To meet with painter David Aldrich is to be embraced by beauty. His Merida home/studio is a contemporary oasis amongst the renovated colonials that appeal to most artists and expats. Canvases in various states of completion lean against every wall—it’s as if he is surrounded by his friends.
What is your first memory of being creative?
Well, I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t being creative, but my earliest memory of trying to understand it was in Grade One. I did this picture of my family as a 6-year old would. In the picture was a full square tabletop with the two legs. When I showed it to my father he tried to explain perspective to me, how I would only see the edge. I heard what he was saying but it seemed patently wrong to me because in my mind at least, that wasn’t how a table looked (laughs).
Was there ever a period of time when you didn’t paint?
Yes, for the first 16 years I was a medical illustrator. I airbrushed 10-12 hours a day and had no desire or energy left to paint. That changed once I shifted to working on the computer and my desire for paint and canvas, something tactile, returned.
How did being a painter influence your career as a medical illustrator?
It made all the difference. Being a painter allowed me to think in ways that were more creative. I was successful as a medical illustrator because I had a way of re-envisioning problems; the standard rules of illustration didn’t confine me.
Have you always painted from real subjects vs photos?
When I worked as an advertising illustrator I started to paint from photographs for the first time, because time is money in that profession.
I don’t use photos in my fine art painting because I want to paint the person, not the photograph, and there is a huge difference in what one sees in both those mediums. Most of our ideas about what the world looks like are preconceived constructions; we don’t often see what’s actually there. I also find there is much more depth in a live person vs a photograph of a live person, and I spend countless hours trying to capture that.
What is the importance of the nude figure in your painting?
Society as a rule has difficulty with the nude, particularly the male nude. I try to look at a painting as a complete visual statement, and incorporating the nude is only one part of the statement I am making. In that sense, the couch on which the nude figure may be perched is as important, if not more so, than the figure itself…kind of a ‘Still Life with Nude’ if you will.
What cities have you lived in and what do you like about Merida?
I’ve lived in four large North American anglo-cultural cities and living within a Hispanic cultural experience is new to me. I’m fascinated by how the rhythm of the language influences the music, dance and art and love that I am surrounded by cultural experiences that are so easily accessible.
What music do you listen to when you paint?
Right now? Philip Glass. I get into an almost zen-like state with his music, and sometimes my models do as well!
David is one of over 25 artists featured on the Merida Artist Studio Tour.