People like artist David Wild don’t come round very often

Artist David Wild
Artist David Wild
Share this article

I have known David Wild since around 1980 just prior to starting Burnley College as a young art student. Though I’d heard of this larger than life local character, I’d never met him personally, so I set about introducing myself and caught up with him in Coal Clough House over a drink or two.

Over the years I’ve known David, he has been very supportive of both myself and anyone interested in the arts. It’s difficult to know what to say to sum up a person’s life when that life spanned so many more years than the 30-odd I’d known him. David was a “serious painter” who made so many demands of himself they would be difficult for anyone to attain, yet he kept on painting day in, day out, his whole days were taken up in thoughts and ideas of how to improve his art and better translate that which he wished to convey to the world.

During the 1980s his studio in Bridge Street above Howarth’s Tobacconists became a hive of activity where other artists and friends of his would meet, share a drink or two and discuss art. If you went too often you’d get banned for a period of time in order for him to get on with his painting, but some good times were had there and sometimes the talk and chatter would continue on to the pub.

David rented the studio on the top floor from the tobacconists, though they seldom bothered to collect the rent. He had his studio there for around 30 years until the landlord sold the building and the new owners wanted him out. Leaving his Bridge Street Studio was a bitter pill to swallow and I recall the day he and I had to remove a lifetime’s artwork and transport all of it to his home in Rosehill, which then doubled as home and a place of work.

David painted anything and everything, from large scale nudes in oils to massive canvasses portraying local scenes of Cliviger Gorge and the Straight Mile of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, to local celebrities and dignitaries, the man or woman in the street or your cat or dog. He saw everything as a challenge and would paint these things over and over again until he felt he had what he wanted.

His love of flowers meant he would buy them from the local florists almost every day. They would die and he would go and buy some more so as to keep on painting. Sometimes his pictures portrayed decaying or dead flowers, but he found this equally as interesting and “dead flowers” sometimes were the end product.

David was a conservationist, he was a founding member of the Friends of the Weavers’ Triangle, he took an active interest in local history and deplored some of the decision-making in respect of what the “town planners” sought to pass off as fit for public consumption. He was outspoken, dogged in his views and opinions on all things, a larger than life character who often felt his contemporaries in the “Big City” had somehow left him behind. He both loved and hated Burnley in equal measure, yet through his art he showed a softer, gentler side.

Men like David Wild don’t come our way that often, his single devotion to art and his contribution to the town of Burnley is massive. A lifetime spent in creative endeavour while leaving the bright lights of London behind has benefited all whose lives he touched.

I shall miss him.

Craig Simpson