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Kia ora! I am David. I am an oil painter, artist and adventurer. I am currently  based in Tāmaki Makaurau .

David's Journey

David Penman has had a long interest in understanding creative processes and  he directed this towards science as an entomologist and a career in senior roles in academia and research institutes.  He began to realise the value of collaboration and encouraged links between science and the arts.  With retirement came training in painting  with a focus on oils. 

David was inspired by the efforts of his twin brother John, who despite being  limited through disability from cerebral palsy, has produced some amazing art over many years (See John's art). Sadly John passed away on 19 February, 2019.


2019 - Ongoing

This has been a period of loss and change.  Family bereavements, moving cities, and sorting new futures has driven new insights. The onset of COVID also restricted travel and with more solitary activities came a a time for more reflection on places and experiences. 


2015 - Ongoing

Travel provided the opportunities for inspiration across many dimensions of my art.  Different scenes, perspectives and experiences provided a way of looking at locations beyond mere passing observations across the US, Europe and Asia in particular

First World War


The centenary of WW1 and family connections and loss in Gallipoli and Western Europe provided the personal incentive to explore the battlefields around Ypres in Belgium and the Somme in France.  The images presented in my paintings reflect the personal experiences of battlefield tours.



In learning the craft of painting, images from store windows in major cities such as New York, London and Paris plus a fascination with the works of Degas inspired me to create a series of  paintings.

The Natural World

2012 - Ongoing

My background in biology and ecology has inspired an ongoing interest in art based on the natural world.  Science can use art to tell stories of key issues facing our global future. 

Entomology within the wider perspective of integrated pest management (IPM) within primary production systems drove the early part of David’s academic career. Reductive research on invertebrate behaviour led to work on biological control, insecticide resistance, IPM system design and recognition that wider societal issues should drive how we use science in society.  This was articulated in a major review of pesticide use in NZ for the Ministry of the Environment that led to development of the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms legislation.  Regulation alone would not change behaviours so David was a founding trustee of the NZ Agrichemical Education Trust that, to this day, operates the ‘Growsafe’ certification for users of pesticides.

Leaving academic life and senior leadership at Lincoln University was a significant transition into a more commercial and directive environment at Landcare Research.  David had initial responsibility for a large research group on Conservation and Biodiversity and grew staff, resources, financial resilience and impact. His role expanded into overall research leadership especially in relation to building positive relationships with major government funders and collaborative partners within the NZ science system and overseas. He had a key role in establishing the Outcome-Based Investments for long-term funding as well as being called upon to lead many reviews of research and strategic directions for national and international agencies.

David developed a particular interest in open data to maximise the value of public investment in science.  This culminated in his representing NZ as a founding member of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) and chairing the Governing Board for 6 years.  This exposed David to the value of global collaborations as well as the challenges of operating science within a global political environment.  His understanding of these complex issues of governance and science led to him being commissioned by the Alfred P Sloan Foundation in the US to undertake a review of the lessons learned from the decade-long US$650 million investment in the Census of Marine Life.  The key principles from the review have formed the basis for the long-term investments in the National Science Challenges where David served on the Peak Science Panel developing the key investment areas.

Since leaving full-time employment David continues to contribute to the science system through membership of the Royal Society’s review of ‘Taxonomic Databases and Collections’ which resulted in increased investment by Government and now Co-chairs the Panel on ‘Gene Editing.  David has also built on his long-held belief that science and the creative arts can make valuable contributions to wider understanding through becoming a practicing artist.