Artist Interview: Robert Puschautz
What are your earliest memories related to art?
The earliest memories I have of art are from going to Church on Sundays with my family. I was born and raised in Chicago which had some amazing early 20th century Catholic Churches with incredible stained glass, paintings and sculptures. I remember even as a young child growing up with these beautiful images and being surrounded by the spiritual drama of the Christian Faith.
How and when did you start becoming an artist yourself?
I come from a pretty big family with five boys and one girl. My mom had these old drawings around the house that she made when she was a young woman and my older brothers were always drawing superheroes and cars. I followed along. I was the class artist in school. I would draw pictures for other students and in high school I designed t‑shirts and painted murals. It wasn’t until college though, that I began to take seriously the conceptual process of what it took to create a work of art. Every material, image and process had to be considered a part of the artwork. I think for me, that was the first step of becoming an artist. I had to think like an artist to be one.
What was the evolution like toward finding your current voice and visual vocabulary?
I’ve had a pretty slow evolution in my artistic career. I like to thoroughly work through a concept before feeling confident in moving on. After college, I started working on a body of work that involved trying to convey a person’s inner world through combination of portraiture and landscape painting. I was not very good a painting portraits or landscapes, so I decided to work on one at time. Landscape became a focus for me for several years, but the focus was on evoking a sense of the spiritual rather than the natural. In those works light became a metaphor for the divine and the earth for humankind. Eventually, I began training at a classical Atelier that helped me draw the figure from life. All the visual vocabulary I use comes from my experience painting landscapes, my classical training and learning from the masters.
What is your process like?
I am by nature a bit disorganized, so I like to impose a straightforward process on myself to get the best possible results. I start with researching images from Art History. I will make several sketches of an idea in either pencil or on my iPad. After I settle on a composition I’ll usually get a model in and make several sketches in charcoal or paint of hand gestures, poses, or the general color and value of the piece. Finally, I get the big canvas out and start to work. There are usually a lot of changes made along the way. My large religious works usually take anywhere from three to six months to complete.
Is there anything from your artist statement that you wish to expound on, that you normally don’t have the chance to discuss?
There are too many things to discuss, so I’ll try to let my art speak for itself!
What do you try to control in your surfaces, and what do you leave to chance?
I try to control everything when it comes to my surfaces and if anything happens by chance in the painting I make sure that it fits with the overall concept and realization of the work.
Where do you see your work going from here?
I would love to continue to paint religious subjects for churches but also have some time to do some more personal work as well. I never totally fleshed out my landscape portrait series which I’d love to return to at some point, and I’d like to begin using color in a way that is more evocative and symbolic. I take things one step at a time though, so after I work on those things, who knows…