Robert when did you switch from photorealism/hyperrealism to abstract painting?
By 2011, I felt I had said enough through photorealism painting and began painting abstracts. Stopping pr altogether wasn't an option because I wanted to complete a few WIPs still sitting in the studio. One large painting in particular, I started in 2008 and finished in 2015. It felt great to complete it but my heart was into the process of abstraction. It happened after I expeirenced the magic of the painting mostly painting itself through the medium and tools. Much less of my mind was overseeing the process. Instinct took over.
An accomplished and traditional photorealist painter knows exactly how the process will go and how the image will look from start to finish. Choosing to transition to abstraction, I liked the idea of opening up to surprises and trusting that I would discover the painting in the moment. Additionally, I didn't want to become a slave to a particular style. I believe some artists can become authentically compelled to explore a particular subject or style and benefit from that commitment but more often once an artist's style is in demand, it's easy to succumb to the pressure of doing the same thing or something very close to it. Whether it's an outside pressure from collectors, dealers, galleries, and press or it's felt internally from the artist's ego to stay celebrated and or simply a need to pay the bills. I don't fault anyone for it but I'm bothered by the thought of making art as a recognizable brand to the point where authentic inspiration is compromised. Mixing it up feels really good to me so I will continue to do it. If that puts off collectors because they feel insecure about which of my work to commit to then sure I'm not thrilled having less income for art supplies but I know I'd feel caged otherwise.
How long had you been painting photorealism?
I've painted photorealism for about 18 years. Been working on abstracts for 4 years.
Are there any major differences in your process?
Some differences between my photorealism process and my abstract process are, PR is more about intense concentration, analysis, and feeding my thankfully declining ocd desire for perfection. PR is more tied to my ego. Specifically, during the process, I'm hyper thinking that my technical skill needs to be hyper impressive. With PR, I find the excitement comes after I've created the initial source image and while viewing it, I get super excited to make it a painting. I think it's part of human nature when we like something we want to share it with someone. I also feel great when I start the first and last paint session. All the middle sessions feel like vacillation between tediousness and meditation.
Occasionally, I'll look at the unfinished parts and think " brutal ". Other times, I look at those same sections and joyfully think, I can't wait to paint it. Sometimes I get anxious because I will be three quarters finished and I think what if I die before it's finished? That morbid thought peaks on the final couple days and I start to tell myself don't leave the house until it's done. I've never actually stayed in because of that. Hmm come to think of it, maybe, once or twice, I have.
In my abstract work, I'm making the work much less about what my skills are or what I can accomplish and more about what can happen from the process of trusting the materials and a spontaneous process. I meditate before each abstract and then go directly to painting. The process remains exciting all the way through. I'm working quickly, moving the impasto paint with lots of physicality. Seeing the colors mix in surprising ways throughout is also immediately gratifying.
My most recent work has elements of both processes. The foundation in the new painting series is improvised in a monochromatic color with palette knives. After the impasto cures, I carefully paint with a combo of colors specific areas formed by the trace of the palette knife. Lots of thought is given to which color will go where and what areas to fill in.
Have you noticed any differences in sales in one versus the other?
As far as sales go, my photorealism and abstract have been equally good.