September 26, 2011

Timelessness Is On His Side

An Interview with Bernardo França

Part 1 of 2 (link to
Part 2)
Click on any image to enlarge

I think most if not all of us have a given association or affinity for a given period in time other than current day. And many times that affinity is defined through the fashion or through the music or even through the arts and crafts of the period.

I’m sure we all have friends that adore, for example, the Victorian look and no doubt have some bone-crushingly fashionable item like a good solid leather corset on stand-by at all times! Oh, such Fair(e) Maidens indeed! Others may prefer the more ‘modern’ look presented, for example, by the American television series ‘Mad Men’, which is resplendent with a stylish wardrobe full of sleek suits for the men and that ‘hi honey, your cocktail is ready and the kids are in bed’ look for the ladies of the house! Yes, those simpler day when questions like ‘Ward, weren’t you a little hard on The Beaver last night?’ garnered nary a second glance!

And still others may go for the look of a 50’s rock-a-billy / sock hop dance or the bad guy feel of a sturdy leather jacket, white tee-shirt and thick Ray-Ban glasses (which have no doubt gone up several thousand percent since then in price, even though the design and construction has not changed). Or maybe you’re like me and you’ve been fitted for that ‘soup kitchen’ ensemble that should be reaching every shore in the coming months as the world-wide economy continues to slide into irreparable collapse and depression. But I digress and politicise a bit, too (still if you do have soup, I will sell my organs for same)!

My point is simply that if you know of a Look – with the L capitalised for safe measure – then you associate not only a fashion style with same but also a feel, an atmosphere and even a yearning for what may or may not have been (or seemed to have been) a better time. And Bernardo França has achieved that with his illustration and graphic work. His sleek lines and playful yet well-constructed scenes do indeed hark back to the days of a good relaxing day at the beach, listening to the latest jazz songs from the local college radio station on your AM radio and just thrilling at the sheer joy of being alive!

So join me for a partially nostalgic yet totally amazing journey to South America to meet this talented and very passionate young artist!


Welcome Bernardo! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, please, and also your background?
Hello Ziggy! First, I want to thank you for having me. Projects like yours are a thrilling initiative for the art-lovers world.

In terms of my upbringing in the art world: my family were all architects, including my mom, my father, and sister... and myself, too! Plus, I was born in Brasília – Brazil’s capital which has featured for many years some of the highest achievements in Modern Architecture and Urbanism! You really have to understand just how Modern Architecture – especially throughout the 1950´s and 1960´s – was such a big deal in Brazil!

So you can say I was under influence of modernism since I was born! But it was only recently (something like 3 years) that I got became more ‘intimate’ with what I guess you could call my Modern Cartoon style – I remember the visual impact it had on me after a friend introduced me to some of the work of the UPA (
United Productions of America). From then on, I just could not stop loving, studying and researching its revolutionary designs.

Bernardo, your style is a lovely reminder of the ‘nouveau art’ or modern illustration greats from especially the 1950’s and 1960’s. Why were you so drawn to this style?
Ah, about the Art Nouveau: my first memories go back to when I was a young kid in my house. My parents had some paintings (also poster-art and mirrors) with art from late 19th century – early 20th century. And in this fantastic little collection of theirs were works by Alphonse Mucha,
Aubrey Beardsley and Eliseu Visconti. And later it would be these same artists, this same style and this same period in art history that would bring me to search for what I call the highest level or sense of elegance.

That’s an amazing collection of influences! Have you had other specific major influences in your development as an artist?
I could go on forever mentioning those who have influenced me and of course continue to influence me! There are just so many amazing artists that have touched my life!

I would like to acknowledge several and even divide them up a little if that’s okay:
(ZN – fine by me, if everyone promises to look them all up themselves!)

Modernists: UPA Studio, Eyvind Earle, Mary Blair, Walt Peregoy, Peter Arno, Jim Flora, Ronald Searle, Ziraldo (Brazil).

What I call ‘Elegance artists’, obviously then from the realm of ‘fine art’: Joseph Leyendecker, Charles Dana Gibson, Alphonse Mucha, Robert McGinnis, Erich Sokol, Rene Gruau, Alceu Penna and J. Carlos (these last two are Brazilian artists).

