Donald Young: Biography

Don thought there was room for both wit and tender humour in the human situation, although all of his paintings were seriously and classically composed. He said he did not want his paintings to look clever’, overworked or heavy and the ability to catch a moment in time was very important to him. He would dash at each painting with his brushes making the whole board and easel shake violently, yet every inch was judged and the smallest of brushstrokes would cause agony if it were not the correct shape or tone. On these occasions I would be called up to the studio just to sit with him while he painted and talked about what he was trying to do and the effect he was after. Having someone with him seemed to calm him down and helped him be able to make the tiny adjustment needed which would satisfy him.

Don painted directly without preliminary sketches, usually having no idea of what he was going to do until it was completed. Then a series of paintings would follow expanding the new theme, often lasting for several weeks or even months.Suddenly he would follow expanding the new theme, often lasting for several weeks or even months. Suddenly he would stop painting, becoming preoccupied with maths, chess or, most often continue with his proposed book on the understanding of art. Then as suddenly as he had abandoned his painting he would take it up again, sometimes on a new theme, sometimes on an earlier one using a fresh interpretation. He would even work on paintings completed years before in a burst or renewed creative energy.

Don never sketched or worked in the open and was not really fond of the outdoors at all; but he always watched and observed, the incidents witnessed often re-appearing in his paintings.

His recreations were putting and croquet on our lawn. He disliked reading novels immersing himself instead in books on Philosophy, Poetry, Maths, Physics and of course his Art books. He admired Cezanne, Bonnard, the Italian Primitives and Japanese prints ‘for their exquisite use of space’.

Don loved most music from string quartets to trad jazz, but he never went to concerts or the theatre (or even holidays if he could help it) because he always needed to be able to attend to details on his paintings at a moment’s notice. Don never visited art exhibitions, but occasionally popped into the Tate Gallery to look at the Blakes and the Palmers.

He did not like painting – ‘messy old business’ he would call it – but if he did not paint he became ill. He would not hand his paintings at home because he would always find fault with them; he was such a perfectionist”.

Joyce Young
Beckenham, June 1993