While attending the University of Michigan, David took many art classes within his architectural program. It was during this time that his passion for art was fully awakened. After graduating from U of M, David was accepted into the University of Berkeley's art program. He dropped out of school after a year or two. It was at this time that David knew he had to do what he is doing now. He knew he could not work for someone else and that his art is, as he says, "something I just have to do."
A number of people have said that David's work reminds them of Paul Klee's. I asked David if he was influenced by Paul Klee. He said that Klee's influence was stronger at Berkeley than it is now. I know that David is influenced by Van Gogh's life and work. He would read anything he could get his hands on about Van Gogh.
David and I have never discussed the selected pieces for this exhibit with the exception of the piece that reminds one of an "alphabet." This piece was triggered by different science-fiction reading in which runes of elves or other creatures were prominent. No particular book was mentioned. This piece, I feel, was created through his daydreaming about different worlds; each symbol and word portrays the dream going on inside his head. David is always reading. He told me that sometimes the only books he can get are science fiction novels for 25 cents of which he has many.
Once, when talking about his artwork he told me "...It is like a rocket or space ship. The rocket has many parts and pieces used to propel the ship to its destination. After these pieces are used they are discarded and fall back to earth or float aimlessly in space." His work is used to propel him to new thoughts, visions, and to different worlds. What we see are the discarded pieces that were used to propel his mind on its journey. He has no set destination nor does he want one. Every experience, thought, sense, and memory is put into a visual context and used for his journey. In that sense his work is like a diary with abstractness acting as the key.
David Zylstra's paintings result from a careful investigation of the creative process. Absorbed in the exploration and guided by intuition, Zylstra uses the process of making art as a way in which to discover self. According to his brother, Zylstra uses his work to "propel him to new thoughts, visions, and different worlds. What we see are the discarded pieces that were used to propel his mind on its journey."
Since the discovery process itself is the most important facet of his work, Zylstra does not restrict his focus to any single genre. In fact, this relaxed approach emerges in almost every phase of his art-making process. The style of his mixed media pieces changes as whimsically as his subject matter with influential hints ranging from Paul Klee to Van Gogh. Applying the same casual lenience to materials, he uses any surface available and striking to him at a given moment. His working planes include used paper, old book covers, aged lumber, and other found object surfaces.
Zylstra's paintings can be characterized by mark-making - occasionally disjointed, often rhythmic. He maintains an intuitive sense of balance, composition, color, line and space. Some pieces display an orderly sensibility - meticulously edited and cleanly balanced - while others are heavily worked, chaotic, and expressionistic.
A graduate from the University of Michigan with a degree in Architecture, Zylstra was accepted into the Berkley School of Fine Arts. After one year in the program, he left to pursue painting full time.