And like I say, there are many artists from today that inspire me as well! I definitely have to highlight the names of two Frenchmen –
Pascal Campion and Matthieu Forichon – as well as the Japanese illustrator Tadahiro Uesugi.

In fact, these artists are so important to me that I keep a running list of my influences (especially those that are animation related) in the ‘links’ section on
my blog! Check it out!

How about your training specifically in illustration? Were you always interested in being an illustrator and/or designer?
I’ve illustrated or let’s say drawn since I can remember. But it was only when I hit my final semesters in Architecture school that I realised it was to become my goal in life.

In terms of training, well, I’m pretty much self-taught! True, it takes a lot of practising and studying. I do my best to focus on what works well with a certain artist’s approach and incorporate this kind of understanding in my own artistic development.

Wow, so you actually studied architecture in college! I did like your statement that you ‘did not pursue the profession because (you) left everything for a torrid affair with (your) mistress - Illustration.’ What made you make the leap from the very ‘organised’ world of designing buildings to want to pursue ‘drawing’ instead?
That’s an interesting question. As I was finishing up my degree and getting ready to graduate – especially right up towards the end of my studies – I began to realise that a life in Architecture wasn’t a future for me.

It’s just for me – as an architect – I saw that the ‘drawn lines’ had a very complex process before they became actual parts of a built environment. In addition, this line – in the world of the architect – is further subjugated to politics, to other architects (if you have superiors), to ‘nosy’ clients, and more! I also knew that my lines could be subordinated even to the construction workers mood that day of work! And realising this was a lot for me to accept!

Not to mention that an architecture project takes months (or years!) to be accomplished. Again, I just had this realisation that my drawn lines could take a long, long time to become a final product!

However, working as an illustrator, I get to see the final product almost simultaneously as I do it. The best part for me is still that I get to exclude many of the middle-men throughout the process. It goes to an artist-client system and the time then until my line is ‘built’ is so much quicker!

I have to say though, that even if I didn’t pursue a career in Architecture, I wouldn’t change my education and experience for anything. The education I had was designed to provide a very ‘complete’ formation for the students – to understand a project as a whole and to see how the big picture would be brought together by different elements (processes).

Still, it saddens me that I see Architecture is distancing itself academically from Fine Arts, where it was born. Only a few colleagues were close to drawing while my time in school. I still think of Architecture as the highest form of art, as it is the closest to people’s everyday lives, but I hope it never loses it’s connection to the roots of Fine Arts!

Looking at other forms of great art, it is apparent that music also plays an important role in your both your daily life as well as your illustration work, where you have pieces showing great classic rhythm and blues plus jazz performers and yet also hip hop and even punk. What are your music tastes and how do they influence your artwork?
Like the great Bob Marley says: ‘
One good thing about music / when it hits you, you feel no pain

I know it isn’t pain for me like Bob is suggesting in his lyrics, but when the music hits me, I certainly feel something! And it is positively overwhelming. 95% of my drawing time, I’m listening to music and I love to pay homage to the artists that bring me to such a joyful state.

In fact, my research has become such a great part of my life and its mostly directed to these two fields: graphic-art and music (I’m a movie enthusiast as well). And with the Internet today, one have access to the most beautiful cultural things ever created, ranging of course from images of the world’s best paintings to an endless stream of great music!

For example, I can only imagine for example how hard it was for a European 19th century artist to put his hand on a print from a Latin-American artist. So, in my life, the Internet has turned out to be an endless source of knowledge. And for me, it’s like Dub music ideology: ‘Everything is out there for you to use it, to arrange the elements in your own way!’ And I truly apply this to my personal work.

I love instrumental music (especially to work), and ‘black’ music in general (Soul music, R'n'B, Afrobeat). Plus, I just loooooooove Jamaican music produced between the 1950’s through the 80’s, as well as Jazz , Funk, World Music (Balkans, Mexican...), Hip-Hop from the golden era (90’s) and great Brazilian music.

For me, I just feel music really helps to set my mood right. For example, if I’m doing a piece that tells a story about a suffering but hopeful lady, I wouldn’t think twice to illustrate it with a
Dinah Washington tune. It puts me in the right mood and the right frame of mind to capture it perfectly!

