"Ken Howard is one of my painting heroes and as a young artist, I was inspired by his work and delighted in reading his books. His work is so uplifting."

David Pilgrim ROI on selling his first work at university, his Royal Institute of Oil Painters hero and the joys of painting en plein air. 

David Pilgrim ROI Low Tide, Treen Cove

David Pilgrim is a British painter with a passion for painting ‘en plein air’ which also compliments and informs his studio practice. Working on location, he strives to capture the very essence of that moment and create a personal response to the subject with energy and economy. In 2012, David was elected a full member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters

You and the ROI

Why did you want to join the Royal Institute of Oil Painters?

I’ve had a passion for oil painting for many years and to me the ROI has always represented the highest of standards in oil painting. Many artists who I have long admired were members and upon entering for the first time back in 2006 (was it really that long ago!) I was delighted to discover what a friendly and open society the ROI really is.

Why should artists want to exhibit with the Royal Institute of Oil Painters?

The ROI represents the very best in oil painting today and it feels a great privilege to be able to exhibit with fellow oil painters of such a high calibre. There is a great tradition and history behind the society but we are also very forward-thinking and mindful to attract and showcase exciting new talent, irrespective of any style or genre.

Why should people want to buy art from the Royal Institute of Oil Painters?

Buyers have the opportunity to purchase art from a diverse pool of artistic talent, ranging from well-established ROI members to emerging and new artists in the public submissions. The ROI has no ‘house style’ and aims to showcase the best work in oil painting today so there should be plenty of diversity to suit buyers’ tastes.

Ken Howard OBE Hon RBA PPNEAC RA ROI Logan Rock £5,000

Past or present, what artist from the ROI do you most admire?

Ken Howard is one of my painting heroes and as a young artist, I was inspired by his work and delighted in reading his books. His work is so uplifting and I share Ken’s passion for working tonally and painting the light. His work ethic and dedication to painting is an inspiration to us all.

What is your favourite work in this year’s exhibition?

Such a tough question, there are so many paintings that could be my favourite! I love the Reflected Sunset by Tim Benson PROI as it has such a powerful economy and harmony whilst evoking the essence of that beautiful sunset with such wonderful strokes of paint. A joyous painting!

Tim Benson PROI NEAC RP Reflected Sunset £2,000

Your Materials

For plein air work outdoors I tend to rely on oils using my Open Box-M (I have both the 12x16in and 11x14in models) mounted on a sturdy tripod. I use mediums such as Michael Harding oil paint medium, Roberson’s Glaze medium and pure turpentine in varied combinations and consistencies. Favourite brushes tend to be from Rosemary & Co together with Cornelissens hogs.

What paints make up your palette?

I prefer Winsor and Newton Artist Quality Oils on the whole but augment the range with a few additional colours from Michael Harding (e.g. Naples yellow which has a slightly deeper tone than Winsor and Newton).

David Pilgrim ROI Setting Sun over the River Ouse, Passenham £875

Do you frame your own work?

I tend to hand finish frames that I have made by my local framers in Stony Stratford (Skills Art Materials). I have a selection of preferred mouldings and use emulsion paints (sometimes with gilding wax) to achieve the final finish which is always sealed with polished finishing wax.

What is your favourite art supplies store?

It’s a tie between Jacksons and Cornelissens!

You, Your Work and Your Studio

What gallery did you first sell work at?

I think my first official sale was from my final year exhibition at Aberystwyth University in 1997. At the time I was inspired by Scandanavian interior artists such as Villhelm Hammershoi and painted the interior of a disused academic building, very much focused on the light and the quiet stillness within. The painting was titled ‘Between Two Rooms’ and I think it sold for something like £280 which seemed a lot to me at the time as a student!

Where do you produce your best work?

Outdoors on location, ideally by the sea!

David Pilgrim ROI Towards Gwynver, Sennen Cove £1,395

Do you have any rituals or routines when preparing and starting a painting?

I always lay my palette out in the same order and it tends to run from dark and cool on the left to warm and light on the right.

Where is your studio and what’s it like?

My current studio is a converted bedroom in a Victorian house with good high ceilings and north facing windows.


What advice would you give a young artist wanting to join the ROI?

Get involved as much as you can, the best learning is by doing and by showing your work you can get some invaluable feedback. Interact with other artists you admire, ask questions, be curious and build on your passions. Be prepared for difficulty/setbacks and don’t compare or judge yourself too harshly against others. Enjoy your painting and find your own unique voice.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known at the start of your career?

I wish I had discovered the joys and benefits of plein air painting earlier in my painting career.

'Reflections from the Artist' is an ongoing series of reflection, advice from and insight into the practice of artists who exhibit at Mall Galleries. 

Discover the full series here.

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