Gallery artist Robert Brown is a native Charlottean and a devout plein air painter. I presented Bob with a series of questions focused on his choice of painting technique and subject matter. An experienced painter who has been perfecting his art form for decades, Bob offered numerous insights into the process and the inspiration behind his work. His thoughts on the challenges and rewards of painting en plein air and his evaluation of the success of the paintings chosen for this exhibition were particularly revealing.
Clyde’s Barn, 12″ x 24″ oil on canvas, Robert Brown
Q: What draws you to painting en plein air and how does this influence your choice of and your approach to your subject?
A: I have been interested in plein air, or location, painting, since I was first introduced to it about 15 years ago. It just clicked with me, maybe because it was so difficult, and I felt like it was a manner of painting I could spend the rest of my life with. My subject matter is nearly anywhere I can comfortably set up outside that has a view or set of problems that engages me and, I hope, others who view the finished pieces. RB
Q: How do you continually find ways of envisioning new images of the places you paint, even though (or perhaps because), these are the places you know best.
A: Any subject can be painted in a variety of different ways – up close, far away, at different angles, and in a variety of light and seasonal conditions. There’s never a lack of subject, because everything changes. RB
Q: When you paint a landscape or part of the city that is easily recognizable, do you attempt to bring the composition forward in a particular way for the viewer in hopes that through your art a newcomer to the area unaware of the setting will realize all the city has to offer? Conversely, are you thinking of new ways for native Charlotteans to “stop” and realize the variety of sights and scenes that so many easily take for granted?
A: I’m most interested in making a good painting under [the] pressure of changing light. I do go for representation, but I also edit the scene sometimes, if I feel that it will make a stronger painting. I like it when people viewing the paintings are delighted by knowing where it is, but I like it even more if they like the painting for the painting. Things are changing very fast in the Charlotte area. Fifty years from now it’s reasonable to expect that a lot of scenes I’m painting, especially the pastoral scenes, will change, as farmland turns into neighborhoods, but the paintings will remain the same. RB
Q: Any information you want to share about your process?
A: As uncomplicated as I can make it, I usually paint directly on the support, and the preparatory drawing I do on the support is sketchy, and made with a transparent paint, like red oxide. I use about twelve colors on the palette, so I do a lot of mixing. There’s only a small window of opportunity, usually about two hours, before the light changes too much to keep with the original idea, and when that happens, I just clean up and come back at the same time another day, if I need to finish. RB
Q: Lastly, any statement you would like to share about this collection of paintings.
A: I’m happy with this body of work. I especially like working in the larger format, which might not seem that large to people used to paintings made in a studio. But, 12 x 24 inches is a lot of real estate to cover when you’re painting on location, and it’s been a challenge. I think they came out pretty well. RB
Meet Bob and see the entire show at the Opening Reception with the Artist on Friday, February 10th, 6 – 9 PM.
by: Melinda B. Willms