artist Kurt Schmidt

In these strange times, restricted, quarantined, we are trapped, full of life and yet unable to move freely. There is also an air of surrealism, not only in the context of this pandemic, but in politics and society as a whole.

Below are some of my recent works, completed during isolation, but they are part of an ongoing body of work featuring puppets and masks, and sharing some commonalities with other bodies of work such as my Victims series and Shrines series.

Shadow Puppet, Acrylic and dye on canvas, 100 x 75 cm, David Armitage, 2020
Wayang klitik image of Batara Guru
Warrior Rod Puppet, Acrylic and dye on canvas, 120 x 75 cm, David Armitage, 2020
Hanuman, rod puppet (wayang golek), West Java, Indonesia, early to mid 1900s, wood, cloth – Fowler Museum – University of California, Los Angeles
Bride, Acrylic and dye on canvas, 100 x 75 cm, David Armitage, 2020
Puppet Theatre with Child, Acrylic and dye on canvas, 100 x 75 cm, David Armitage, 2020
Victim, Acrylic and dye on canvas, 100 x 75 cm, David Armitage, 2020
Child with House, Acrylic and dye on canvas, 100 x 75 cm, David Armitage, 2020
Cat with Hat, Acrylic and dye on canvas, 100 x 75 cm, David Armitage, 2020
Falstaff, Acrylic and dye on canvas, 100 x 75 cm, David Armitage, 2020

Lockdown with Schubert

This is how I am occupying myself during the lockdown. For information on my postponed exhibition see this post: Oxford Exhibition June 2020

Monoprinting in the studio

Having just completed a second book of illustrations for Schubert song cycles, I have now embarked on a third, which in this case is a prequel. I began with Winterreise in 2016. Apart from loving this stuff, I identified strongly with the ‘hero’ of this cycle, possibly stemming from an introverted childhood and spending endless days day dreaming on how things ought to be. In other words, knowing this ‘yearning’ thing which Schubert realises so completely.

Winterreise – A Winter’s Journey

The book has been well received, and after the illustrations were featured on https://winterreise.online/ – an online encyclopedia of Winterreise information and rescources – I was spurred on to create a follow on book, Schwanengesang.

These illustrations are set to Schubert’s final song cycle, which was published posthumously and therefore there is considerable fluttering in the Schubert dovecotes regarding the validity of the term ‘song cycle’ in connection with the latter, in that it is more a collection of songs and put together by somebody else. Dr Iain Phillips, author of the websites dedicated to cataloguing the work of Schubert, however has firmly aligned himself with the song cycle having launched his third Schubert website https://schwanengesang.online/
As far as I am concerned, they are right up there, whatever the title, a point re-inforced by the splendid recording by Fassbaender and Riemann. DG 1992.

Schwanengesang – Swan Song

My third set of illustrations are therefore inspired by Schubert’s first song cycle, Die Schone Mullerin (the beautiful maid of the mill). This is a challenge that will certainly keep me busy in lockdown! But the inspiration provided by the music is as ever a guiding light.

The paintings start out, with a now well practiced technique that relies heavily on accident. Conceived totally in the abstract, the figurative elements come later.


So, armed with a single sized glazed window, a rickety table, loads of acrylic inks , brushes, rags,3 in 1 oil, detergent, 300 gsm Arches watercolour paper and buckets or water, I can produce multiple images by the simple process of mono-prints. The inks are splashed or poured on to the wet glass, oil, detergent can be thrown in for good measure. The paper is then thoroughly doused in water and pressed face down on to the glass. Peel it off, and there it is, or isn’t.

Certainly 2 things happen at once. The tyranny of white paper is strangled at birth and stunning pictorial elements appear which one would never, ever, have consciously thought of. Should the result look like a river flowing upside down, the paper can be hosed down and re-cycled. (This has been demonstrated to year 2 and 3 kids who loved watching this and having a go themselves).

The resulting images contain a huge range of colour/tone relationships and differing moods… some may profit by being turned upside down.
Then, one hears the sound of wedding bells as protracted marriage ceremonies leads to pairing each painting with its counterpart in the verses. Most marriages are made in heaven but a few needed a bit of an academic shove here and there to be true to the text. The alchemy is to convey the spirit of the words and the music but preserve the equally huge disinterested power of abstraction… tricky. But conventional picture making would simply not cope with this exalted subject matter. It is also a good way of avoiding a couple of bete-noirs, technical skill and good taste.

Schwanengesang – Swan Song

A new collection of illustrations painted in response to Schubert’s Schwanengesang.

Front cover of the book

Schubert’s final collection of songs is not a continuous narrative, but there is a theme running through the poems and the music, which is of a deep yearning and melancholy. Yet there is a great beauty too, which can be of great comfort.

The poem Pigeon Post by Johann Gabriel Seidl is somewhat pertinent in these times of isolation and separation:

I send it many thousand times

daily away with messages,

past many dear places

until it reaches my sweetheart’s house.

In at the window there it furtively looks,

observes her face and her step,

cheerfully gives my greetings

and brings hers back.

And from Ludwig Rellstab’s Longing in Springtime a reflection of eerie melancholy in the midst of the hope of springtime.

Glancing gold of the sun that greets me,

you bring the bliss of hope.

How your greeting soothes me!

It smiles gently in the deep blue sky,

and fills my eyes with tears – but why?

The paintings have been compiled into a book, along with the poems, translated into English by William Mann, and is available to purchase from my SHOP.

The original paintings, and giclee reproductions are also available, contact me for prices and details.

You can view more of these illustrations, along with a compendium of information about Schwanengesang on this fantastic website: https://schwanengesang.online/

https://schwanengesang.online/art/

Uncertain Times

Firstly I hope all of my followers are safe and well at this difficult time and I wish you all the best.

It is looking likely that my next exhibition, due to hang at the end of May will be postponed. I hope to have more definite information soon, and will keep you updated. In the meantime, here are a few paintings which I hope will be in the exhibition WHEN it happens!

Also I have a new item in my shop – my latest book Swanengesang. More on that later. Please do keep following my blog and instagram, where I shall try to give you beautiful things to look at. Art can be a great comfort and fulfillment for the soul as well as keeping the brain active, so I shall try to do my part the best way I can.

Gethsemane, Dye and acrylic on canvas, 160 x 140 cm
Transfigured Night, Dye and acrylic on canvas, 162 x 140 cm
Refugee, Mixed media on canvas, 100 x 75 cm
Illustration from Winterreise, Mixed media on paper, 36 x 55 cm
Pigeon Post, Illustration from Schwanengesang, Mixed media on paper, 27 x 76 cm
Still Life with Ginger Plant, Mixed media on canvas, 100 x 76 cm
Archipelago, Mixed media on paper, 38 x 28 cm