Artist Interview: Charles Robertson
What are your earliest memories related to art?
When I was about 12 or 13 I did a pencil drawing of my aunts’ house in Mississippi.
How and when did you start becoming an artist yourself?
When I got out of the Air Force I returned to college and acquired my degree in Advertising Design. At that time around, 1969, we used a lot of markers, dyes and watercolors. They were used to make quick illustrations of what the ad would look like. When I graduated I went to Houston to make my fortune. Fortunately or unfortunately that did not work out too well and I joined the police department. While there I redesigned the the official department seal, and started painting in watercolor. In 32 years in the department I managed to sell a few wild life paintings.
What was the evolution like toward finding your current voice and visual vocabulary?
In the military, as in the police department, there wasn’t a lot of room for mistakes. I think that is where I started to paint more realistically and started using the opaque water-based pigment, Gouache. After I retired I painted a little bit here and there, not really too satisfied with the paintings. So I would Google different photos of wild life and discovered that some of them had copyright restrictions. I went to some of the dealers and got permission to use the photos. Some required a small fee others just gave verbal agreements via e‑mail.
What is your process like?
After a few somewhat realistic paintings, I started to see how I could make them look 3D. That’s when I bought an air brush to phase out the backgrounds. That was a rather interesting process to learn. After some harsh realities in the use of the air brush I could see some of what I thought I was looking for. I seemed to have evolved to how I paint now, which is to make the viewer feel the life of the animal. And that is where my real satisfaction comes from.
Is there anything from your artist statement that you wish to expound on, that you normally don’t have the chance to discuss?
What do you try to control in your surfaces, and what do you leave to chance?
I try to control all of the painted surface. I was taught to never leave anything to chance. As you can see from the paintings, I’m fairly meticulous.
Where do you see your work going from here?
I have no idea. At 75 I don’t see myself painting for a living. I paint for my own enjoyment and let others decide what they want to do.