For some, it might take some trial and error to find a driving passion.
Take David Arsenault, who has tried a little bit of everything. First, he started studying to be a sports statistician, but lost interest. Then he dabbled in retail, personal training and advertising. He began studying graphic design, edging closer to finding his match.
Yet it wasn’t until his mid-30s when he decided to study painting at the University at Albany that the light bulb finally flickered on.
“I was late to art … but I got hooked,” Arsenault said.
But he still had to lose interest one more time. Arsenault never completed his fine arts degree. He’s still two courses short, but that doesn’t bother him.
“Basically, I understood what I had come to understand … how to create paintings and how to get ideas out and how to use materials. I felt I needed to move on,” Arsenault said. “The degree wasn’t as important to me as getting out there and being a working artist.”
And that’s exactly what he’s doing. Now 54, Arsenault is working for Cengage Learning, a Clifton Park-based educational publisher, and comfortably balancing his life as a realist painter. Exhibiting roughly 10 times a year, Arsenault’s most current display of his work is at the gallery5one at 22 Clifton Country Road in Clifton Park through the end of July.
The exhibit features original paintings for sale as well as giclee prints, which are digital canvas reproductions.
Much of Arsenault’s work reflects a realistic setting, including ordinary homes and things he sees every day, with a twist of imagination. For example, sometimes he’ll combine two realistic settings, like the interior of a Latham apartment looking out onto a Cape Cod exterior.
“I want people to have the sense of common beauty of every day experience. Average houses, average situations. Things we experience, see, all felt. Just try to help people see a little snapshot of what I consider the regular mundane beauty of our lives,” Arsenault said. “Things we ordinarily miss. I think if we did, we’d appreciate it a little more.”
Arsenault said his work is often compared to that of Edward Hopper, a prominent American realist painter. Inspired by Hopper since he was in elementary school, Arsenault said he became reacquainted with his work while studying painting. Yet the core difference between the two painters is one of emotion.
“A lot say Hopper’s work (gives a) feeling (of being) alone, desperate, sad. He was kind of a depressed individual. … That’s not who I am. I’m not a depressed person. I’m not trying to make people have negative feelings,” Arsenault said.
Yet like Hopper, Arsenault’s work often has a limited number of figures in the picture and intense dramatic lighting.
“He uses the light in such strong compositional ways that create a sense of drama. You’re looking at something like you just missed something that happened, or something will happen when you’re done looking,” Arsenault said. “That dramatic light really spoke to me. I really connected to that.”
Arsenault now lives in Glenville but spent 24 years living in Colonie. He said he’s painted pictures of several houses in the Capital District, sometimes doing on-site work, but more often taking a photo and painting it later. He said he frequently visits Cape Cod and implements that location into his work as well.
“I enjoy the relationship between the sky, the sea and the land … the buildings within that context and the dramatic light I think the Cape has. It’s unique,” Arsenault said.
Arsenault is working on an upcoming exhibit in Saratoga that will featuring paintings of Saratogian architecture. He said he’s focusing on parts of the buildings, smaller details and the way they play off the blue sky or a tree nearby.
Mostly, Arsenault said he’s just having fun with his work, and enjoys perfecting his own style.
“(I make) a lot of decisions about what’s left in or what isn’t included. That’s part of the fun. Like introducing characters, writing them out of the script, whether it is a tree or a house. You make decisions based on what you think would make the most interesting painting,” Arsenault said.
While he tries to paint almost every day, Arsenault said he likes to be able to juggle the practical realities of having a full-time job.
“I also insist on having a quality relationship with my wife, children and even my cat,” he said, laughing. “And just normal responsibilities of doing dishes, having meals and taking showers. I try to give myself to all of it, especially the people. The artwork is in there, too.”
To see some of Arsenault’s paintings, visit artofdavid.com.