October 31, 2017 / Luxury Lifestyle

Balance of Power: David Antonides’s Cityscapes

Not content with traditional techniques, the watercolorist pushes the medium in a different, bold direction, disturbing and working with paper to great effect


Scale drives the bold, large-format watercolors David Antonides produces: “I might use between 80 and 200 liters of water, repeatedly applying washes and working the paper a lot.” A recent project saw the Berlin-based Canadian artist take this technique even further, leaving his paper outside in the rain before painting on it, then returning it to the elements. “By the end, the paper had such a great feel. It’s good to collaborate with the paper. Working together leads to some interesting surprises.”

Documented by Frank Lee in <i>Painting in the Rain</i>, David Antonides created <i>Traverse</i> (2013) on a Vancouver dock, exposed to the elements and allowing nature to impact the work. Banner image: Detail from Antonides’s <i>Subway Jazz – NYC</i> (2014).Formerly a tech pioneer, cofounding a wireless-technology company in 1984, Antonides sold his business after 12 years at the helm. “I didn’t hesitate in what I wanted to do next. I wanted to paint.”

The artist scratches, sprays, wipes, and scrapes to create multilayered, large-format paintings such as <i>Fortunate</i> (2015), combining subtle color transitions and robust brushstrokes. He studied in Vancouver before training at The Art Students League of New York, whose alumni include Roy Lichtenstein and Jackson Pollock. It was here he moved from figurative work to the cityscapes for which he is now best known, and first began working on a grand scale.

Antonides’s paintings defy the reputation of watercolor as a “fragile” medium, and capture the movement and pace of city life, as seen here in <i>Over – New York</i> (2015).“A teacher commented that I looked so constrained and suggested I try using a larger size of paper. As soon as I did I felt my work open up.”

To me there’s something beautiful in that contrast between delicacy and strength

Antonides takes a particular pleasure in defying the conventions of watercolor, both through the scale and drama of his work, and by using steel brushes and other tools to “disturb” the paper. 

Antonides’s dynamic urban landscapes—such as <i>Glide</i> (2016)—contrast with the traditionally “delicate” medium of watercolor.“Many watercolors are painted in a fragile way. They are the sort of thing maybe your aunt would do on a Sunday afternoon. But I prefer to make them dense and powerful. It’s a way of pushing the medium in a different direction. Sometimes I know where a piece is going to go, sometimes I don’t. To me there’s something beautiful in that contrast between delicacy and strength.”

Photographer Drew Hopper Takes the Road Less Traveled


  • Art & the Artist

Nione Meakin
is a UK-based writer whose work has appeared in The Guardian, VICE, Marie Claire, and Grazia