Continued in Part 2

Timelessness Is On His Side

An Interview with Bernardo França

Part 2 of 2 (link to Part 1)
Click on any image to enlarge

Bernardo, even at this relatively early stage in your career, your work has already been featured in a number of magazines as well as for books, calendars and much more. What has been your favourite ‘outlet’ so far for your illustrations?
I really enjoy seeing my illustrations in books – I just feel books have this everlasting feeling behind them.

Magazines are a cool place to publish, too. It spreads your work and your name very effectively – even though magazines are somewhat of a dying media today.

Is there a different way of displaying your work that you have NOT had a chance to explore as much as you’ve wanted to so far?
You know, I’d really like to do murals. I feel like murals are an exponentially cool way of combining and expressing art and architecture – or really art and any space. I love how a mural can completely change a whole environment.

Speaking of your work and how it is exhibited, I very much enjoyed reading about the ENOX Expressions 2011 where the artworks of 40 artists were distributed all over Brazil, including ‘especially bar toilets – the best place for art ever’! That is so funny! How does it feel to have your work displayed in such a ‘unique’ location for art? Do you have any advice for anyone trying to enter the ‘art in toilets’ market?
I actually made a mistake with that quote where I said ‘especially bar toilets’. In fact, ENOX Expressions artwork were destined ONLY for bar toilets! But I have to say, bathrooms are the best – sometimes the lighting on these rooms is better than in renowned galleries!

In this case, ENOX placed the different art directly in front of, well, your ‘station area’. So while you were busy doing your ‘business’, you had plenty of time to check out the art. This project took place simultaneously in many, many toilets nation-wide including in bars, malls, and restaurants.

But you know, when I sell a small original art-work, I in fact usually suggest they hang it in their toilet! Its great marketing strategy actually, because many people use the space (= rotation!) and they have private time to appreciate it - hehehe. I guess that’s my advice for those who want to enter 'art in toilets' market.

Looking at your style in more depth, in addition to the line-work, I am especially drawn to the often understated coloration. How do you approach the colour selection for your pieces?
I’m really not that educated when it comes to colouring. I feel I still have a long way to go with that. Ha, maybe my signature ‘understated look’ is a reflection of my lack of knowledge! I don't know.

The only thing I’m really, I guess, logical about is how to use colours to (re-)enforce the message of my drawings, for example, to point out something that I want to be evident. Again, the important thing is the message behind the illustration – that’s what must be prioritised.

You also have some more abstract work in your on-line portfolio. What attracts you to this type of expression?
While I'm drawing, I'm also constantly tracing 'option lines'. Sometimes ‘the right line’ comes out with the first stroke of my pen; but other times I have to really work at it, sometimes it seems for an endless number of times until I find ‘the one’ for which I’m looking.

I find the result of this construction process fascinating and very often incorporate this to a final art-work. Using these ‘guidelines’ and when you add them all together, it may create what looks like an abstract piece; but they are actually a way to get to a figurative model. For me anyway, it’s just a way of seeing it differently.

I’m interested in some of your different ‘projects’ including that you exhibit quite a large number of ‘sketches’ and even character studies. I would think that this must be difficult if you are afraid a piece is not finished or perfected.

As such, why do you like to display your work in this more ‘unfinished’ form?
Sketchbooks are a great chance to really understand the thinking process of an artist. I believe – as many other artists do – that a sketchbook provides a look into that time when one really frees himself to create.

My sketchbook production is very prolific, but having said that I think I like to display them to show ideas that sometimes are destined to stay in an everlasting ‘unfinished look’. The key is to let it all out – and many times, my friends and fellow artists will comment on something they liked. Or even better, they’ll point out something that wasn’t clear or didn't work out for one specific piece.

In addition, I’m curious about your ‘Friday Girl’ illustrations. How did you get the idea to illustrate a different ‘femme fatale’ each week?
Friday-gal was me trying to have some sort of weekly contract or assignment that I agreed to with myself. It’s really a way of having some built in discipline. I love drawing women so I figured it would be perfect for this exercise. Something that with time could generate a series that would fit together even if the pieces themselves might be very varied.

Sometimes I don’t get a chance to be as creative as I’d like to be with this, probably because I’m busy with work. But other times I do try to come up with a different approach to an image. So I keep learning that way – and this personal growth is indispensable.

