David Oakley a fine artist, despite a life threatening event - Part 3

In Part 1 and Part 2 we introduced you to David Oakley, a fine artist, with a beautiful affinity with all animals. David survived a vicious attack during an armed holdup at his workplace and subsequently spent months in a coma and had to learn to breathe, walk and talk again. Today we learn how David re taught himself to draw and paint again. Not satisfied with just that, he also learnt a new skill, how to make picture frames using specialty locally sourced timbers. Let’s hear from David.

Credit: David Oakley Courtesy of Melbourne Zoo

“I generally start with photos of animals; at least photographs keep still", he chuckles,..."And then I sketch from the photograph. The sketch is the most important part to technically capture the animal I’m painting." To regain confidence in drawing, David reverted to his experience in web-based art and design, by using technology. He used programs like Adobe Photoshop©, Corel Painter© and Wacom Cintiq© utilising the pressure sensitive element. David explained, "I became creative and stronger and thought I can do this: I became positive. I did a drawing of a Rottie (Rottweiler dog) the owners loved it and I thought yes! I’ve got it!"

"My favourite medium at the moment is colour pencils ….uuummm … or maybe it’s oils - I’m so torn! I also use some Swedish Caran D'ache© pencils and Polly Chromo oil pencils. They are expensive but they’re the best and if I put all this time into the artwork I want it to last for ever. My next challenge is to experiment with pastels."

David outlined some of the tools he uses to assist him. "I use a drawing table with really good lighting and a mechanical pencil." He laughs and digresses, "I love the mechanical pencil, I used to use it in the 90s and spent more time drawing than working on what I was supposed to be doing."

David took many photos of his own Rottweiler dogs, they’re his favourite sort of dog. He and his partner Rika have a female called Maia otherwise known as the goddess. He also has a male called Morpheus. David related a funny story saying "Morpheus is a pleasing dog - he gets the shot ready for the supermodel, Maia. When I have everything ready, the supermodel Maia comes in, she sits for about three shots and then says, I have had enough of this and retreats to her favourite dog bed."

David continues, "I work left to right, I never used to be like that... I start with a plus like sign on the material, then add a sort of a round/oval shape and then I use lots of pin lines which provides a technical basis to draw as I need structure. The speech and physiotherapists both taught me structure and I use this all the time. Even now, without structure I’m a mess!"

"I am also a perfectionist, so I make the frames myself. I like the frames to be as good as they can be. I also like to know where the timber comes from, so I always support local business and they work with me." David continues "“I love the natural place of our world - I’ve always been into sustainability and using ecologically sound resources. I visualise the completed artworks and what colour timber frame would complement the works."

When I asked David where he obtained this framing skill, he said with a wry smile: "I taught myself from Google and YouTube videos. I find making the frames really therapeutic, it gives me a physical outlet. I’m using hand tools more and more. I find it gives I me a different perspective and a break from the close detailed work."

David talked of his favourite artist - he elected Monet as is his number one. However, he provides further insights explaining: "I really like the Dutch Renaissance style: I can’t pronounce the names of a lot of those painters, but the shadows and light used by the Dutch masters is something else. When I learnt more about their use of light, I thought wow and something just clicked, I get this! My paintings improved as a result."

We can see that David is a fine artist and his affinity with animals shines through in every piece. David does not talk about it but he has also generously donated time photographing rescued animals at the Animal Protection Society which can be seen below. I am known as the Keeper of Rabbit Holes (as I am always scurrying down them in search of interesting topics) hence I could not resist these bunny pics! In addition, David also auctions artworks to various organisations that assist people with brain injuries and mental health issues.

If you ask David if he wished the attack had never happened, he will say "but then I wouldn't be doing this!"

"Finding love in the little things" Credit: David Oakley

I was humbled to be able to interview David and hear his story first hand. He relates the story without malice. He speaks with a smile in his voice, and states, "I am a survivor, not a victim." David hopes by sharing his experience he will give people with an acquired brain injury hope that a better life may be possible. David’s closing words encapsulates his grit and determination.

I wake up in the morning now and I can breathe, and I say - I can do anything.

Please take a few minutes to view this video where David chats about combining the old techniques with the new digital ways and we get to see him at work!

A very special thank you to David Oakley who kindly gave permission for the images of his work to be shared on AnArt4Life.