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The Kyffin Connection - David Porteous-Butler and The Welsh Master, Sir Kyffin Williams (1918-2006)

Updated: Mar 20

British Palette knife artist David Porteous-Butler was fortunate enough to have been taught, mentored and encouraged by one of Wales's greatest artistic voices, the late Sir Kyffin Williams, KBE, RA.

'Sir Kyffin Williams' by David Porteous-Butler

The two artists first came into contact at Highgate senior school in London, around 1961. This was the time of David's 'O' Level exams, when the grandly mustachioed art teacher Mr. Williams spotted his young students' talent for drawing.

"In the painting exam, I remember Kyffin repeatedly looking at my work, grinning like a Cheshire cat"

David showed great promise, and Kyffin soon took the youngster and his extensive

portfolio to the Royal College of Art, to meet professor Carel Weight.

He successfully gained a place at the esteemed establishment, but this initial success was short lived as the college suspended its experimental admission of sixth formers, forcing David to choose another venue to continue his studies.

"This boy must become a professional artist" - Kyffin Williams on David Porteous-Butler

Artist David Porteous-Butler with Sir Kyffin Williams RA

Much later, around 2003, after returning to painting after a fashion design career detour, David visited Kyffin at his Anglesey home on the North Welsh coast. The protégé spent an afternoon drawing his old master sleeping in an armchair. Impressed by the sketches, Kyffin remarked that David could easily become a portait artist with such skills.

Portrait of Kyffin Williams by David Porteous-Butler. Pencil drawing on Paper (2003)
Portrait of Kyffin Williams, RA by David Porteous-Butler. Pencil drawing on Paper (2003)

One year on, Kyffin's continuing influence over David took a career-defining turn when the younger artist took up the palette knife technique, just like his mentor. Aghast, the revelation drew a friendly warning from the master...

"(Like me) you will be an outcast from the art world!" - Sir Kyffin's response to David taking up the palette knife

It had long been thought that Kyffin Williams' fame and popularity with the art-buying public had been down to his effective use of the palette knife, but this had come at the cost of his full acceptance into the art establishment.

Undeterred, and against the advice of Kyffin, David persisted in his newly honed technique and his first batch of palette knife paintings sold very quickly. This affirmation encouraged him to pursue his new direction, and although his early works may have elicited favourable comparisons with the work of his mentor, David went on to develop his own unique style and hasn't looked back.

A set of palette knives used by artist David Porteous-Butler for painting with oils.

"I'm not a Kyffin clone - a lot of people try and copy him, but I wouldn't want to do that" - David Porteous-Butler

David has expressed his love for the palette knife technique - a very direct and powerful way of painting - and his own particularly intricate applications of colour can often leave the viewer to wonder if indeed a brush was used. Although David is based in Suffolk and has travelled the world extensively to paint, the lure of the Welsh landscape has seen him return many times to capture views that also inspired his greatest mentor and long-time friend, Kyffin Williams.

Kyffin Willams House across the Menai Straits, Anglesey
'Kyffin's House IV' by David Porteous-Butler (Menai Straits, Anglesey)

2018 has seen the centenary of the birth of Kyffin Williams, celebrated with an exhibition of his work and those of his followers, including David Porteous-Butler, at Albany Gallery in Cardiff, where a striking portrait of the great man painted by David takes pride of place.

Portrait of Sir Kyffin Williams by David Porteous-Butler. Oil Painting on Canvas
'Kyffin with Keys' by David Porteous-Butler

View David Porteous-Butler's incredible collection of paintings available to purchase.

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