David Koster 1926–2015
SWLA Founder member
When I think of David Koster’s work, I remember first those large, boldly executed and richly colourful lithographs, often of exotic pheasants. But this was just one facet of his prodigious output. Regular visitors to our annual exhibition will also have seen finely detailed etchings of great subtlety, perhaps of butterflies and plants, for different subjects require different approaches. In more recent years, there was a return to larger looser work, but this time in the form of woodcuts. These were freely cut into rough planks, the grain playing an important role and perfect for one of David’s favourite subjects, fish.
David’s interests in both art and wildlife began at an early age. As a boarder at a progressive school in rural Sussex, creativity and individuality were nurtured and spare time could be spent watching birds and fishing.
Three years at the Slade School of Fine Art followed, where he learnt wood engraving and lithography and made frequent visits to Hampstead Heath to observe and sketch birds, fish and insects. This was interrupted by two years National Service mainly spent in the Far East, with the opportunity to observe and record a whole new fauna and flora.
David’s long association with the Highlands of Scotland and in particular with Plockton on the West Coast began in 1952. Although he moved to Folkestone in 1966 to take up a post as tutor in Printmaking and Drawing, he and his wife Kath kept a toe hold in Plockton for the long Summer holidays.
When the Folkstone School of Art closed he commuted to Medway College of Design in Chatham, before retiring from teaching in 1989. Medway College was where he learned the technique of etching, which he found the ideal medium for depicting the Alpine flower and butterfly subjects resulting from holidays he and Kath had begun taking in the Austrian and Italian Alps. The chalk downland around Folkestone also provided a rich source of inspiration with its many species of orchids and butterflies.
It was during this time that I used to visit David and Kath in Folkestone, less than an hour’s drive from my home in Rye. Usually it was to collect pictures for some exhibition or other that we were both involved with, as David did not have a car. Kath would provide us with a sumptuous lunch before David and I would descend to the basement where in the heady odour of printing inks he would show me his latest projects and we would enthusiastically discuss the practical problems and aspects of printmaking.
2005 saw the publication by Wildside Books of “David Koster, Artist, Printmaker and Naturalist.” It is lavishly illustrated with drawings, watercolours and prints spanning sixty-five years and the informative text is peppered with anecdotes and diary entries.
David was a founder member of the SWLA and I believe managed to exhibit with us every year up to and including 2014. I for one will miss his lively prints and infectious enthusiasm for wildlife and the printmaking process. Robert Greenhalf