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David Firmstone MBE RWS - "A Romantic Surrealist" - Richard Cork / Art Critic

“David,” I said, looking my lovely artist friend up and down. “I’d really love to look in your wardrobe.”

“Look in my wardrobe?” He echoed in his less than dulcet, Middlesborough tones. “Why d’you wanna’ do that?”

“Because you dress in such amazing colours,” I replied. “Your wardrobe must be a work of art.”

“It bloody is,” he replied, chuckling.

The thing with the artist David Firmstone, besides being an artistic genius who paints expansive landscapes on huge canvases, is that he’s flamboyant in every manner. He oozes character, is tactless on the verge of insulting, has twinkling eyes, a loud laugh and a collection of outrageous Windsor glasses to go with his vibrant attire.

He is also very clever.

David’s work has won multiple awards, including the International Painting Prize, Sunday Times Watercolour Prize, Hunting Prize and more. His work is held in many prestigious collections, such as the British Museum, Queen Mother, Grosvenor Museum, Freshfields, Singer Friedlander and the Institute for Contemporary Art, Mumbai.

A former teacher who is occasionally - and a smidgen begrudgingly - happy to share a little lesson, David once told me, “The trouble with landscape painters is that you need to do something with the composition. You have to put things into the landscape so when you look at it, people know its yours. Lots of people say they’re a landscape painter but their paintings are a bit twee. And to be really concerned with landscape you have to have an association with it, a point of focus within it.”

Last year David donated a framed print of his Turner Prize Winning water colour painting, The St Lawrence Trees to the Bopha School Raffle. The point of focus was the gnarled trees, leaning across the meadow, twisted and bent against the sea wind and embedded in craggy rocks.

This year, for the Bopha School Of School Night Auction, he has donated an original watercolour painting that was inspired by his travels in Italy. The focus of this piece, portraying a beautiful Italian ballista, is a tiny billowing flag. The title of the framed piece is “Church In Matera”.

This is it!

“That’s very beautiful David. Thank you,” I said, looking at the painting that he has hanging on his wall. There was a pause, then I turned, “but there’s something else I also want from you.”

“Oh bloody hell, WHAT?” Davis bellowed. “Haven’t you had enough?”

“Not yet. I need your words of wisdom. For other creatives. People who want to make art but don’t know where to start.”

David took a big deep breath.

His eyes narrowed as he thought.

Then he said, “Okay. This is it. Ready?”


“You’ve really got to set a time table of when you’re going to work and you’ve got to stick to it rigidly. There’s two people in my life who have become very famous but they work all day and every day. It’s not about “when you feel like painting you should do it” … you’ve got to say, “in a week, I’ve got 5 days and in four of those I’m going to work.” And you’ve got to be driven. Of all the students I’ve ever had, the ones that make it are the ones who are motivated to work. You can’t just play at it.”

I wrote down what David said.

“Thank you David.”

“That’s okay,” he replied in his lovely, gruff Middlesborough tones. “Now bugger off.”

If you’d like to see more of David’s incredible work, visit his website at

If you would like to attend the night, reserve a telephone to bid on the night or make a bid by email, please contact Bethan on

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