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 David (A David) Merrill  (1964 - )

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Lived/Active: Utah      Known for: Barnyard fowl, wildlife, landscape painting

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David (A David) Merrill
An example of work by David (A David) Merrill
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Biography from Debbie Leeuw Fine Art:
The following, based on an interview with the artist, is by Sara Ford.

To own even a little piece of the walk is something to crow about as any rooster worth his spurs tell you.  But the regal birds depicted by artist Dave Merrill do far more than rise and shine to cock-a-doo.  The difference is in the doodle: The details that provide that extra oomph, style, class, even attitude.

Merrill's critters are delightful creatures with personality plus that wake up America with high notes, inviting us to embrace the day, indeed, give the top of the morning a big old hug.  His animal portraitures make us laugh.   Even the grumps among us, those dour sour pusses dedicated to the downside will crack a smile when they view the painter's witty animals.

Happiness is the emotion Merrill is seeking to evoke in his works. 'I really believe that people want something to laugh about; they want something to smile about', he says. 'With animals you can show an attitude that is amusing such as a pig smiling or a rooster just strutting around.' Or a basset hound with sweet eyes, begging for one more well deserved treat, pretty please.

Although many of Merrill?s works are humorous - he also paints wildlife and landscapes - his paintings are portraits not cartoons.  He is an accomplished painter, whose oils exhibit great depth and detail as well as masterful blends of color and texture.  The wildlife, whether it?s bison, magnificent on the plains, or a blue heron, is authentic in its environment, not surprising since Merrill is an authentic Westerner, whose love of the rugged terrain and its four legged inhabitants is obvious.

Born in the small town of Payson, Utah, Merrill spent his childhood in nearby Spanish Fork in the shadows of the Wasatch Mountains. 'It was an agricultural community back then. People owned big pieces of land. My grandpa had two pieces of land,' Merrill says.  He had chickens, pigs and several cows, all named Betsy. On weekends, he and his grandpa would weed the garden, pick and eat raspberries and take care of the animals.  Merrill recalls waking up to the cock-a-doodle-doo of the neighborhood roosters, more numerous than cats and dogs, or so it seemed.

In those days, a young adventurer could disappear for hours at a time, exploring the nearby countryside, teeming with wildlife.  Merrill began to draw the critters he came across in the orchards and fields where he played, and the streams and ponds where he swam.  He clearly remembers his earliest artistic effort. 'The first animal I drew was an elephant hauling logs. It was the logo from a stationery company. I remember the elephant really vividly,' he says.  Merrill received a lot of enthusiastic compliments. 'I would draw in church a lot. My family encouraged me, because it kept me quiet,' Merrill recalls with a laugh.  The positive reinforcement kept Merrill drawing.  That skill is the foundation of his art background.

When he entered high school, Linda Peterson, one of Merrill's teachers took a special interest in his talent. 'She believed in me; she encouraged me,' he recalls. 'She told me that some people earn a living being an artist,' Merrill says.

During those years his art won many awards.  Merrill, a fourth generation Utah artist - his maternal great-grandfather was John B. Fairbanks, the first Utah-born professional artist - attended Brigham Young University on an academic and art talent scholarship.  He received his BFA in Visual Arts.

Ten years ago, Merrill gave up the corporate life, turned his attention to painting and has never looked back.  He has numerous collectors, including Ringo Starr, who purchased one of Merrill's rooster paintings.

Ironically, the animal portraitures were born of tragedy. 'I've always loved doing animals in their natural setting,' Merrill explains.  'My daughter's first birthday happened to fall on 9/11.  Seeing the terrible destruction, I felt like I wanted something happy in my life to celebrate her birth.   I painted a rooster, something that was whimsical, fun, colorful and took me away from the unhappiness.'

A gentle man, who laughs easily especially at the antics of animals, Merrill is willing to go anywhere to study his subjects.   'I'll actually crawl into a chicken coop,' he says.   'I watch the animals.  I see their mannerisms. I take a lot of photographs.'  Once during a photo op with a rooster, the bird attacked, pecking Merrill's arm and camera.   'That little rooster actually thought he was going to beat me up.'

The painting, "Pretty Please", is an excellent example of how the artist works. 'The basset is a neighbor's pet that started playing with my little boy, who is almost two.  My son was so infatuated with this dog that he was giddy.  I remembered that moment I had with my son, thinking this is really funny.   This is cool,' Merrill explains.  'That feeling sustains my passion to continue the painting. I try to capture a moment and create a mood as quickly I can. That's what I focus on.'

The painter also tries to depict a characteristic or emotion that helps viewers identify with the subject.  'I try to infuse that trait into my oils,' Merrill says. Buffaloes, for example, tend to be serene, stately and very dignified.

The texture and the background support the spontaneity and whimsy Merrill tries to put into the subject's personality.  'There's a part of the animals, where I'm modeling and manipulating.  Then in the background, I'm cutting loose and letting the paint happen'Paint happens,'he says with a laugh. 'In some ways that's where I'm being free spirited and juicy.  While you're looking at the animal, I'm having fun with the paint.'

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