A day in the life: Artist David Bridgeman

This week we begin a new series in the Weekender, offering a sneak peek into the lives of some of Cayman’s most talented and popular artists. We begin the series spending time with David Bridegman, a teacher and artist who has featured in numerous exhibitions for many years. We find out that artists need to limber up just as much as athletes before they take on their work. 

 

How do you begin your day? 

My day always begins with coffee. It’s essential.  

Three days a week I head into my art studio in Pasadora Place and the other days I work from home. Either way I begin by collecting my thoughts first thing in my diary or my ideas book. These help me to put down and clarify all the thoughts I’ve had on new directions and projects and let me focus my ideas, concentrating on where I should begin. As an artist, I never seem to have any problems with new ideas, rather I have too many ideas that I need to reign in.  

I also like to catch up on emails with like-minded artists. I have a good friend who now teaches art in Spain and she and I constantly swap ideas and inspiration. Some of my other favorite artists whose work relates to the different types of work I do include the Scottish painter Barbra Rae for her spontaneous and rhythmic renderings of the landscape, Terry Frost for his work on the simplification of shapes and forms and Arlene Wasylynchuk, the Canadian painter, for her great inspiration and help. 

On the days that I’m not in my studio I generally begin the day by updating my Facebook page. At the moment I’m involved with the International Big Draw, a UK-based programme aimed at promoting drawing, and I make my contribution by publishing a new drawing from my sketchbook on a daily basis. I might continue with this but will probably do so on a weekly basis.  

 

How do you organize your studio?  

I like order and take a lot of inspiration from other artists, like Scottish artist Callum Innes, as to how they organize their studios. I am extremely fortunate to have a lovely loft space in Pasadora Place in which I can work, having graduated from our bedroom, then balcony and finally studio in the garden in my home. Here I have separated out the area into two distinctive sections. Firstly I have an area that houses a printing press and where I keep supplies for the press. I have also created a small office area and a library of my art books as I am an avid collector. 

In the second half of the studio I have organized the space to include an area for small paintings, a bigger space for larger pieces and collage work and a clean area for drawing. 

How do you approach a new piece of work? 

It’s essential that I warm up to working before I actually launch into anything specific. I generally like to draw to get the creative juices flowing. At the moment I like to draw the tamarind plant as I am fascinated by the intricacy of its veins that run all across its seeds. Creating artwork usually involves a good amount of concentrated effort, so for me it’s not easy to jump straight in. It takes time to get into the zone.  

For me, art work is like solving a puzzle. I like to approach the puzzle from new angles, working with different ideas to come up with the final solution. Once the ideas start to flow, they are generally all interconnected: the end of one piece generates the start of the next. The artist Gary Hume recently described my own thoughts about making artwork. He said that it is really about creating a problem, solving it and then moving on to the next one.I think it’s really difficult but very exciting at the same time. 

From where do you draw your inspiration?  

I like to look at landscapes and explore the emotional response that I have to them. I enjoy merging landscapes from my past in Oxfordshire where I grew up with the landscapes of my home for almost 30 years here in the Cayman Islands. 

In addition, a second bout of lymphoma has had a profound effect on me, and I knew that I would use that experience at some point in my work as a way of expressing that trauma.  

What are you working on right now?   

The lymphoma caused a buildup of fluid on the brain and the symptoms resulted in dementia-like affects where I was virtually unable to communicate with people. My latest painting, “There and Back Again,” is an attempt to describe the moment in a rehab clinic when I was asked to draw a circle and put the numbers of the clock on it in the correct order. I had no idea how to do it or what numbers to use but even worse, I couldn’t communicate with the therapist who continually questioned me about what I could see or was thinking.  

Lately I have also been working on creating artwork around a prehistoric hill called Wittenham Clumps in Oxfordshire that has a small clump of trees at the top. I have referenced it together with my favourite combination of red birch trees and iron shore in my work The Apple Never Falls Far From The Tree and I have made a number of paintings along this theme in a variety of ways.  

How long do you spend on your artwork?  

As my studio doesn’t have any windows, time flies by, especially when I am totally absorbed in a project. I usually finish at about 4 p.m. and am also there at the weekends as well.  

Where do you see your artwork progressing?  

I would love to express myself in the way that British artist Tracey Emin does. I’m a big fan of the freely autobiographical methods she uses. I don’t think I’m quite able to yet, though.  

My aim for the future is to have a solo show at the National Gallery. That would be an ultimate goal for me. I continually search for suitable exhibitions or competitions to enter overseas. Exhibiting is important as it helps to develop the work of an artist and keep it moving forward, as well as to sell something along the way, of course. 

How do you close down your day? 

I have created a special diary that is particularly meaningful for me. It contains pages from which I have carefully cut out specific shapes and patterns. It dates back to my days at school when we used to write program punch cards. I find it useful in helping me to express things I cannot put down in words. 

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David Bridgeman draws in his studio in Pasadora Place.
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