David Oakley - More than animal portraits - Part 1

I met David when he and his partner Rika were surprise guests at a dear friend, Robyn’s special birthday celebration. David was proudly carrying the surprise gift, a portrait he was commissioned to do of Robyn’s beautiful Kelpie Bont. (Bont is named after a famous Australian Rules Football player, Marcus Bontempelli).

David experienced a significant event approximately 20 years ago which had a severe impact on him both mentally and physically. We will talk more about this in Part 2, but for now I will provide some background to the painting of Bont.

"A sparkling and happy portrait of sweet Bonti" - Credit: David Oakley 2021

I had been told about the conspiracy to paint Bont and how David was asked to take photographs of Bont whilst Robyn was out to safeguard the surprise. David likes to know the name of the animal he is to paint and prefers to photograph them himself so he can get to know them. He feels it is important to observe their personality and traits which he then paints into the portrait. Luckily Bont never gave the secret away, as David revealed the painting, we all held our breath. Robyn cried with joy when she saw the painting as David had captured Bont’s personality and markings perfectly. I think what astounded all of us was how David managed to capture Bont’s eyes, an exceedingly difficult task for any artist.

It was wonderful to be a witness to this painting slowly being revealed by the artist as David chatted about the photography session with Bont and how the painting and frame evolved.

The reference photo used for the Bont painting Credit: David Oakley 2021

Robyn who was gifted the painting of Bont said
“David’s remarkable painting captures a beautiful moment in time. This real-life painting envelops treasured memories to hold for a lifetime.”

Bruce the Rottweiler and Daio the cat shown below highlight the multiple layers and detail giving the feeling you can reach in and touch their fur.
Daio was finished in an American Cherry timber frame, which helps the viewer focus into the drawing.They show so much personality don't they?

David has an affinity and deep love of all animals. Some time ago, David was given rare access to be up close to animals at the Melbourne Zoo. He used similar principles to that of painting domestic pets: know their name, and traits and take some photos in their own environment. He forms an emotional almost spiritual connection which shines through his work as can be seen below.

David grew up in the Northern suburbs of Melbourne with no other artists in the family. However, he was fortunate to have two mates at school who loved painting and airbrushing and bolstered David’s love of art and poetry. He loved learning from the art teachers at primary and high school but unfortunately could not follow with his wish to study fine arts at university as he was compelled to take a job in the burgeoning area of multimedia design. But he continued with his joyful hobby of scuba diving and yearned to be an underwater photographer.

Please join me for Part 2, where David will share his remarkable story, which is about grit, determination, love, technology and some very talented health practitioners too - working collectively to set David on a career path to do what he loved, become a self-taught fine artist.

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