There is still peace and tranquility to be found in the American landscape and these qualities comprise a common thread running through the paintings of contemporary artist David Heath. Heath's paintings, reflecting his love of nature and reverence for God's creation, have true meaning, with enduring beauty and significance. Drawing the viewer into a more peaceful world, his works offer each of us an opportunity to escape for a while the everyday routine and stress of modern life.
David G. Heath was born in 1950 in Newport News, Virginia. Educated at Central Virginia Community College and Virginia Commonwealth University, he began his career in commercial art. However, having never doubted, even from earliest childhood, that he would be an artist, and with a lifelong love of nature, Heath soon realized, "my preoccupation with nature and my artistic aspirations could never be separated."
He then began an intensive study of early European and American art and, in 1973, left the security of commercial art to continue his study and to begin painting full time. Concentrating his study on 19th century American landscape painting, he developed his own unique methods and style, building upon past conventions and techniques to present important new works of contemporary realism - works that celebrate the beauty and magnificence of our American landscape.
Today, Heath is recognized as one of the most talented landscape artists of our time. Painting in a style unmistakably his own, his works of traditionally derived, contemporary realism present an association of chromatic, compositional, and atmospheric serenity recalling the aesthetic values of an earlier period. Contemporary with respect to technique, style, and vision, Heath's paintings still invite comparison with works from the past masters of 19th century American landscape painting; his work relates to that of these artists with regard to a shared concern for detail, finish, composition, color, light, and atmosphere. Heath's profound interest in light and consequent interpretation of atmosphere result in a modern atmospheric luminism that is perhaps the most recognizable aspect of his work. For Heath, light is seen as imparting a spiritual quality to the landscape, light having spiritual as well as intellectual meaning, a glimpse of the divine.
Much of Heath's work is characterized by what he terms, "the solitary landscape," a quietist landscape where figures, structures, or other manmade objects are often absent or play only a minimal role in the overall composition. He feels, "that the untouched landscape best communicates a sense of timelessness and serenity to the viewer, while the presence of man...limits the scene to a specific moment in time." Related to this concept of a solitary, unpopulated landscape, Heath says, "One of my most important goals in painting is to encourage the viewer to participate in the scene, in effect to become lost in my world." The curve of a path, the bend in a stream, or an opening in the trees invite the viewer to pause for a time in quiet contemplation of what might lie ahead, just out of sight.
Most of Heath's exhibited works are done in the studio from field observations, photographs, and plein air oil sketches; however, he occasionally exhibits plein air pieces and smaller paintings that are plein air field sketches finished in the studio. He typically uses his plein air works as an opportunity to experiment with techniques and approaches that he might not ordinarily try in the studio, finding painting out-of-doors to be, "a workshop...a great learning experience." Heath's paintings seldom are exact topographical depictions of a scene, but express his impression or perception of the scene, a sense of feeling and mood refined through memory and contemplation. These paintings are directed to the emotions and imagination of the viewer, and are works not intended to require complex intellectual analysis but, in the artist's words, "to display nature at its most beautiful and memorable and to create a moving experience for the viewer."
Perhaps ultimately the best way to truly know David Heath, the artist, and to fully appreciate his work is simply to quietly study his paintings. What John F. Weir said of his friend and fellow artist S. R. Gifford in 1880 seems applicable to Heath today, "If we could look upon his pictures in silence . . . we should form a better estimate of the man than by hearing even the best that may be said of him."
Heath's home and studio are in Bedford County, Virginia, at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. His paintings are in public, private, and corporate collections in the United States, Europe, and Asia. He continues to paint subjects taken primarily from the Blue Ridge Mountains, lakes, streams, and coastal areas of Virginia and North Carolina, the Adirondack Mountains of New York, and the New England coast. He is a member of the Adirondack Mountain School Painters, Oil Painters of America, the Salmagundi Club, a signature member of The American Society of Marine Artists, and a founding member of the Blue Ridge Plein Air Painters and the Distinguished Council of Advisors for the School of Communication and Creative Arts at Liberty University.