David Atkins' Plein Air Paintings Portray the Ever-Changing Beauty of Nature

Paige Simianer | October 11, 2023

David Atkins' art transcends mere representation; it's a profound response to the landscapes he encounters.

An accomplished painter, Atkin's journey through the art world has been marked by a passion for capturing the essence of landscapes.

After leaving art school in 1986, he returned to London and gained part-time teaching whilst continuing to paint. Years ago, he took a sabbatical from teaching, fully dedicating himself to the demands of his evolving artistic vision.  

His process involves immersing himself in a location and observing its transformations under different lighting and weather conditions. 

Through this intimate connection with the environment, Atkins allows his paintings to evolve, capturing the changing qualities of light and weather in a bold, expressive, and gestural manner. His recent works echo the grandeur and beauty he's experienced in diverse places, showcasing a profound visual dialogue with the natural world.

Artwork Archive had the chance to chat with David Atkins about his deep connection with landscapes, why he left teaching to pursue art full-time, and how Artwork Archive made him a more organized artist.

You can see more of his work on Discovery and learn more about his art practice below. 

David Atkins, A Walk on Studland Bay. Dorset, 50 x 66 cm

Do you have a favorite or most satisfying part of your process? 

Often, the start of a painting is more about looking and responding to what I see and concerns about composition, value, and color.

Then with each painting, there's a moment when it suddenly shifts from this initial stage, and something more intuitive and exciting kicks in. That’s when I know I’m really in the painting.

Can you share what led to the shift from teaching to dedicating more time to your painting? 

I was a part-time lecturer for over twenty years. In 2010, I decided to take a sabbatical from the college where I was teaching.

That year, I had such an exciting and challenging time that I opted not to return and to dedicate my time to painting. Initially, it was a little bit scary, and though I still miss teaching, it felt like the right thing to do.

I was very ambitious for my students, always encouraging them in their pursuit of becoming successful artists and earning a living. For me, I felt it was time to actually practice what I had been teaching. 

David Atkins, Autumn Evening on Polzeath Beach, 35 x 40 cm

How does your physical environment contribute to your artistic process?

The majority of my work is made outside, and I'm aware that each day sets a unique time limit—I find this really exciting. 

Painting in the landscape means I'm always faced with a subject that continually changes and transforms while I'm there.

I find this so inspiring.

It forces me to make swift and direct decisions, to work faster, and to take more risks.  All of my senses are engaged which adds another level of understanding to my work.  

The weather also plays a crucial role, changing what may be a dull scene into a place of sublime beauty. I work fast and will rework an entire painting in order to capture these dramatic changes.

No matter where I set up, I'll always be interrupted by someone interested in what I'm doing. While initially disruptive, these encounters can be very rewarding. People tell me all sorts of stories and interesting things about their lives and the place I’m in. I believe all of these interactions enrich my overall experience in a location, and ultimately the paintings I make there.


Is there a particular location or landscape that has had the most profound impact on your work, and if so, what was it about that place that inspired you? 

The North Norfolk coastline holds great significance for my work. I remember the first time I visited the beach at Holkham Bay, deeply moved by its resemblance to a Mark Rothko painting. It was a deeply spiritual feeling I experienced during that visit that continues to resonate with me.

David Atkins, Evening Light Brancaster Norfolk, 61 x 82 cm, 2022

What does success as an artist mean to you? 

To me, success is about making great paintings. It’s what makes me jump out of bed each morning because there is so much to do and learn. I live in hope!

What impact do you hope your artwork will have on viewers?

I hope my artwork will move people and resonate with something deep inside them. I hope my paintings convey not only my joy in the places I paint but also the joy found in creating them.

I want the paintings to be alive and each time someone looks at them, they'll discover something new. 

Why did you decide to use Artwork Archive to inventory/manage your artwork?

I reached a point where I needed real help in dealing with the administrative side of my practice. I relied on photographs and notes to catalog my work, organize exhibitions, and deal with client inquiries. 

I started to lose track of where my work was being shown and which gallery had what paintings. I needed something more efficient and professional.

So, I decided to try and find something online that would help me organize all of these aspects of my business. After looking at a number of sites, I found Artwork Archive. It seemed to offer everything I needed at a very reasonable rate.

David Atkins, A Winter Walk on Studland Beach, 71 x 86 cm

How do you use Artwork Archive on a daily basis?

Artwork Archive is a powerful tool that I use every day in my business as an artist.

It allows me to catalog and organize my work, providing a convenient way to see my work and progress and to quickly find it at a later date. I can add details such as type of work, medium, when it was made, dimensions, and price. 

The Location feature enables me to input all the galleries I exhibit with and assign artworks to them. I can share these details with the gallery as a beautifully presented Portfolio Page, or for delivery purposes as a consignment note. Additionally, it keeps track of my exhibitions and alerts me when work is due for return.

I record sales and generate invoices. 

Requests from independent clients are very quickly dealt with as I can generate and send a PDF within minutes. For more complex requests, I utilize Private Rooms which allows for real-time editing while the client or gallery views the room.

Lastly, my Public Profile makes it so my work can be seen by the public on the Discovery page. I can also link this to my website. 

Artwork Archive Tip:

Artwork Archive offers everything you need to manage the business side of your art career. Not sure where to begin? Here's a helpful checklist for artists just getting started. 

What advice would you give an artist that’s just starting out in their professional career?

Most importantly: always be yourself.

Trust your intuition.  

Be open to opportunities and don’t be afraid to take risks.

Meet other like-minded artists and thinkers, network, go to private views, go on social media, and do get involved. 

It's very important to be professional right from the start in all aspects of the creative and business sides to being an artist.

Make something every day. It will keep you in the right mindset even if it's a quick sketch. Also, I think it’s a lot easier to make art than to think about making art. 

David Atkins, A Summer's Day on the Beach at Brancaster, 50 x 61 cm

David Atkins uses Artwork Archive to catalog his artwork, create and send invoices to clients, present his work professionally to galleries, and more.

You can make an online portfolio, catalog your artwork, and generate reports like inventory reports, tear sheets, and invoices in seconds with Artwork Archive. Take a look at Artwork Archive's free trial and start growing your art business. 

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