DAVE Nevard might be one of the most interesting expressionist artists emerging from Southend.

After coming around to the idea of the possibility of taking his art seriously several years back, swapping his creations for bottles of whisky, he is now getting some attention and selling for decent figures thus able to call himself semi-professional.

“I still have the day job as a landscape gardener,” he said, “although I think it’d be nice to do this full time, just paint, dressed like Ben Kenobi drinking wine all day.”

Whatever your taste in art, whether realism, conceptual or other, it seems the stuff Nevard produces is evoking reaction around town and beyond.

Buyers of his work are people from all walks of life, including singer Matt Belamy of the rock band Muse, high ranking businessmen and overseas art collectors.

He is just about to step outside the comfort of his own hometown and the supportive network of local artists, and is getting ready for his first month-long solo show, in the big smoke, held at the legendary Freud gallery and bar in Shaftesbury Avenue, famous for its theatres and pavement artists. The basement venue has played host to hordes of renowned exhibiting artists over decades.

In the various local shows Nevard, 45, has exhibited in, the comment book is usually filled with adjectives such as “dark”, “disturbing” and “brutal“, and people hover for a while by his work, wondering what to make of the seemingly tormented soul who has created these angsty pieces covered in what often look like splatters of blood across the image, parts of faces dissolving into fat oily strokes or the emotive, freakish and almost cartoonist bleak portraits of faces, people who he suddenly feels inspired to create his version of what he sees in them for that moment.

“Mostly I can’t really do a painting if I’m feeling happy or on middle ground. There’s not a lot to say when you’re happy. When you’re happy you just want to run around in a field, not show it to the world – that would just be annoying”

he explained.

“For me, most of the truly great pieces of art come from dark places. Even Water Lilies by Monet, alright it’s a nice painting but the guy was nearly blind when he painted it, so the core of it was someone who had this manic driving force to get his work done.

“The macabre element seems to be more interesting.

You know, if some motivational speaker had got hold of Francis Bacon and said, ‘ok let’s sort out your dark side, I want you to look in this mirror and say this positive phrase ten times’, we would not have had all that great work by him.”

It has to be said, in person Nevard on the surface isn’t“dark”, quite the opposite, frank, funny, knowledgeable, chatty, easy going... albeit with a slightly odd, eccentric edge.

He plays drums in a number of bands, namely the rock group Hobo, and is pretty sociable, despite his tendency to suddenly take leave from a situation, if the urge to paint takes him. But he is clearly a deep thinker and feeler, and knows what emotion to tap into for artsake.

“It’s not about being depressed myself” he said. “If I had a real mood on I wouldn’t be able to do anything but sit in a chair for days. I just go along with the flow of life, and then something will happen which will spark that feeling off, and then I have to act on it straight away or the moment will go and I’ll lose it and think ‘oh that wasn’t so bad was it? Anyway what are we painting again?’ “It might be something personal. Like for instance I did this painting called Productive Mammal, because I was going through this soulless period of just plodding along, doing nothing but work, so I wanted to do a painting where I reduced the character down where he was nothing but a productive mammal. Or it might be about something else outside my life.

“I’ve got one I’m working on at the moment, which has come from this documentary I’ve watched a few times called Art of Steal, about Albert Barnes private collection of the world’s best post-Impressionist art.

“He turned it into the Barnes Foundation and said in his will it had to stay that way, and never be moved and to mainly be used as a school for the teaching of art, or for art criticism or appreciation, and not turned into a museum for the general public.

“But after he died the will was broken and the paintings, worth billions, were given away to be used as a tourist attraction.

There is a multi millionaire in the picture who is the main reason why this happens. I looked at his face and thought, ‘this man, has more money than he ever needs, and it’s still never enough’.

The skull duggery of the thing, the way these suits could manipulate the law to their own ends.

These suits no better than criminals and this guy – this big pursestrings person at the head of it – a ruthless businessman doing whatever he needed to do to get what he wants sparked something off in me and I knew I had to paint him... not that you might recognise him.”

Nevard’s method of painting means it also tends to be very fast. He says after he has finished the background the foreground tends to be done very quickly, usually in one or two sittings.

He said: “Anyone who works in oils know it takes ages to dry, so if you go over it too quickly it’ll be a mess.

Because I tend to work on emotional charge, and I don’t have the patience or even the skill to be methodical with the technique. I don’t want to go back to the painting more than a couple of times, so what I feel in the very first instance is how the painting ends up. I’ve found if I ever think about something too much or I do something that doesn’t have the same emotionally charged basis, I will look at it after, and think ‘I see what I was trying to do there, but it hasn’t worked’.”

About the exhibition he said: “I’m excited and nervous, but trying not to worry too much. I’m painting some new pieces for it now, and not thinking too much beyond that at the moment. I’m just enjoying what I’m doing as things come up.”

* The exhibition at Freud gallery and bar, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, is from January 31 until February 28.

Gallery opening times are Sunday: noon-10.30pm; Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday: noon-11pm; Thursday: noon- 12am; Friday, Saturday: noon- 2am.

The celebratory viewing where you can meet the artist, is on February 4 from 6pm.

For more details see nevardart.com