These illustrations are also interesting in that they’re not limited to just ‘girls in hot bikinis’ or other pin-up types, with some being quite full-figured and Rubenesque in their beauty. Is it important to you to vary the type of woman you are illustrating?
Again, I don't think I vary the pieces as much as I would like to. I definitely have to work more on that. But hell yeah it's important to have in your personal repertory as many girls as possible! After all, every woman is unique!

Still, as I said before it depends on the story you’re trying to tell. Sometimes for an illustration, emphasising a certain quality of the body – like is the lady slim as a twig or round like a ice-cream ball – really adds to the message you want to pass on to your viewers! And no matter what, the girls are all beautiful!

Having said that, do you have your own preference in terms of what body-types you illustrate?
My eye - or let's say my mind's eye - differentiates between what is true beauty compared to ugliness very easily. Luckily, for me, this beauty comes in many, many different ways and forms - so I couldn't say I have a preferred type. And me? Well, I try to fall in love everyday - sometimes more than 4 or 5 times a day.

You’ve mentioned having a keen interest in working on background illustration, correct? Is there a big animation industry to work with in Brazil?
Yes, I really have a strong desire to work as a background artist for animation. Works of professionals such as Eyvind Earle, Walt Peregoy, Jules Engels, Paul Julian, Bob McIntosh, Lew Keller and Mary Blair (old schoolers) and from today’s production Scott Willis, Kevin Dart, Dan Krall, William Wray and Drake Brodahl are such a great influence over me.

But the problem remains that the animation industry is VERY small in Brazil - it just isn't encouraged. In fact, Brazil lacks places to train and build these professionals. Even illustration - there's not one University with this as a major degree here.

For me, I think that drawing per se in Brazil is always associated with a type of ‘inner self-involvement’. This really saddens me, because we have so many really amazing talents down here. But most of them will never do what they want for a living (draw, animate ...) and will probably have a shitty job they hate for the rest of their lives.

But, if my dream comes true and everything works out according to plan, in the future I'll open and be responsible for operating some sort of graphic school here. This is my destiny!

I’m curious then: are you promoting your work more in South American markets or internationally?
I live in São Paulo – the third largest city in the world. Here is the place for new professionals to break-through. All the big agencies and publishers are here! So just to physically be in a city where you fit in professionally is a great start (this gives you self-promotion already).

In addition, besides my website where I try and keep my portfolio as updated as possible, plus the de la burns blog, I put my work on Facebook and try (struggle) to use Twitter with update notes and good references. I believe it's crucial for a up-and-coming professional to use all means of social media possible - since it's a dog-eat-dog world and no one is going to do your marketing for you!

Still, looking at your question, I also know that I'm a relatively new professional (3 years now)! I’m still trying to establish myself as a valuable artist here in Brazil - but I definitely want to bring my work overseas! I visited Europe for the first time in June and July of this year, where I arranged some meetings with possible clients and artists who work I enjoy. It was a great experience!

Beside that I try to keep contact with artists from all over the world (especially animators) like California, NY, Toronto, London, Paris. It's such an immense joy for me to have the opportunity to talk to another professional. And it’s a great group, as it seems that they're all willing to talk art and help out in any way they can.

So what’s next then for Bernardo França, the architect-turned-illustrator that likes to fall in love each and every day?
Clearly, I want to make a living with my personal work. I know I have a very long road to travel where I need to continue drawing – incessantly! – and also keep researching and executing as much as I can!

I am indeed aiming to become a well-know resource in any area where music and illustration meet! Or maybe even become really as an artist well-known for his women ... but not in a womaniser way!


Bernardo França is an illustrator with a unique flair, his work being often understated but certainly not underrated! Originally from Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal, he currently resides in the bustling Metropolis of São Paulo, Brazil.

They say you can learn a lot about a person from their taste in music, and if you happen to check a very limited list of Bernardo’s favourite albums of all time, you’ll see artists such as The Beastie Boys, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Bob Marley, Cypress Hill, House of Pain as well as a host of great Brazilian acts. What that then truly says about Bernardo, we’re not entirely sure, so we’ll just go with eclectic and very open-minded!

His passion for his art, the world in which he lives and all things beautiful in their own unique way – as interpreted through the eyes, the ears, the touch and more – is very evident in all of his illustrations! It’s a joy to follow him via social media as he always has AT LEAST a fun teaser sketch to share or perhaps even a simply coloured yet exquisitely lined illustration to propose! A rising talent from a wonderful area of the world that will no doubt have many years of great success to come!

