Dave Ivey captures character and beauty in Northwest Louisiana
The Poplar Tree, Keithville
A Greek philosopher once described paintings as “silent poetry.” Dave Ivey’s energetic and impressionistic style of painting outdoors creates silent poems of a warm and softly lit rural landscape in northern Louisiana just southwest of Shreveport. His paintings appear as vague memories suspended between realism and illusion. Each captures the immediacy of a moment and a place while drawing in viewers to complete the visual narrative with their own imaginations and experiences.
“My paintings grow out of the Southern rural life,” says Ivey. “My wife and I enjoy close to our home in the country where we are surrounded by horses, cows and the many elements of the natural world. I know this world closely, and in my paintings I seek to render seemingly ordinary aspects of its landscape in ways that reveal their extraordinary character and beauty.”
Living on a farm with his wife, Cathey, in the small community of Keithville close to the Texas border, Ivey’s favorite time of day to paint outdoors is in the early morning before the hot and humid sun burns off the afternoon. “The early mornings are cooler and the air is not as hazy,” he explains.
“When I first began to paint all I wanted to do was to get outside and paint. I didn’t pay much attention to the light, but as I progressed it has become important to me. I look for scenes that are backlit where the focal points are silhouetted. I find that helps me to not overwork a subject with too much detail and, consequently, achieve a mood and thought.”
Though Ivey occasionally paints in other parts of the country, especially in Arizona, he feels most comfortable in the landscape surrounding his farm. “One day I was painting scenes of the Southwest from photographs when it occurred to me why am I doing that when I have this in my backyard,” he says, looking over at his painting of a meadow near his farm. “I know and feel what it’s like to be out there in the hot sun and steamy air. That’s why I paint in the South. It’s my heart. It’s where I live. It’s what I know. It’s all right there ready for me to paint.”
In recent years, Ivey has developed a convincing painting style that creates his own illusion of reality. “I do not treat my subjects in a photo-realistic manner,” he says, addressing the changing light and atmospheric conditions. “Instead, I seek to convey the atmosphere of a particular place at a particular time – the play of light, season and time of day on the land and animals that inhabit that land. My more recent work shows this concern for atmosphere through looser brush strokes and the addition of colors to my palette to convey the subtleties of light and time of day.”
To create these subtleties, Ivey depends less on brushes and more on rapid and brisk strokes of a palette knife that trail off at the edges of the canvas. As a result, his paintings often look unfinished or resemble studies for later paintings in the studio, which in some cases they are. “The effect didn’t start out as a conscious effort,” he says. “It’s a process that evolved over a period of time. The looseness and unfinished appearance around the outer edges of the paintings are more of a statement for me to stop and not to overwork or overstate the painting. I make a statement and leave viewers to draw their own conclusions for the rest of the painting and to carry the painting further emotionally. I want to pull the observer into the painting to not just look and say that is a picture of a cow, horse or landscape but to complete the thought themselves.”
Although most of Ivey’s paintings are completed outdoors on location, he occasionally brings them back to his studio for final touches. He also uses many of his smaller studies as guides for larger studio paintings where he takes elements from each painting for an entirely new composition.
Depending upon the painting’s narrative, he may add farm animals that he has photographed on his farm or seen while driving through the local countryside. “As I develop the painting,” he explains. “I will size up a scene to determine if I feel it is pleasing or if it lacks character or if an area is dull. If so, I will add a tree or building or even change the placement of cows or horses. I have never had one stand and pose for me.”
Ivey became a professional painter late in his career. Born in Yokohama in 1948 to a U.S. serviceman stationed in Japan after World War II, the young Ivey and his family often moved from one state to another before settling in North Louisiana during his high school years. Upon graduation, he studied graphic art at Louisiana Tech in Ruston, did a stint in the Navy, returned to North Louisiana to marry the girl back home, and launched a 35-year career as a graphic artist, illustrator and editorial artist for newspapers, magazines and advertising companies. By 2008, time had come to follow his dream to become a professional painter. To make up for his lack of formal training in painting, Ivey read leading art magazines and books and attended workshops at the Scottsdale Artist School and the Fredericksburg Artist School. “That was the turning point in my career,” he says. “It made me think about what is important to me and why I am doing this.”
Painting outdoors, or en plein air – as it is called in the art world – came naturally to him. “While looking at different artists,” he recalls, “I realized that most of them held a common thought and that was painting from life outdoors. I realized that was what I needed to do if I was going to progress as a landscape painter. I purchased an easel and books on painting and went for it. I am an outdoor person, and I cherish the time I can get out to see the world, feel the surroundings and breathe the air that we have been given. Being in nature is in itself rewarding. Plein air has set me free.”
Ivey often talks about his paintings in terms of story and narrative. In a sense, they are windows for viewers to enter into the forests, meadows and rolling countryside that he sees and breathes every day. “I want those who view my paintings to do more than look at them,” he says. “I want them to inhabit the world of each painting and to experience it fully.”
Ivey, whose work has been shown in several national and regional juried shows, is represented by Carol Robinson Gallery in New Orleans. For more about the artist and his work, visitdaveivey.com or carolrobinsongallery.com.