038 Dave Walker


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‘Imagine’ monochrome, airbrushed watercolour (sepia only) on board


Location: BRISTOL


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Dave and his dogs chilling on the downs

Throughout my time working in events I have met a lot of different security workers. I now find it quite easy to spot someone who has been in the armed forces. I knew instantly when I met Dave on a shift one night that he was ex-military but I had no idea that by striking up a conversation I would meet such an incredibly interesting man!

Dave first started painting when he was at school but it was a military life that would interest him more. In 1984 he joined the Royal Corp of Transport and got his driving licences. “After a three year posting to West Germany and a six month Tour of West Belfast I moved back to the UK and spent the next three years travelling all over NATO regions in support of the Allied Command Europe (ACE) Mobile Force.” Dave spent time in Norway, Italy, Denmark and Turkey and trained as a commando and an Army physical training instructor. “In 1989 I was posted to Hereford where I served with the 22nd Special Air Service (SAS) for three years including the first Gulf War and ops in Central America. I returned to the ACE Mobile Force and took redundancy in 1994.” 

This is a photo of Dave’s side of the car he was attacked in

Dave then joined the Hereford and Worcester Combined Fire Authority as a full time firefighter, another job he enjoyed greatly. “I also worked the UK security industry on my days off doing everything from Residential Security Teams to Close Protection and Surveillance.”In 2004 he was offered a place on a contract in Iraq as a Private Security Contractor. “So I landed in Baghdad on the first commercial flight into the country after the war and with 34 others we started working to protect the bankers responsible for reinstating the financial infrastructure of Iraq. I was in the country for just over four years and worked on several contracts protecting engineers, bankers, ministers and military personnel so they could do their jobs in safety. I worked in every region of Iraq over my time in country. Two years into working there my team were held by Local Nationals intent on killing or selling us on. This was a very emotional day for all the team and a life changing moment for me. We were eventually rescued by Iraqi Military Forces. Two weeks later we were subjected to a similar day at work and after an extended fire fight we escaped unharmed. My armoured car received no less than 42 direct hits, mostly 7.62 rounds so no real problem!” 

Some of Dave’s earlier motorcycle airbrush work

It was at this point that Dave started to wonder about an exit strategy! During his time in the Military Dave had painted a few water colours and sold them for beer money and he decided to pursue his art in a more serious way. “That’s when I found Mick at Paint-My-Ride. He taught me to use an airbrush and how to fix and repair metal and plastic motorcycle parts. “I set up Themecolour in 2008 and started fixing and painting motorcycles whilst continuing to work in security to make ends meet.” 

After two years of struggling financially he took a part time job posting for Royal Mail. “I was not aware that the UK was in recession and had grossly misread the countries financial position. Very few people could afford the luxury of a full custom paint job on their motorcycle and those that could wanted the paint done cheap as chips. The postal round helped and I enjoyed the work. I had a round in Southmead and I soon became known as the running postman!” 

Joey Dunlop set up ( TT Legends series) airbrushed using ETAC Watercolours on Schollershammer G4 board. Limited edition Giclee prints available £45.00

The extra work ensured Dave had money to paint and this allowed him to worry less about having to paint to live. “I moved away from painting motorcycles and as I improved I worked towards painting on boards and making prints to sell, that’s pretty much where I’m at now. I live to paint and not paint to live meaning I am enjoying my art again.” Dave has moved into the world of photo realism. He was inspired by the work of other airbrush artists such as Marissa Oossterlee  whose piece ‘Left Behind’ motivated him to move from painting skulls and flames on motorcycles, to portraits and more complex compositions. 

He loves seeing the reaction his work gets, ”When I paint I aim to get the observer to think my painting is a photograph, but on closer inspection they realise it is paint. The temptation is to reproduce a perfect copy, exactly like a photograph, but then why not just print the photograph? So I dumb down my detail to make it look like paint. I know this might sound odd but you really can get carried away. I hope I have the balance about right.”

To date Dave’s proudest moment in his painting career was personally giving Prince Harry a portrait he had painted of him. In the future Dave intends to keep painting and advancing his airbrushing techniques. “I hope as well to be able to make a living from the sale of my paintings and prints.” Some of his pieces will be featured in The Spiralling’s first exhibition which will be held from the 19th-25th October at The Island, Bristol. For more details about this event please click here.

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Spartacus’ Andy Whitfield as Spartacus airbrushed on board, took over 40 hours to airbrush, available as A3 landscaped print £45 This painting was featured in airbrush techniques magazine (cover and six page step by step)

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