We had the pleasure of talking to Los Angeles graphic designer/artist/human Roborob who recently had his first art show at SS Gallery in the Arts District this past January.
Can you explain to our readers who may not know what you do, what it is you do exactly? What would be your title if you could give yourself a title?
I do whatever I want. Mostly painting and graphic design, but I believe art is about embracing whims and creating things just because it felt like a good idea. Saying I do whatever I want sounds vague, but if I stuck myself with the label “painter” that would really limit my ability to create. It’s the same reason that girl you’re dating won’t let you put a label on it, once you know exactly what’s going on, things get stale and it’s downhill from there! If I have to call myself something, I’m an artist. But my business card would say Professional Whatever.
(Official Statement of Critical Commentary)
How did you start working on your craft and how has your style evolved to what it is now?
Well I did my undergrad in graphic design, so a lot of people are confused by my inclination toward painting. In actuality fine art came first for me, I enjoyed graphic design as a different way to explore my creativity and I figured I could find work with that degree, but I’ve always enjoyed both. I never had much time to explore painting until this past year and it has been a huge learning experience. I feel like I’m making up for all the time I didn’t spend taking fine art classes.
My fine art background always influenced my design, and now my design background is influencing my artwork. I think that explains my recent obsession with documents and replication. Those aren’t things generally explored in fine art, but I feel that anything can be recreated poetically, even a static document. And that is where fine art takes place.
(Still Life New Love)
You’re highly skilled in illustrating and painting with a realistic quality and yet you also have projects like R’S T-SHITS. If someone who didn’t know the work was done only by one artist they’d probably think it was two separate artists’ work. Do you see yourself as two separate artists with separate points of view or do the two sides work with each other somehow?
Haha, I feel like several different artists. I see it as a blessing and a curse. I’ve always envied artists with one specific style because it is so much easier to get a following and get people on board with what you’re doing. Now that I’m exploring my aesthetic more, I’m seeing that I do have a style, it’s just a lot more broad and it takes a lot more work to explain it and tie it together.
R’s T-shits was created for the punk in me. A side of myself that rarely gets any say in the rigid graphic design environment I’m used to working in, or the serious painterly trance I go into when working on art at home. I consider R’s T-shits a fine art piece only because the purpose was to get original, one-of-a-kind prints in the hands of people that normally can’t afford artwork. Each shirt was like a portrait of a different personality. I also just wanted to build my screen printing chops before I started screen printing on glass, which I’ve been doing in my fine art. But aside from them being one-of-a-kind, I try to keep it separate from my art as much as possible, just so I don’t get everyone confused!
You recently had your first art show here in the Arts District in LA. Can you talk about the process, the time and the work that you put into it?
Yes, the show. It was a lot of fun, one of my friends accidently referred to it as my birthday party when talking to me about it after, haha. I haven’t had much artwork in actual galleries and I really just wanted to throw a big celebration and have everyone I know come, and see some good art there. I got really lucky finding a gallery space. I had made an appointment to see a space one day and I couldn’t find it, I asked one fellow if he knew where it was and he was so surprised by what they were charging so he took me over to his gallery which was way bigger and the vibe was just perfect. As soon as I saw it I knew my show had to be there, and he knew too, he was as excited as I was!
Because I’ve been focusing on fine art for the last few months I didn’t have much money so I sold most of my music equipment and some old art pieces for really cheap. I put up a donation page for the art show and I was amazed at how many of my friends contributed. Another friend of mine has a wood shop and we built tables for the show. It really turned out to be a group effort and I’m really thankful to all of my friends. Some of them were with me the night I set up. We were trying to suspend pieces in air but we ran out of time, the show would have wound up looking like Dalí Atomicus! I think I spent whatever money I had left on the day of the show on beer and wine, we ran out right when the party was over and I’m still amazed it lasted that long. I feel like we fed 5,000 with five loaves of bread.
(Wall Map and Replica)
What are your thoughts on working in a structured environment and working for someone else versus working for yourself and/or doing commissioned work?
Working for myself is an amazing feeling, but not in an immediate way. Being an artist at home is difficult, it can even be depressing, and frustrating. It’s hard to concentrate and you’re never satisfied with your level of production. You can’t tell if you’re doing things right because with art, you make it up as you go. I miss my friends and I miss having a community. But I have to say, when I’m at work in a design office, all I do is dream about when I’ll be able to do it all again. I may be a masochist, but I think that’s just what art is about, working under any circumstances. I do a lot of freelance design work so that I can balance my double-life, but I really feel like I’m half-assing two things. I sold some pieces at the show and it’s making me wonder what I would have to do to survive on fine art full time. Thinking about taking that leap…