Artist Interview :: Mario A. Robinson

It was a privilege to feature one of my favorite master painters, Mario Andres Robinson in our next Artist Interview blog! I am drawn to his watercolor paintings; his work beautifully portrays solitude, emotion, and reflection, all themes I strive to capture as an aspiring professional artist! It is evident that Robinson was influenced by the technique of the old masters, such as Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer, and Edgar Degas. Did I mention he also studied at the prestigious Pratt Institute in New York and is a brand ambassador for Winsor & Newton? Suffice it to say, Robinson is a genius artist of our time. I hope you find the interview below insightful and inspiring! 

Mario A. Robinson Interview

Q1. What is your style of painting and drawing referred to? For our art students, would you please describe what this style means or represents?

M.R. – I am an American realist painter, working in the tradition of 19th and 20th century masters such as Andrew Wyeth, Winslow Homer and Thomas Eakins. This style of art depicts social realities and activities of everyday people.

Q2. Much of your recent work features portraits and figurative work. What is the story or inspiration behind your choice of subject matter?

M.R. – I am drawn to painting and drawing portraits of human beings, largely because I’m fascinated by human behavior. Everything we do from the time we wake up in the morning until we ultimately fall asleep requires a decision. While there are other genres that interest me, there is nothing more complex or challenging than capturing the idiosyncrasies of a person. I also use portraiture to assist me in understanding the world in which I live. My sitters include my family members, close friends and art models. Each of these facets represents parts of my life and fuels my creativity in a profound manner. I believe honesty is a vital component when setting out to create a powerful work of art. The stories I tell are derived from the interaction of people I’ve spent time with and find interesting. My images aren’t tinged with fantasy or allegory. If you truly pay attention, you’ll discover that real moments are more rich and captivating than anything loosely based on reality.       

Q3. Our students are interested in the latest tools of the trade. May I please inquire your preference for paints and brushes? Is your work on cotton canvas? What brands and types of tools work best for you? Do you ever make your own paint or have custom pigments made to order for any of your projects? Do you finish with a varnish or leave as is?

M.R. – My primary medium of choice is watercolor. As a Brand Ambassador for Winsor & Newton, I’m fortunate to have access to the full range of products. The pigments I use are Winsor and Newton Professional Grade watercolors. In terms of brushes, I prefer the Series 7 kolinsky sable watercolor brush. It holds loads of water and comes to a fine point. The sizes I use range from size #00 -#14. My paper choice is manufactured by Arches (300 lb cold-pressed).

In terms of oil paint, I use Winsor & Newton Artist’s Oil Colour. I use hog hair bristles for my underpaintings and Monarch brushes for blended areas and fine detail. These synthetic brushes are similar to Mongoose hair and more durable. I prefer to paint on linen bonded to panels as a support. I use Sansador to thin the paint in the initial layer, however I don’t use any mediums in subsequent layers.

Q4. At what age did you realize you were an art spirit?

M.R. – My creative gift was discovered by my fifth grade teacher. We were preparing for an open house and my task was to draw several U.S. Presidents. The result of that singular event changed the trajectory of my life. I was placed in a Talented and Gifted program in the 6th grade, and art became the central focus of my life from that moment until this present time.

Q5. Did anyone try to talk you out of fulfilling your dream as an artist? If so, how did you handle it?

M.R. – My mother is a practical thinker and could not see the creation of art as a viable career choice. I believe she tolerated my hours of drawing in isolation when I was younger. However when I announced my intentions to study art on the university level, it became clear to everyone that my “hobby” wasn’t taking a back seat to a more respectable profession. I served in the U.S. Army prior to attending Pratt Institute. While I did receive discipline and a solid work ethic, it galvanized my resolve to become a professional artist by committing to hard work and fighting every day for what I believed.

Q6. How did Ann Long Fine Art Gallery and you become acquainted? Did you seek them out or did they find you?

M.R. – I was referred to Ann Long Fine Art by one of Ann Long Merk’s collectors, who found my work on the Internet. She’s a well known interior designer and mentioned that my work would fit well in the city of Charleston. I contacted the gallery, based on that recommendation. I have been represented by the gallery for 15 of the gallery’s 20 years in business. Our relationship has been fruitful. It’s one of the first pivotal decisions I made early in my career. I left a smaller gallery to join the roster of artists at ALFA. As a young artist, I realized that as enjoyable as the process of creating art can be—it’s primarily a business that requires an artist to make decisions devoid of emotion.

Q7. What tasks does a gallery handle on your behalf?

M.R. – In my case, the artist/gallery relationship is fueled largely by the exposure I’m able to garner through various projects in which I’m involved. The gallery provides a stable destination for potential collectors to view works in a traditional manner as well as provide pertinent information about my works and career. Unfortunately, the new reality of online art sales has minimized the role of the gallery representative. Artists are now capable of performing many of the same tasks as galleries via free social media outlets and websites.

Q8. Art can touch people’s lives, bringing happiness and hope. For example, my boss’ art school partners with CoachArt to provide free art classes for families impacted by childhood chronic illness. Is there a charity you are fond of or support, that you might like my readers to learn more about?

M.R. – My friend and fellow artist Bo Bartlett has an art program, “Home is Where the Art Is.” Artists and students help guide and assist individuals in the homeless community to create their own unique pieces of art. The program takes place every Thursday morning at Safe House at Rose Hill Methodist Church in Columbus, Georgia. To learn more, you can visit their Facebook page, Home is Where the Art Is.

Q9. In closing, do you have a favorite quote, mantra or process that you find inspiring or helpful when faced with a creative block, that you would like to share with our readers?

M.R. – I like artist Chuck Close’ quote: “The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the n, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.” – Chuck Close

To learn more about this remarkable artist, please enjoy visiting his website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter account.
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