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David Baker - Warwick Academic and Artist

Originally Published 25 February 2004
Homage to Guernica
Homage to Guernica

Dr David Baker is both a Senior Lecturer and Programme Director for Politics and International Studies and also a poet and artist.

David is a typically hardworking and dedicated Warwick lecturer, scholar and researcher. His areas of interest include British Political Parties and Europe and the Politics of Fascism and the Far Right. He is a founding director of the internationally respected Members of Parliament Research Project. But his spare time is devoted to his other life - as an artist. His poetry has been published in the United States and he sells his art throughout the world as limited edition prints through two large internet sites.

It has taken David some time to feel able to call himself an ‘artist’, but with fellow artists and critics around the world commending his work, he now feels comfortable to do so. In fact, it took David, now 53, some time to be able to call himself an academic – since he began his working life as an Electrician with British Rail in 1965 and only obtained his first permanent academic job at the age of 42.

He left school aged 15 and it was only as a mature student that he took a liberal studies course and later studied for his first and second degrees. After a temporary lectureship at Sheffield University in the 1980s, where he had taken his doctoral degree, he left academia in 1987 and juggled driving a van for a garden centre with teaching A-Level Politics at City and East London College. In 1991 Nottingham Trent offered David a 0.5 post in Politics, and after a burst of high profile research and publishing he rose rapidly to become Reader in Politics at NTU by 1997. He arrived at Warwick in 1999 as a Senior Lecturer.

David Baker
David Baker

Throughout this period David had followed a private passion for the visual arts and had already drawn and painted hundreds of works which were at the time shared only with friends and family. He was also avidly visiting art galleries across the world and collecting and devouring art books – essentially self-educating himself in the history, styles and philosophies of art. The key influences upon him were Cubism, Fauvism, Dadaism, Surrealism, Expressionism, Abstraction and latterly conceptual art. His favourite artists range from Picasso and Rothko to Hockney and Hirst.

In December 2001 David became unwell, and was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition which forced him to take period of leave from his academic work. To relieve the boredom, David scanned one of his watercolours into his home PC and began to work on the piece using Microsoft Photo-Editor 97 (a programme he still employs for some works) and from that point on he was hooked.

By the end of his period of recuperation David had created some1500 pieces of art and opened a website displaying several hundred of these works. Describing himself as ‘like most academics, somewhat obsessional’, in just over two years since then David has produced and stored several thousand pieces of digital art.

David explains that, because of his recently discovered talents, he no longer sees his lifelong feeling of being something of an ‘outsider’ as a disadvantage. For instance, he has the ability to work very fast both as an artist and an academic which allows him to effortlessly multi-task between his art and scholarship. His wife Su calls him a ‘hummingbird intellectual’!

Some claim that the digital medium he works in is not ‘art’ at all, because the computer is the essential tool of creation and therefore the ‘skill’ is in using the PC rather than any innate artistry. ‘Virtual composition’, as David calls his method, is sometimes dismissed in this manner by ‘traditional’ artists. David counters this by saying that he uses multimedia tools in the same way that he would use a paintbrush, and challenges other people to achieve the same results if handed his equipment. He also, of course, uses tradition tools to paint and draw when the mood takes him. As a follower of the art philosophy of Marcel Duchamp, he argues that all visual statements are ‘art’ provided they are made, or selected, by ‘artists’. Finally, he has worked hard to create techniques which enable him to produce pieces which are virtually indistinguishable for works painted and drawn in the traditional mediums.

David is regularly asked how he finds the time to be both an artist and a busy and committed political scientist; one answer is that he works exceptionally fast, but chronic insomnia has also played a part, allowing David the extra time necessary to manage his parallel activities. His car is often the first vehicle parked on Library Road as he usually arrives at his office for 6.15 am and sometimes stays late into the evenings as well. His office, in the Social Studies building, is lined not only with the usual shelves of academic books, but also with his art and other artistic artefacts. In his extended periods at work, David manages to fit in two or three hours of art alongside his considerable academic duties and research activities. He also likes to take his digital camera around the campus to search for interesting images to capture.

In fact, the campus and its architecture have become a source of inspiration for David’s art, as he often deals with found images as well as his own paintings and photography. He arrived at Warwick with little appreciation of campus universities, but having been influenced by Cubism and Bauhaus art and architecture, the geometry of the buildings and surrounding landscapes affected him as an artist and he has grown to enjoy the angularity of the shapes and forms. Accordingly he has created an ongoing series of works based on the architecture of the Warwick campus.

David loves teaching undergraduates, and carrying out his research activities in PAIS, but that he finds that creating his works of art has provided a highly rewarding and therapeutic extra dimension to his already busy life.

David produces high quality signed limited edition (1-50) prints of his works and the Department of Politics and International Studies have purchased a number of pieces which are framed and displayed along the Social Studies B Block (ground floor) corridor and in the Undergraduate and Postgraduate offices. You can also see many more of David’s work online at: