While talent and hard work might prove sufficient to get you through art school, survival as an artist in our contemporary world demands much more. To produce anything of lasting value requires a strong belief and love for what you do, and great patience. Establishing one's identity as a serious artist takes time, and then it requires fortitude to maintain that identity with any kind of integrity.Excerpt taken from Blackwood's convocation address at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, Corner Brook, Newfoundland, May 9, 1992.
David Blackwood was born in Wesleyville, Newfoundland, in 1941. He grew up in an outport where education was highly valued and storytelling was an art form. Listening to stories about the seal hunt and the lives of his neighbours influenced the kind of art Blackwood would produce later in life.
In 1956, Blackwood opened his own studio where he produced award-winning artwork that gained him admission to the Ontario College of Art in 1959. After graduating, he remained in Ontario. For a time, he taught while developing one of the largest thematically linked series of prints in Canadian history, The Lost Party. This famous series of 50 etchings focussed on S.S. Newfoundland sealing disaster of 1914. He also was involved with establishing an art gallery at Erindale College, an affiliate of the University of Toronto. As a sign of gratitude to Blackwood, this gallery was eventually named The Blackwood Gallery.
Despite his long Ontario residency, Blackwood's art continues to focus on Newfoundland. In 1974, the National Film Board of Canada produced the documentary Blackwood, which won 10 international awards.
Blackwood is considered one of Canada's best printmakers. While known for his stark blue-black etchings, in recent years he has experimented with watercolour and oil tempera. Recent exhibitions of his work include Ephraim Kelloway's Door and Personal Reflections of Newfoundland's Cod Fishery. He has retired from teaching, but continues to work on a full-time basis as an artist.
Two books on his art work have been published: Wake of the Great Sealers by Farley Mowat and The Art of David Blackwood, by William Gough. He is a member of the Royal Canadian Academy and has honorary doctorates from several universities, including Memorial University of Newfoundland.
Blackwood has extensively exhibited his work both internationally as well as throughout Newfoundland and Canada. In addition to being part of the Art Gallery of Newfoundland and Labrador's Permanent Collection, Blackwood's art is included in various private and public collections such as the National Gallery of Canada; the National Gallery of Australia; Uffizi, Florence, Italy; and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.