February 15, 2015

David Daniels is the watercolor instructor for the Smithsonian Institution of Washington, DC.  He is also a Professor of Painting at Montgomery College in Rockville MD, as well as teaching workshops around the world.

David returns to the Hudson River Valley Art Workshops to teach a 5-day Watercolor Studio class June 28 to July 4, 2015.

How long have you been teaching?
I started teaching Art to elementary school students many many years ago. It was my first job out of college. I traveled from room to room and school to school with a cardboard box filled with donated art supplies. Admittedly, that was not the most ideal teaching scenario, but it did teach me patience and made me able to adjust to almost any situation.

Fast forward many years and you will still find me moving from place to place, however now I am traveling to teach Watercolor Workshops throughout the United States and Europe.

Those early years were a very formative part of my life and history. So putting that all together I have been painting and teaching for over forty-five years.


What is your very favorite part about teaching?
I love watching students discover their full potential. Most students have no idea how good they really are. As an instructor I can help students learn to listen to their own voice and trust their artistic expression.

I also enjoy helping student be able to talk about their work. Critique is a critical part of my teaching philosophy. Phrases like “I like it” or “it’s pretty” just do not go far enough. I enjoy helping student to learn the vocabulary of art and be able to put into words their feeling about the work.

Why take a workshop?
It all comes down to “A like-minded community”. There is nothing more beneficial to a student than to surround themselves with people with similar interest and goals. Many life-long friendships have been forged while attending a workshop.

This is not to negate the importance of instruction or demonstration, but it is the collective energy created by the group that you will always remember.

What are you currently working on in your own art?
My biggest challenge in life is always my next painting. My scientific background challenges me to question many of the common practices that influence most watercolor painters.

For the past several years I have been gluing my watercolor paper to an aluminum support before I start painting. I then varnish the completed painting. This has caused many a raised eyebrow in the watercolor community.

Park path 61 x 41Park Path

My most recent paintings have begun to explore combining watercolor with wax, gold leaf, and pastel.

What are your favorite art quotes?
“Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightening to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself.” Chuck Close

“When you know how to paint something, you should by all means stop painting it. You will be ceasing to learn and starting to perform. Your work will become an exercise in self congratulations.” Wolf Cohn

“Just get out of your own way.” David Daniels

Describe your studio.
That is a little easier said than done because it is always in a state of flux. My physical studio is a beautiful 14” x 24” structure in my home, with floor to ceiling windows on three sides. I have one large working surface that measures 6’ x 12’ which accommodates the large sheets of paper that I paint on.

I love being surrounded by things that bring joy to my heart, and peace to my soul.

Here is a partial list of “stuff” that can be found in my studio

5 mobiles

A collection of 20 antique watercolor paint sets

An aquarium

3 computers

Cardboard moose head

3 drinking ducks

A stuffed crow

My Great, Great, Grandfather’s foundation rocker

An assortment of huge houseplants

Well, you get the idea. The other important fact is that my studio is never the same on any given day. As I change so does my studio.

Name five of your “can’t do without” tools or products.
At sixty-six years of age, I certainly did not grow up with computers, but now I find them a very important part of my creative process. I use them for everything from storing images to paint, to compositional studies.

My library is indispensable to me. I have a great collection of books that I love looking at, holding, and being surrounded by. They bring me great joy knowing that some of the most brilliant people in the world are only pages away

The last three are pretty predictable for a watercolorist. I enjoy the best materials that I can buy. My collection of paper, paint and brushes are extremely important to me.

One Response to “An Interview with David Daniels: Artist in Watercolor + more”