David McKay has been painting on a full-time basis in Fredericton, New Brunswick for almost fifty years. He graduated from Fredericton High School and the Saint John Institute of Technology and is self-taught as an artist.
Early in his career, McKay established himself by exhibiting in regional art galleries and as early as 1976 began showing in Montreal and Toronto. Also in 1976, he was included in an internationally touring exhibition titled Atlantic Coast that was organized by the National Gallery of Canada.
Throughout the seventies and eighties the artist worked diligently honing his skills and continued showing throughout Canada (Hollander York Gallery in Toronto, The Shayne Gallery in Montreal, The Gallery in St. John’s Newfoundland, Ferntree Gallery in Calgary, The Ring Gallery in Saint John, Gallery One in Moncton and Gallery 78 in Fredericton).
David has been featured nationally on both radio and television (Anthology on CBC radio, 1987, Spirited Artists on Bravo TV, 2003, Studio Tour on Bell Aliant Community Channel, 2013). He has been the subject of dozens of interviews for the press and for television and radio.
McKay’s artwork was selected for inclusion in The N.B. Juried Exhibition (1985), The N.B. Art Competition (1987), and received an honourable mention in The Marion McCain Juried Exhibition (1989) at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery. David McKay’s work was shown at The Toronto International Art Fair in 2007 and The Boston International Fine Art Show in 2008. In 2010 the artist was invited to participate in the exhibition Wolastoq (Beautiful River): The Saint John River Project at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery and Portraits-New Brunswick Artists at the New Brunswick Museum in 2009. In 2019-2020, his work was included in the Marion McCain Exhibition of Atlantic Canadian Art at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery.
David McKay’s artwork is in numerous private collections and is in the following public collections: The Beaverbrook Art Gallery, His Royal Highness Prince Andrew, Mount Allison University, l'Université de Moncton, Irving Oil Limited, the New Brunswick Art Bank, the Confederation Centre Art Gallery, Charlottetown, the University of New Brunswick, the New Brunswick Museum, Esso Resource Center, McCain Foods (Canada) and the City of Fredericton.
David McKay has completed service of a four-year term on the board of directors of The Canada Council for the Arts. He was elected to the Royal Academy of Arts (RCA) in 2006. In 2019 David was honoured with the Fredericton Arts Achievement Award for his outstanding achievement in and contribution to, the arts and cultural landscape in the city.
When I think of my artwork, I think of my home province of New Brunswick, my years as a child growing up here and of its beautiful landscape and humble buildings. That is what inspired my artwork over forty years ago and continues to do so today.
The word beautiful however can be misleading. It is not only the brightly coloured leaves of autumn along the Nashwaak Valley or the brilliant sunsets over the Saint John River that I find beautiful. These thing are beautiful but, from an artistic point of view, are also dangerously close to being merely decorative. The beauty that I seek, and find inspiring for my art, are the images that have an emotional impact grown from my life's experiences associated with them. Those first small flecks of snow against a dark November landscape for instance, or a warm breeze late on an August night. Things that make me stop and wonder ... and remember.
I use two traditional media for my painting; watercolour on rag paper and egg tempera on gessoed panels.
Working in watercolour gives me the freedom to be both loose and controlled at will and within the same painting. I love the experimental nature of the medium.
The egg tempera medium on the other hand, needs more control than watercolour and has a narrower range of manipulation. I am drawn to the earthiness of egg tempera paint and at times, there seems to be a physical affinity between the subject matter and the actual paint that I am applying. The paint mixture is very thin and the thousands, maybe millions, of tiny translucent brush strokes give an egg tempera painting its unique appearance.
Although I am considered a realistic painter, it is not necessarily my intent to be realistically accurate in my renderings. My approach to painting seems to have evolved from a combination of memory and imagination. It is always the emotional relationship that I have with my subject, rather than the factual depiction of its details that I try to convey.
Craftsmanship is very important to me.I have made an extensive study of various pigments and other materials used in my art making, particularly my egg tempera painting. I am disciplined and dedicated. I try to work all day, five days a week at my studio and reserve the evenings and weekends for the business matters of my profession.
My hope for the future remains as it was as a young man ... to be fortunate enough to spend my full time recreating the vision that is in my heart and mind.