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A Closer Look at David McEwen’s Art and Philosophy

Almost forty people sat quietly as they watched David McEwen create a life-like pastel portrait in two hours.  The Rickie Report has written about David’s artistry and you are now invited to his final 2013 Florida Demonstration which will take place in Lake Park.  In this article, we will share his humor, his philosophy and our experience of his demonstration at Hands Artist Supply in Delray Beach.

Easel Arts Presents


David McEwen: Demonstration of Pastels


Saturday  February 23rd

11:00 – 1:00

 Special Prize Drawing and Discounts for Those Attending

RSVP   561-844-3111 or

Easel Art Supply Center is located at 810 Park Avenue  Lake Park, FL 33403


We sat amid over 40 people watching as David McEwen took us from photograph to an almost complete portrait in two hours.  David’s focus was Irene Sedler, a woman of over 100 years old who died recently in 2012.    David chose Irene because she was an unusual woman.  During WWII, she hid children from the Nazis and kept their family’s information in jars buried in her yard.  Her hope was to reunite the children with their parents after the Nazis left, but the parents never returned.  He says, ” I enjoy drawing older people because they have character.”  The room is quiet as he takes pastels and puts them to paper.

McEwen always begins with a pencil drawing and strongly suggests that artists practice drawing at least 10 minutes a day, using inexpensive pencils and paper.  He relates that he believes the most important word is “practice”.  Throughout this demonstration, David is quick witted and easily relates to the audience.  He is eager to share his philosophies of artistry and life in general and is swift in dispelling many myths about “great artists” or “real artists”.


  • Real artists never use photographs (“rubbish”)
  • Ignore it when people say  “Never use black” ( he quotes Manet who referred to Black being “The Queen of Colours” and “Turner who said if I can find something blacker than black I’ll use it”  ( Turner used bitumen in some of his paintings ). 
  • Norman Rockwell was just an illustrator ( He is the most underrated portrait artist by far)



After McEwen’s photos are processed, he uses a computer generated digital projector to give him a more realistic 3D view of the photograph (He knows some will say it is a “cheating machine”).  He expounds about the need to train yourself for better accuracy.  He claims that after so much practice, your eye will automatically see in this manner without the need of the projector.  He also uses an illuminated magnifying glass and daylight corrected light bulbs.

  • There are no rules about anything!
  • If it works, do it!
  • If it doesn’t work, find another way to do it!



Sometimes David will begin with the background and other times, the main features of the person.  As the painting progresses the woman truly emerges under his fingers and through the paper.


  • Some people say they have a hard time drawing hands.  Everything begins with geometric shapes. Make the shapes and the hands will develop.
  • Practice!


Interestingly, David does not always have confidence that a piece will turn out right.  He often works on 5-10 paintings at any one time.  They are each in his studio hanging or on easels, so he sees them all, as he is working on another piece at the moment.  He’ll get a flash of an idea or inspiration about one of the others and move to that one.


  • How do you know when to stop working on a piece?
  • When you get tired
  • When you get bored
  • When you can’t do it YET!


He implores the audience to, ” experiment with color and keep notes as you experiment.  Make your own color wheel; try different primaries…the color green is the most confusing and confounding of shades…write everything down so you can replicate what you like.”


All of this preparation is necessary to make a good painting, according to McEwen.  He uses expensive brushes because they last longer and he believes have better quality (Daler Rowney).  He has used Derwent pencils all of his life and relates his partiality to his having visited the factory in the UK as a child.  David thins his pastels with water and uses his fingers (preferably with thin gloves due to his allergy to the medium, though he forgot to use them today). To thin wax, he uses white spirits rather than turpentine because it has no odor.   David prefers Mi-Teintes papers by Canson and eschews using charcoal.


The artist exclaims, “The woman is starting to arrive out of the paper!”  And indeed, she is!


An audience member asks, “What is good art?”  David tells us, ” Bad art is everywhere.  Bad music comes and goes.  Same with bad poetry. Bad books usually don’t get published….Good art is what you like!  If the story and the painting move you, buy it!”   He tells the story about the cave dweller who drew the second cave painting and was taunted for producing a “derivative”.


  • There is nothing wrong with being a derivative!
  • You can teach anyone the techniques of applying color, but to really make art come alive, it has to be in your heart.  David believes in “genetic talent”.


He quotes St. Francis of Assisi: “He who works with his hands is a laborer.  He who works with his head is a craftsman.  He who works with his heart is an artist.”  McEwen, who likes more detail, tends to stay with realism.  He shares,” I don’t feel I am painting. I feel like I am celebrating the thing itself.”


  • We are filled with doubt
  • We are filled with fear
  • We compare ourselves to others

He quotes Robert Hughes, ” ‘The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize’.  We must overcome these fears and doubts and follow our hearts to make good art.”  And that is exactly what David McEwen is doing.    

In 2012 David was elected to be an Associate Member of The Society of Equestrian Painters. He is represented by Jaynie Spector of The Dog and Horse Gallery in Charleston, South Carolina and by Dan and Carol Lynne at Forms, Atlantic Avenue, Delray Beach, Florida.His work has been included in several magazines and The International Artist named him as a “master painter of the world”.  In 2003 he was a runner-up in S.A.A.’s “Painter of the Year”.

Previously completed portrait of same woman

Previously completed portrait of same woman

For more information:   or email Sally Mcewen at  Forms Gallery is located at 415 E. Atlantic Avenue  Delray Beach, Florida.  The gallery is open 7 days a week.  Give yourself a treat and discover more of David McEwen’s work as well as the exciting cultures of the contemporary Southwest as expressed by the best of today’s artists. For more information call Forms toll free at (888) 274-3676 or (561) 274-FORM or

For coverage of your events, to place an advertisement, or speak to Rickie about appearing in The Rickie Report, contact The Rickie Report at:

Rickie Leiter, Publisher

The Rickie Report

P.O.Box 33423

Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33420


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