Please check out more about Bernardo at these links and social media connections!




All pictures, videos and other media are used with written permission of Bernardo França, including all current or previous business affiliations related to same, or are available in the public domain (noting copyright and other restrictions, accordingly). No further reproduction or duplication is permitted without contacting the artist directly.

Some pictures have been modified slightly or combined only for the purpose of space limitations. In all cases, we invite you to visit the artist’s site(s) for more, including the links provided above.

September 6, 2011

With The Fresh Excitement Of A Child

An Interview with Rob Colvin

Part 1 of 2 (link to
Part 2)
Click on any image to enlarge

It’s that time of year again where the weather is most likely beginning to take a sharp turn in the direction in which it’s ‘supposed’ to be going for, well, this time of year. Now, unless you’re still hiding in your storm shelter owing to the A to Z collection of natural disasters the world seems to be throwing at everyone, you may have even had the chance to step outside and take in a breath of fresh (+/-) air: maybe first thing in the morning at sunrise or as the sun sets at night. Let’s just hope you do get a chance to step back and marvel at the surrounding world for a few moments!

For some, this means enjoying the stars over a valley, for others the great man-made monuments of a large metropolis. Maybe you’re enjoying it by just aiming your camera out your kitchen window once a night to see how things are shaping up for the coming season or maybe you’re just trying to catch a cool breeze as it makes it’s way across whatever small personal space you might have to put a plant or two out. There are so many beautiful places to enjoy: to capture as images, to share and to wonder about on our planet. And hopefully – in the midst of all the stupid things we humans like to participate in and get distracted by – there is at least this one thing we can all share in.

Rob Colvin has enjoyed the nature and the sheer magnitude of some awe-inspiring views for his whole life. Coming from the uncanny and even sometimes alien-looking areas of Utah and the surrounding regions, he started as well a few years back capturing views that many of us have only SO FAR (come on lucky Lotto!) found to be breath-taking through the world of the Internet or Television. But with his sharp eye for design as well as his unique take on the geometric shape of his work – sharpened by his several years of experience in graphic illustration found today in some awesome stock pictures – he has gained a well-earned reputation as a fantastic artist! We are very pleased at ZN HQ to have a few moments to share with Rob:


Welcome, Rob! Can you tell us a little bit about what you’ve got on your ‘to do’ list these days?

Well, Ziggy, I've been busy painting. You see, an art gallery in California recently contacted me about showing my work. It's the well-known
Just Looking Gallery.

The gallery is located in
San Luis Obispo in California. They represent several former illustrators, like me. So obviously, it's a great opportunity that I’m really excited about!

What sort of interesting tid-bits can you share with us about your background and what led you to where you are today?
Art has always been my inspiration and passion, even though I wasn't the most talented artist in my high school. In fact, I wasn't the most talented artist to graduate from Utah Sate University in 1984.

In fact in college, I noticed other students were much more talented as pure draftsman. They had a natural ability to look at something and render it exactly how it appeared. On the other hand, I excelled in design and composition. I made a conscious decision then to build on my strengths.

I stylized and simplified the world as I saw it. I focused on shape rather than detail. My work has evolved over the years and my drawing skills have improved, but my sense of design continues to be a hallmark of my work.

You state up front that your ‘art is about play’ and that if you’re no longer having fun with your art, then you’re ‘being way too serious’. With that in mind, I’m always interested to know how artists are wired to get that nagging (screaming?) feeling that they ARE being too serious? Do you have an internal or external ‘early warning system’ for this, you know, something along the lines of ‘well, when the dog stops playing with me, I know it’s time to take a break’?
Boredom! That's my measuring stick. That's when the passion and fun disappear.

You’re right though: it's a difficult thing to maintain a fresh look at the world. Serious routines and easy habits produce sameness and sameness leads to trite boredom. Experimentation is the answer, but with experimentation there is always failure. Trying a new approach exposes your vulnerabilities and insecurities! The road to discovery is scary, but it can open your mind to possibilities you haven't considered.

As children, we have boundless imaginations. However, we tend to lose the ability to play as we get older. We seek security and avoid risk. Stepping out of our comfort zones isn't easy, but if we approach it with a sense of adventure and play, it can be quite fun. You have to give yourself a license to fail.

