Unique style brings artwork to life
A white board helps Dolores artist capture a slightly surrealistic West
Sam Green/Cortez Journal
Artist Joseph Robertson, of Dolores, takes iconic Western images and transforms them into vibrant masterpieces using the scratchboard style.
Scratchboard art is an etching technique whereby a white board is covered in black India ink then etched using hand tools such as needles and scalpels. Color can then be brushed into the scratch, using acrylics in transparent wash.
Robertson is inspired by wildlife, natural landscapes, Native American, and cowboy subjects. His attention to detail is impressive - skills honed over many years.
"I've been using this technique for 17 years," he said during an interview at the Guy Drew Vineyards tasting room inside Mesa Verde Pottery, where his work is displayed. "It is a really beautiful medium."
Using photo reference and imagination, Robertson lays out his subjects on the canvas in a slightly surrealistic way, but stays true to the subject matter.
"I try and capture the image that the mind's eye sees when you take a photo," he said. "The photo always turns out blurry and pixelated, but what the mind sees, and wants it to be is perfect and alive and colorful, so that is what I strive to re-create."
Viewing his works is like imagining in 3D what occurs in the natural world when no one is looking. A bear relaxes in the tall grass, as a hummingbird feeds on a colorful flower; a roadrunner is propped up on a blooming cactus; a porcupine contentedly gnaws on an elk antler.
"Photo realism is very in right now," Robertson says. "The ability to take something from a photograph and then put your own personality into it is my style of artistic expression. You can accentuate certain details that you lose in a photo."
When not in his studio, or on the road showing his work, Robertson will be stalking nature for future projects.
"Between Mancos and Dolores there is a small herd of bison. I stopped the other day and sat in a ditch for an hour taking photos," he says. He points to a magnificent piece of a buffalo weathering a snowstorm that was the end result.
He has an affinity for donkeys, cougars and elk, and has obvious respect for lobos and javelinas. But plain old people inspire him as well.
"Many of the cowboys and Native Americans in my paintings are friends of mine from the area," he says. "If you hang around me for a while you'll end up in one of my art pieces!"
When the Hollywood Bar burned down last year it took next door Fusion Studios with it. Robertson lost 22 original pieces in the fire. But he has not let the loss bring him down.
"It was tragic, but I have moved on. Everyday I find something new and end up going down another rabbit hole," he said. "The Southwest is my inspiration, my livelihood."
His artwork is reasonably priced, and can be viewed and purchased at Mesa Verde Pottery in Cortez and at www.joesartgallery.net
He will be a featured artist at the 19th Annual Autumn Arts Festival in Durango Sept. 21 and 22 on East Second Avenue.