September 6, 2011

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:

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