How do you feel a professional artist such as yourself can maintain their sense of play without perhaps going so far as to ‘endanger’ their reputation or even becoming trite in what they release?
Yeah, there's always that worry as an artist. That if I step outside my usual style, it will confuse my audience. People will think I've lost my touch. I try not to let those ghosts haunt my studio.

I think we need to step over the edge sometimes, in order to maintain our edge. I've been stuck in enough ruts to know they can be more uncomfortable than change.

Speaking of play: what was the impetus behind your very public ‘blogging’ of your sketch-book images? How has sharing this – at least what I consider to be – ‘intimate behind the scenes’ view into your creative process affected you most?
I started that sketchblog on a whim. I saw it as an opportunity to have fun, even though it turned out to be a little more work than I imagined.

I completed an 80 page sketchbook in about 72 days. Some days I didn't have the time to work on the book, some days I was able to finish 3 pages at a time. It took a lot of energy and creativity to maintain it over time. My intention was to continue with another sketchbook, but I felt like it was becoming a performance with too many self-imposed expectations.

Looking at it a bit differently: do you think it has or could affect how your audience views your work or you as an artist?
If anything, the sketch blog expanded my audience! Those already familiar with my work got to see a more playful, less serious side of my creative process. Perhaps some people familiar with my work were confused by the direction, but the benefits outweighed any negatives in my mind.

Obviously, nature plays an important role in your work; well, not only nature, but the specific Western-slash-Rocky Mountain environments around you. I even find this to be so ‘apparent’ – perhaps because these specific views are so unknown to me except through the world of art – that it reaches a level one might associate with other artists from the ‘region’, not the least of which would be Georgia O’Keefe.

Okay, now with that long-winded introduction to my question: How has your physical location influenced your growth as an artist over the years?
I grew up surrounded by the mountains of northern Utah. The mountains have always been a source of awe and wonder to me. I can look at them again and again with the same fresh excitement I felt as a child.

More recently, the red rocks of southern Utah caught my imagination back in 1989, when we took our family on a trip to Moab. I thought then that I wanted to paint that landscape, but I had no idea on how to go about it. Ten years later an artist friend of mine, John Berry, introduced me to plein air painting. We painted in Arches National Park, in southern Utah. After that, I was hooked.

The scale of the land has also always fascinated me. It's all so monumental, so big! And I've tried to create that monumental feeling in my paintings. Sometimes I think I'm successful, sometimes not as much.

How do you think your art would differ if you were based, for example, in the valleys and canyons of New York?
I think cityscapes would be an ideal subject matter for me, because of the scale and geometry. In fact, I want to pursue that direction at some point in the near future.

Changing bytes for just a moment: you proudly posted your first, all-digital illustration back in July 2010. How has this ‘new-found’ technique affected both your creativity in terms of vision and also how you approach a piece?
I avoided the idea of creating art on the computer for years. It was just that all the computer generated art looked so mechanical and cold to me. It lacked that human touch.

Later though, a good friend,
Will Terry introduced me to a technique in Photoshop that looked just like the dry brush technique I had used for years as an illustrator. Up to now, at least, I've mostly just played around with it, you know, just experimenting to see what can be done. It's been a thrill to play with and I have completed a few commissioned illustrations digitally.

Other than that I haven't had the time to do more. I'm sure more will come of it as I move along. Two of the pieces I did just for fun were, "Nice Robot" (above right) and "They Eat Humans Too" (here, left). With these two pieces I stepped away from my conceptual approach to illustration and tried my hand at Pop Surrealism, with a humorous bent. I was quite happy with the results.

Do you foresee an eventual stage in your career where digital work ‘replaces’ all other techniques?
No, I love paint too much. There's just something magical about the tactile experience of moving paint around to create a picture.

A quality digital print from a computer doesn't even compare to the satisfaction of having a one of a kind, tangible piece of art with its rich paint and textures. Perhaps in my old age, if I'm too arthritic to move a brush, I'll do it all on the computer. Hopefully, though, that will never happen.

