In the early 1980's, David read the Ayn Rand novel 'Atlas Shrugged'.
First published in 1957 in the United States, this was Rand's fourth and last novel, it was also her longest and the one she considered to be her ‘Magnum Opus’ in the realm of fiction writing. The title is a reference to Atlas, a Titan of Ancient Greek mythology, described in the novel as "the giant who holds the world on his shoulders". The significance of this reference is seen in a conversation between two of the characters Francisco d'Anconia and Hank Rearden, in which d'Anconia asks Rearden what sort of advice he would give Atlas upon seeing that "the greater [the titan's] effort, the heavier the world bore down on his shoulders". With Rearden unable to answer, d'Anconia gives his own response: "To shrug". Rand referred to Atlas Shrugged as a mystery novel, "not about the murder of man's body, but about the murder— and rebirth— of man's spirit". Her stated goal for writing the text was "to show how desperately the world needs prime movers and how viciously it treats them" and to portray "what happens to a world without them" Quote – Wikipedia
It is a natural course of events for David, that many life experiences often evolve into paintings, and reading this novel provoked a concept in his mind of Man being the creator of his own environment; to quote Ayn Rand “…..the earth needs prime movers”.
The brush and canvas beckoned. “In the early eighties, I created a painting using a large rugged old bulldozer and myself as the driver. The painting was purchased by a diplomat attached to the US Embassy who loved the idea that inspired it. He then suggested I develop the idea further and paint a larger more detailed version”, said Knowles.
The Knowles family home overlooks the Waiohine River, and every year a large bulldozer is used to clear the channel in this river to prevent flooding. David decided to use that bulldozer as a ‘model’ for the updated version of "Earthmover"; however instead of using himself as the driver; he decided to use his then 16 year old son – “young, fit and full of the energy of youth!”
In 2010 David's second, more fully developed version of 'Earthmover' was completed, and being his own 'worst critic', he was he said "pleased with the result".
"It was a painting that was very detailed and took some time. To describe it, I think it best to quote my good friend Peter Cresswell, head of Organon Architecture in Auckland, said David
When Peter Cresswell first saw the painting, he commented -
"Man the creator. Man, the shaper of his world.
From thought to inception, not by the power of muscles, but by the power of the mind.
The power to conceive and create the machinery that can shape his very environment.'
This quote could also be applied to David’s work, his paintings created and shaped through the power of his mind, from thought to inception.