Robert W. Pillsbury
Robert became involved in the local art community upon his retirement, becoming a member of SCAA in 2021. He has been an active member and participant in various national arts organizations for years and was a member of and supported local art organizations on the Central Jersey Shore where he also lived. He spent 13 yrs. on the Board of the historic Salmagundi Club in New York City, six of those as President. During his administration, he oversaw the restoration of the Club’s 150-year-old art gallery and reinstated their traditional monotype parties. His artwork has been shown and exhibited in galleries and institutions both within the United States and internationally. He has received numerous awards and accolades throughout his decades long career, including in publications such as Fine Art Connoisseur and American Art Collector. You can follow Robert on his Instagram and Facebook.
Where are you from, and what do you make?
Originally from New Hampshire, I literally grew up in a lakefront backyard. This is where my fascination with water and landscape began. The subtle colors of an afternoon sunset, the strong form of a body of clouds moving on the wind in an Autumn sky, the soft textures in the sand on a morning beach, this is the art in Nature which surrounded me every day. It had a long-term effect on my subject matter artistically and the quiet peaceful feeling my work conveys.
I make paintings and prints… My choice of materials for painting are encaustic. Beeswax mixed with damar resin and pigment applied to panels with the use of heat to melt the layers of wax in between applications. I apply layer after layer of wax and pigment creating a distinctive depth and surface. Like my encaustics, my monotypes and monoprints communicate a similar contemplative environmental observation to the viewer.
What inspires you to create?
I draw every day no matter where I am, in the studio or out and about. On trains, planes, and automobiles, I always have a sketchbook and pencil on me. Creativity for me is directly tied to how I see. As I look at my surroundings, I visualize a composition in my head. It becomes a thumbnail sketch that will lead to a drawing or a painting or perhaps an etching. I never really know for sure where it will go, I just know I must capture it. How it felt, what things looked like, how things are illuminated, how the atmosphere felt, it all stays in my mind until I do something with it. The vast array of beauty in the world around us, ever changing every minute, every moment, presents a limitless source for inspiration.
Which artist outside of your chosen medium has had the most impact on your art? What do they do and in what way do they influence you?
The first time I viewed one of Edward Steichen’s photographs in person was at MOMA in the early 1970’s while visiting from school in Baltimore. I did not realize the extent of influence his work had had unconsciously on my own until 2007 when my NYC gallerist sold one of my etchings to his widow Joanna Taub Steichen. It was then that I reflected on my body of work and his and saw the parallels of atmospheric composition and Pictorialism Style. Alfred Stieglitz described this aesthetic movement that dominated photography from 1885-1915, “Atmosphere is the medium through which we see all things. In order, therefore, to see them in a photograph, as we do in Nature, atmosphere must be there. Atmosphere softens all lines; it graduates the transition from light to shade; it is essential to the reproduction of the sense of distance. That dimness of outline which is characteristic for distant objects is due to atmosphere. Now, what atmosphere is to Nature, tone is to a picture.”
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