5 Minutes with...David Dalley, Creative Director and Fine Artist


by John Fountain.

Following a successful career as an award winning creative director, David is now a successful fine artist. Here he talks about his career, his travels and how things have changed over the years.

So how would you describe your day job these days?

Monday's I teach art at The Holly Lodge Centre in Richmond Park. I've been working there for the last few years and it has been a very rewarding experience. I also take part in Arthouse open studios - this involves opening up your home to the public, which in my case means my studio and garden. The garden is filled with palms and it is very tropical - everyone is amazed when they walk into it. At this moment in time I'm starting on next year's ideas, and what's left of the time is spent workingon commissions.

Looking back, what was it that turned you towards a career in advertising?

Whilst at Lowestoft art school studying graphic design, I came to London on a placement in 1970 and stayed with an well know art director at Dorlands, At the time he lived in Park Lane and took me to a lot of London clubs - funnily enough it was at that point that I decided that I wanted to become an art director as opposed to a designer. I applied to JWT to became 'one of the few ' art directors on their training school which had just started at the time and followed on to work there for nearly eight years. I still have many friends from those days, most of whom are now film directors.

Back in the 80's Don White was one of advertising's more colourful characters. I worked with him for a few months myself and just about lived to tell the tale - but tell us about your Don White experience.

Yes he was certainly a character. The first day working with him he though I was gay as I've always had a diamond in my right ear, but placed on the "wrong side". He eventually understood, but it didn't stop him falling in love with my mates. Working as Dons art director on brands such as Sunday Times, meant we won lots of awards but on one account, 'Diners Club' he photography shoot took me to Rio where both me and the photographer were chased by Brazilian

Indians armed with macheteswho wanted to kill. And they nearly did!. Over the years I ended up traveling the world and thanks to that one in particular I got the nickname "trips".

And how did your career develop from there?

I was able to walk into a great job at Young and Rubican where I had the opportunity to work alongside some great creative directors such as Chris Wilkins and Neil Paterson. I worked there for 7-years and one of the brands included the Jamaica Tourist Board, which meant working with some great photographers and of course some great trips.

What about actually working overseas - did you enjoy taking your talents to distant lands?

Yes, I worked in Germany for Saatchi & Saatchi, and then Greys Hamburg, Frankfurt, Dusseldorf and Munich. I was flying back and forwards twice a week, working with some very talented writers. I also took on the role of creative director in Saudi Arabia which was a culture shock - in those days most art work went out as photo copies and we'd often have to dress up as women [in a Abaya] because back then you couldn't use women on TV sets. Then in the early 90's, I found myself in Moscow working in the KGB building surrounded by boys with AK47s. I loved working there until one drunken night I lost my visa and they would not let me leave the country. Let me tell you, getting back alive from Moscow was a relief.

Back in the 90's you were the Creative Director of the Hakuhodo office in London, what was that like?

At Hakuhodo, I was given the opportunity to create a great creative department and that included some of the best looking women in advertising. One of the most memorable moments (of which there was many) was the occasion that I took my father who was a Royal Marine Commando in full uniform into the agency. He askedme if there were any Japanese working there? I said "Yes, you are going to meet my MD". He then told me the last time he met a Jap he was on the end of his bayonet! Not very PC, but how times change. Looking back, I think we did some very good work, won some awards, and had a great time doing so. Sadly I've lost touch with most of them, but would love to get back together.

So what happened next?

From there on, my career in advertising followed the path of healthcare and I started working on a Mac. I worked in this area of advertising for more than 10 years, and again I won some awards and I still have a lot of affection for the friends I worked with. I also got a new nickname "Triple D". At this time I went freelance to focus more on painting and teaching. I've been on this path for the last 7-years, working between a studio in London and Suffolk where I spend a lot of time and where most of my paintings subjects are based.

Your paintings are very impressive, have you always been interested in fine art?

From the early days of my life at art school, I have always drawn and painted. Winning a scholarship to go to Paris to study art also got me hooked. Also Turner, Andrew Wyeth & Maxwell Parrish have had an influence on my painting Going to the print room at British Museum, where so much unframed art is stored - here you can actually pick up an Leonardo and see how it is drawn. But as an art director who loved to draw, I drew all my storyboards and layouts, this lead me on to teaching at The School of Communication Art, and for the acclaimed John Gillard.

Tell us about your creative space, where do you like to sit down and do your thing?

Well my creative space studio looks more like a Suffolk fisherman's hut where most of my paintings are based - with the fishing lights, rods and netting. But mostly it's a wonderful warm beach in the UK or abroad, a place I will pick, a view I can see, and an environment or person I will put on paper or canvas.

Lastly, what advice would you give to a creative person just starting out?

Keep your ideas to yourself till the very last minute, [funny how some people try to change them or call them their own]. Always try to be original, always be different, but don't move with the crowd. Never be afraid to push creative boundaries – the beauty is starting with a blank piece of paper or screen. Who knows where you might end up?

Visit David's website.

John Fountain is a writer and blogger.
Twitter: @fountainjohn


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