I did want to ask you: what’s up with all the robots? Were you attacked by a rogue toaster as a child or...?
It started with my first tin robot as a kid. You've probably seen those retro robots that were made in Japan back in the 50s and 60s? They're collector’s items now. I got one as a gift around 1964 when I was 4 years old: it made mechanical noises and had flashing lights. It also scooted along the floor and smoke floated out of it’s head. It was awesome! I've been fascinated with robots ever since.

Continued in
Part 2

With The Fresh Excitement Of A Child

An Interview with Rob Colvin

Part 2 of 2 (link to Part 1)
Click on any image to enlarge

Rob, looking at other ch-ch-changes over the years in terms of your career, from your on-line bio I was interested in particular to read:

‘At the age of thirty-nine Rob began to pursue the idea that his art needed to be more than the production of images to meet market demands, so he shifted his focus to fine art, painting the landscape he loves.’

What happened at this magical pre-40 time in your life to re-evaluate your approach? Or did I just answer my own question?
I think what happened is that I had spent sixteen years of meeting tight deadlines as an illustrator. Being an illustrator is great, but you're always creating something to meet the client’s needs. So, I wanted to break out and do something for my own creative sanity.

I wanted to try my hand at oil paint, noting I'd been painting with acrylics since high school. It was a good change for me, simply because the nature of meeting illustration deadlines and having to ship artwork overnight (back in the age before computers and scanners) was perfect a quick-drying medium like acrylics. I had done a few assignments in college with oil and I wanted to explore the whole approach further. Plus, painting landscapes really interested me.

Also - and at the risk of riling up yet another interviewee - how in YOUR eyes does the classification of ‘fine art’ distinguish itself from what you were previously producing?
Like I said, illustration requires you to create art for a clients needs. With fine art, you have the freedom to go your own direction, experiment and try new mediums.

There are many wonderful illustrators that I admire, they do amazing art! I don't have any hang ups with fine art verses illustration. There is trash and beauty in both fields.

In your fantastic interview with Anastasiia Kucherenko, you describe your love of ‘shapes and the effects of light on shapes’ and that you ‘see geometry in everything, the patterns, the lines, the shapes and the subtle colour shifts.’

How do you think your – for lack of a better word – focus on the geometrical view came into being?
Perhaps it was the experience of seeing the
Peter Max illustrations of the 1960s, (you know, like the ones he did of the Beatles), but I remember loving the simplicity and just the general design. Also, all throughout high school I really admired the work of Don Weller. He's a master of design and drawing.

Both artists simplified the world – for me at least – in a fun and playful way. Their use of flat shapes and design really influenced my work through high school and college. One of my favorite pieces in the 70s was a portrait of Elton John that Don Weller created for a Time Magazine cover.

Your interest in form and the often monumental views you paint seem to strike a balance somewhere between different art worlds, including impressionism or even cubism. Were these important ‘styles’ that may have influenced you? What do you think has been your most important influence to-date?
Yeah, cubism has been a big influence in my portrayal of the land. I don't follow the pure philosophy of the cubists, but I enjoy the visual tapestry I can create by breaking the world up into shapes.

My favorite post-impressionist would be Cezanne, he made modern art possible. But it's hard to say which artist has been most influential on me. There are so many! The great Canadian painter,
Lawren S. Harris is one of my heroes. I love Maynard Dixon. I think most people familiar with their work would see their influence on me. Ed Mell is also an influence.

With that in mind though, if we look at the recurring ‘themes’ that have appeared in your work for commissions, for sheer illustration purposes or your fine art, one wonders: what is Rob Colvin’s signature style? Do you even want a recognizable style?
I think being put in a niche is like falling into a rut. It can be claustrophobic as an artist. I'm uncomfortable with the idea that I must do things certain ways because that’s what people expect out of me.

I value freedom in my work over an adoring audience. In my mind, my work has a clear consistency: the way I see the world is similar, whether it's a robot or a red rock. I want to show in my works a combination of strong design, soft edges, monumental scale and my sense of color! I want of all of these to shine through.

You’ve mentioned that you loved to draw as a child and that your parents encouraged your artistic interests. Let’s turn that around slightly: do any of your half-a-dozen offspring show a similar interest? Is Dad as encouraging as his parents were or does he shout out instead ‘oh no you don’t, you’re getting a real job!!’ (Trust me: both my parents were design school graduates and in our house it was VERBOTEN!)?
My oldest daughter earned a degree in graphic design, after doing it for a couple years she went back to school to get her masters degree in accounting. She's a very talented designer, but she decided she wanted something a little more “stable”.

