David H. J Kent was born in Weybridge, Surrey, England in July 1936. David was the middle son of three from his parent’s William and Florence. He was brought up in a poor, but happy family; where he spent his childhood in a climate of rationing and deprivation; although he did not realise this at the time as all his friends and neighbours were all in the same situation. David had always been interested in art from a very early age. He was always at the table drawing, sketching or had his nose in an art book. As a schoolboy he studied old Victorian tomes full of wonderful prints of various illustrators from that time. So how did a boy from war-torn England come to obtain these old Victorian books? Well strangely, they seemed to be cheap and in plentiful supply after the war, in jumble sales (or rummage sales, the name for them at the time). Famous ink-and-pencil artists also caught his eye notably the works of Aubrey Beardsley and later on MC Escher.
Although David used most artistic implements and materials that were to hand, in preference to pencil, he loved drawing in black (Indian) ink with its rich black line and high contrast. He drew cartoon caricature portraits of Hollywood actors, personalities of the time and of his school friends, teachers etc. Many years later, he read that Vincent Van Gogh (his idol in the art world) loved English illustrators’. David recalled that Vincent had made a painting of prisoners exercising, walking in a circle, based on a striking drawing by Gustav Doré. He, like Vincent, loved these line drawings. David tried in his own style to emulate these superb illustrations.
David was strongly encouraged by his Art teacher Mr Morgan who said that David had a rare talent and recommended him up for a scholarship at art school. At the time this was pretty unheard of for a boy from a poor family to get a scholarship. Unfortunately it was not to be. Although David excelled in art, was reasonable at history, geography and science, he was sadly let down by a blind-spot in mathematics. Mr Morgan was very disappointed. Ironically this wouldn’t necessarily have been a hindrance in today’s educational environment. Despite not being able to go down the academic route; the art was too strong in him for this to deter him from this great love.
At the age of 20, David was demobbed (demobilised) from national military service. After living in the constrained and tightly disciplined environment of the army, he vowed he would enjoy freedom and excitement. So along with his lifelong friend, they both started planning and saving up for the adventure of a lifetime; a trip across France, Spain, and their final destination – Africa. It took four years to save enough money and in 1960 they both started on their adventure. From Portsmouth they caught a boat across to France then they used a variety of transports and stopped off at various towns and villages along the way. This trip was about the journey and not just a mad rush to get to the final destination. David made many drawings in his sketchpad of the people and places that they encountered. As neither David nor his friend spoke any foreign languages, David drew pictures of the food they wanted to buy. They only managed to get as far as Spain, where David met a wonderful woman whom he fell in love with and whom became his wife.
David’s Spanish brother-in-law, José Carrión, also known as “El Pintor de la Noche” (“The Painter of the Night”) encouraged him to paint, instead of just drawing in coloured inks. Young José became a very well known artist; he had many exhibitions of his work and had a successful career in Spain, France and the USA up until he was sadly killed in a motorcycle accident in 1990. José and his wife and children were good friends of Salvador Dali. Over the years José offered David a lot of inspiration and encouragement. David studied various schools of art and was inspired by his favourite artists: Honoré Daumier, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Salvador Dali, René Magritte, Amedeo Modigliani, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Giorgio de Chirico and Max Beckmann.
David Kent is now in his 70s and continuing to paint with the same zeal that he had as a schoolboy. Unlike other artists he does not like to use oil paints and canvas, he instead prefers to use acrylics and board. He enjoys varying his subjects, from surrealism, expressionism, mythology, satire, homage (or tributes), history and literature – a very broad spectrum. He and his wife live happily in leafy Surrey.