I am a multimedia artist living in Minneapolis and in my illustrative work (and also in music, writing, and sculpture, I suppose) I study people and our relationships to appetite, commodities, technology, nature, and each other. I explore both the darkness and the humor in our efforts to find fulfillment and comfort through consumption, drawing inspiration from sources where I find symbolic representations of human appetite, including industrial equipment catalogs, tourism magazines, and wilderness and hunting publications. So far I've refrained from explicit judgement or commentary in my work, attempting instead to imbue my scenes with atmosphere, humor, and allegory. But I'm feeling a change brewing in my approach, though I've only caught glimpses of what it might be.
Tell me about your work? What are you currently working on? How is this different from past projects?
I am currently illustrating The Old Testament, in a vivid, psychedelic style, and although stylistically and conceptually it has similarities to my past work, this series diverges in magnitude and focus. By illustrating the most widely read book of all time with a sort of 21st century surrealism, I'm developing as an illustrator while learning to market and promote my work at the same time. I've finished 114 of what will eventually be over 300 illustrations and I aim to finish by Christmas Day, 2017. I'm enjoying the marketing aspects a bit, and I'm actively seeking representation, as well as a publisher. I envision these illustrations published alongside the entire text of the King James' Old Testament, with a page of text on the left and an illustration on the right, for the entire book. I'm choosing passages to illustrate with spacing in mind for that.
How did you decide to become an artist?
It was a slow process. Whenever I would think about what I could see myself doing with my life, I had a hard time imagining anything so I wouldn't think about it. In high school I took drawing and sculpture classes and drew a lot - there was an incredible set of art teachers at my school in Wisconsin, and they gave me the spark, staying after hours many nights so a few of us could get in more time on the potters' wheel. Then I went to the University of Minnesota after high school not knowing what I wanted, but I continued with ceramics, making pots compulsively until I would come home and sit on my bed and eat spaghetti and paint. But I at that time I was not interested in critiques or cyclical discussions about "art vs. design" and wanted to be left alone to make art. So I dropped out of school and built a canoe with my friend and carried it to the Mississippi River and paddled it to New Orleans. Then my friend's parents met us in New Orleans and they told me I should go back to school, and I was feeling pretty aimless and like maybe I made the wrong choice by leaving, even though I learned a lot from my time away. I was feeling pretty dumb because I didn't leave on the best terms, but I went back with a renewed vigor and spent all my free time in the art building, sleeping there pretty often in low-traffic corners - all the night time janitors knew me and they just mopped around me.
Then life after undergraduate was wandering and strange for a while, working many jobs and painting, writing, and making music, always telling myself life as a professional artist was just around the corner if I kept making stuff. But I did nothing proactive - I didn't seek out shows or think critically about how to do the art thing. I would sell a few paintings here and there and I moved around Minneapolis a lot, letting time flow, painting, writings songs, and I worked at a shop for three years that made medieval weapons. I had other jobs too - remodeling work, screen printing, and furniture building, restaurant jobs, etc. But then I went on a music tour which felt like the pinnacle of my aimlessness. I've always been of the mindset that it is best for me creatively to bounce around from medium to medium, letting my ideas manifest however they wanted to, and in that way they would build upon each other. But when I returned from the tour, I decided a lack of focus was my problem, and that I would stick with painting and illustration until I could pave a way for myself with it, and I discovered The Old Testament to be an inexhaustible source of inspiration for my style of painting intense and surreal depictions of human appetite. The Bible has been a fruitful lens from which to interpret the vast forms and contours of appetite.
How has it been, illustrating the Old Testament so far?
It feels like it illustrates itself. I was for sure running out of steam before I started, but the King James' version is especially ripe for visual interpretation. I've never read the bible before this, but it is relieving that for a while, that's what I'm doing, and that those pages have all I need to know within them - I just have to continue to make time to decode it and find out what's the best way to show the world.
What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
A professor of mine, Chris Larson, was talking to a small class of his I was in, and he said to us, "You know the secret for getting through artist's block?" (Writer's block for artists of course.) He had all our attention, because he is an inspiring artist and teacher who was about to let us in on a secret. He changed the subject, seemingly accidentally. Then someone interrupted him a bit later and asked, "Wait! What's the secret?" Chris acted confused, "For what?" he said. The person replied, "To get through artist's block." And Chris said, "Oh. You just keep making." And everyone seemed to feel let down but I felt super energized.
Also, once my friend made me a sandwich and he didn't match up the bread - it was flipped around - and it blew my mind.
Many artists struggle to find ways to sell their art. How do you sell your work? How do you market yourself?
I sell prints at my exhibitions and people can contact me from my website MisterRobertson.com to buy original work. I also paint murals. Also I was lucky to find a job as a mason's apprentice which has cushioned this time of my life, so I'm not completely dependent on my art just yet for income.
I'm marketing myself by sending postcards and press releases to publishers, agents, publications and galleries. I search for residencies and grants and I try to meet with working artists to get advice. Also, I'm developing a web presence with a few social media pages and a website. I'm trying to try everything to see what works best.
Who are some of the Minnesota artists you enjoy?
Chris Larson (If you google "Chris Larson Artist" his amazing sculptures will show up.
If I were to follow you around to see art in Minnesota, which places would we go? What would we see?
The MIA is great for it's huge collection and rotating MAEP exhibitions and other rotating galleries.
In addition to www.Local-Artist-Interviews.com, where do you go online for good art resources, whether to find a new artist, or to see what is going on in the art world locally and otherwise?
I like MNartists.org for events and I've found a lot of good art on tumblr. I've fine tuned my feed so a stream of fresh art is coming my way every day - that's where I discovered Julian Glander http://julianglander.com/ who is awesome.
Then a few other websites/blogs I visit:
Do you have any exhibits to promote in the near future?
I am exhibiting 70 new paintings from my Illustrated Old Testament at "In the Heart of the Beast Theatre (1500 E. Lake Street, Minneapolis, MN 55407.) The show opens March 11 and goes until the 26th, and the opening reception is March 19 from 3:00-7:00 PM. It is in the main room of the theatre for the duration of Davey T. Steinman and Company's production of the rock opera, "Basement Creatures," as his whole performance is backstage, in an emulated basement. There's more information on my website, MisterRobertson.com