A Portrait of an Artist

painting
Painting mounted against a Timber Frame Building

Artists add color to our tiny rural community. They do so in a myriad of ways that don’t fit into established ideas of great art and “true culture.” For instance, my husband’s stepfather, Mike Robinson, immerses himself in painting reproductions of works deemed “great art.” Sometimes, I’ve heard people argue (with some merit) that art requires more than mere copying. But these paintings are more than ‘mere’ copying, they are filtered through his own perceptions and rendered in his own idea of beauty. Besides, this kind of ‘mere’ copying is far beyond most people’s ability it takes an incredible level of skill and weeks of back cramping labor. The painting above was done not on canvas but thin wood, which was cut into the lush shape above and mounted, without framing, against the natural wood wall of the cabin he built himself.

drawing of man with flute

Each work starts with an incredibly detailed drawing. Right now he has been focusing on hands. As you can see in the piece above, he is quite skilled. One old master used to charge more for portraits that included hands. In spite of the difficulty, Mike draws them beautifully. If you look closely, you can see the feeling conveyed not only in the face of the musician above but also in the grip on the instrument.

collage

A wall in his studio containing many works

Mike strives to capture the emotion he feels when he views the art. He isn’t satisfied with an exact copy. He imbues each work with a passion of his own.

Woman's face

Woman with Lace

Sometimes he creates a startling beauty on just the canvas (as in the portrait above) and, at other times, he uses the painting in conjunction with his surroundings to create a visual comment on what he does. For instance, below, the original work is of an artist painting a painting. You can see the easel with the partially finished piece in the background behind the artist AND you can see Mike has placed his rendering on another beautiful wooden easel in front of Mike’s own carefully constructed timber frame archway. Thus, as Mike moves around his cabin he sees his interpretation of the piece against his own handwork. Just as the artist in the picture is juxtaposed against His own art, Mike’s art is juxtaposed against Mike’s reality.

 

A portrait of the Artist

Mike has emphasized the disdainful expression of the artist in the painting as a comment upon the art world itself. He loves the incredible passion and skill displayed in the works he uses as the beginning of his pieces. But also he sees the exclusiveness and condescension many in the art world have towards those whose works, for whatever reason, don’t fit into the box carefully labeled “true culture.”

Mike doesn’t fit into any boxes at all. He lives simply off the grid in a cabin built mainly by himself. Yet, he immerses himself in the world of high culture with his art but, just as he lives outside the box of society, so his art is outside the art our culture so reveres.

Perhaps the world of high culture needs the vision of an outsider to see itself more clearly.

 

  • Laytonville Rock
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