I work by making small sketches at different locations, then combining them into a drawing that is the same size as the painting will be. The drawing is a near-exact template of the painting.
I am grateful for the images that suggest themselves as I walk about the city.
Commentary by Christopher Brayshaw, 1999
David Sloan was born in Vancouver in 1947. In 1970, he received his BFA from Mount Allison University, Sackville, New Brunswick. Between 1970 and 1981, Sloan lived and worked in Toronto, Ontario. In 1982, he returned to Vancouver, where he currently resides.
Sloan has exhibited at the Bau-Xi Gallery, Toronto and Vancouver; Memorial University Art Gallery, St. John’s, Newfoundland; and the Surrey Art Gallery (1985). Sloan’s work has not been exhibited extensively in Vancouver, perhaps owing to the idiosyncrasy of its subject matter and the slow, deliberate pace at which Sloan works. Sloan’s work is primarily known and prized by other painters, such as retired UBC instructor Robert Young, a long-time champion of Sloan’s work, and Young’s former student, Ben Reeves.
Sloan’s working methodology has changed little since the mid-1980’s. His subjects are urban landscapes, selected on the basis of their visually interesting forms. On location, Sloan makes detailed working drawings in graphite and coloured pencil. These studies are then transferred to canvas, and a finished painting is then executed in oil or acrylic. Though Sloan describes his drawings as studies for paintings, they are remarkable artworks in their own right. Primarily created in graphite, they are occasionally highlighted with coloured pencil. Sometimes these coloured lines refer to colours present in the landscape; a kind of visual shorthand for the colours which he will later “fill in” the side of a building or a billboard. On other occasions, these coloured lines bear no relation to the colours actually present in nature; instead, these colours are employed to draw out correspondences between shapes, which Sloan employs to unify his compositions on the flat surface of their canvas or paper supports. Similarly, Sloan’s works oscillate back and forth between a flat, “graphic” look, and a more naturalistic three dimensional rendering. Often these stylistic extremes are present in the same image, with no attempt made to mediate or smooth out the differences between stylistically distinct parts of the composition. This effect, startling at first, is rooted in Sloan’s psychological explorations of the landscape before him. Thus, his paintings and drawings are not only studies of the urban landscape, but are also psychological portraits of the artist himself.
Coloured line plays an important role in Four Buses. The eye is led from the yellow street marker in the foreground to the red billboard on the side of the bus closest to the viewer, then back through space to each bus in turn. The trolley wires overhead form a net, or a spider’s web, which prevents the eye form sliding up off the top of the image. The eye is held down at street level, directed from bus to bus until it reaches the brightly coloured vehicle in the deep space at the rear of the picture. In this way, the viewer’s eye traces the same path as the artist’s, the left hand side of the drawing by providing more visual detail in the left hand side than the right hand side, thereby causing the eye to slide across the page and fix on the tightly rendered telephone pole and the yellow pavement marker.