Artist Robert Benson presents an inviting collection of watercolors that depict the flow of everyday life. Learn more and see his portfolio on his website.
I have been an artist my whole life. That may sound like a cliché, but I have been drawing and painting since my teens. I was blessed to have a high school art program that allowed me to major in art, taking drawing and painting courses and even advertising art.
I went on to the Art Institute of Pittsburgh to study graphic design and illustration, graduating in 1975. Shortly after that, I moved to Colorado to pursue a 25-year career in commercial art.
During that time, I started painting watercolors, joined a co-op gallery and started selling my work. I focused a lot on local urban landscapes in Denver. I was particular to vintage movie theater marquees and weathered signage on city streets, drawn by my love of graphic design and letterforms. Rocky Mountain scenes also were in the mix, along with still life subjects. Watercolor is still my medium of choice.
In 2001, I moved to Sonoma County, California and began painting local landscape, still life and more recently, figurative works. Landscape subjects became vineyards, Pacific coast subjects, rural scenes with old barns, trucks and cars. The still life images shifted more to wine, fruit, and conveying a spirit of an abundant lifestyle.
The outdoor light in Northern California is much softer than in the higher altitudes in Colorado, and is a challenge to capture. I found inspiration in the early California tonalists and plein air painters from the late 1800’s to early 1900’s.
My watercolors became softer in style and much more impressionistic. Sometimes my more recent work gets mistaken for being pastels.
The biggest influence on my work was from eight years studying with master watercolorist Dick Cole. We shared a background in commercial art and illustration, and his direct method of instruction was perfect for me. He also became a close friend and confidant, like a father. He encouraged me to paint more figures and I started doing more people and animals. I began promoting my work to pet owners for private commissioned pet portraits.
Most recently, I’ve been inspired by the work of painters I see on social media doing opaque watercolors—gouache. This little shift in medium has pushed me to work quickly, in a more spontaneous fashion, and produces paintings that have a crisp, fresh quality that is much different than my transparent watercolors. I am always looking for new things to learn, subjects to paint, and new methods to explore.