All three of my sons have a talent for drawing, but none have chosen to follow in their father’s footsteps. I've never pushed it; I don't want them to think they have to be just like me.

Looking at a very fun - and hopefully, very profitable - aspect of your work: how would you compare your approach to one of your mountain scenes to producing "stock illustration" as you might find for sale on ‘Illustration Source’?
Much of my stock illustration was created for clients over the years. But since I retain copyrights, I've been able to place them on-line for resale. It’s only been in the past ten years or so that I've specifically created illustrations for resale on stock illustration sites. This usually involves an idea that I come up with that might fit a trend in the marketplace.

I enjoy doing them, but I find much more satisfaction in creating landscapes.

Continuing to examine the business side of the, uh, business for a moment: as a prominent American painter, your work is featured across the nation in several fine galleries and also by those individuals or corporations that have purchased your work. How then has the business of promoting your work changed over the years from the ‘physical’ world of galleries to pushing your wares via the Internet?
The Internet has evened the score in so many ways. There are so many opportunities out there.

When I started out, I had to have a portfolio booklet and promo flyers printed. I had to go to the library or news stands to gather information on potential publishers and periodicals worth pursuing. I had to call art directors to set appointments to show my portfolio, (if they had the time.) Before fax machines I had to send my sketches overnight via Fed-ex. The final art was shipped overnight as well. I often shipped my portfolio overnight for job bids. But again: the digital revolution has changed everything. I can have my portfolio in front of someone on the other side of the world instantly.

With that in mind, does an artist today need to ‘design’ if you will images that not only look good ‘up on the wall’ but also on tee-shirts, greeting cards, stickers or even calendars to name a few? Are these focus areas for you or is it more ‘the nature of the beast’ these days?
No, I just like to dabble all over the place. My interest is in creating passive revenue streams.

That's what stock illustration was for me when it first came into being. It provided me with a passive income so I could pursue other directions. Stock illustration was, and still is, condemned by the elitists of the illustration world. I saw it as inevitable.

And sure: I could either stand on the sidelines and whine about the changes in the marketplace – or I could do as I chose to do and that was jump on board and enjoy the ride. The Internet continues to change how art is bought and sold; all we can do is learn how it works and pursue the opportunities.


Rob Colvin is a well-known American artist that has been both crafting conceptual illustration for over twenty years as well as producing scores of amazing paintings of landscapes and more! His overall sense of design, geometric form and the use of imagery combine to create a very unique and stylized look and his work has appeared in a wide variety of media internationally.

Oh and you can even get some of his more playful stuff as a
tee-shirts, too! Just sayin’!

Rob grew up in the beautiful Wasatch Mountain community of North Ogden Utah. It was there that his creative spirit was encouraged and nurtured by his parents. Thanks to their loving support as well as the added influence of some outstanding teachers and artistic heroes of the time, he knew his life’s occupation would be art. And despite rumours to the contrary, he not only graduated from Utah State University in 1984 with a degree in illustration but did so with a darn fine grade-point average as well!

After some 16 years or so of battling deadlines and the multitude of the other ‘fun’ aspects of being a professional stunt driver, we mean, illustrator, he later began to pursue the idea that his art needed to be more than the production of images to meet market demands. It was then shortly before the tender age of 40 that he shifted his focus to fine art, painting the landscapes he always loved and at which he still marvels to this day. He is now a highly sought after artist, known for his strikingly beautiful compositions that sensitively express the form, scale and beauty he sees in some of the most magnificent places on our planet.

Rob’s studio is located in his Morgan, Utah home. He enjoys working from home and the freedom it has given him to spend time with his wife and six children.


All pictures, videos and other media are used with written permission of Rob Colvin, including all current or previous business affiliations related to same, or are available in the public domain (noting copyright and other restrictions, accordingly). No further reproduction or duplication is permitted without contacting the artist directly. Kindly note that some images used for this article are listed as 'archived' (= sold) and are only included for the purpose of expanding the provided gallery.

Some pictures have been modified slightly or combined only for the purpose of space limitations. In all cases, we invite you to visit the artist’s site(s) for more, including the following: