“I have always been able to find the beauty of the human spirit and inject that into my artwork”
Robert Reid is an extraordinary artist from Trinidad and Tobago, who’s currently living in New York. It’s not a coincidence that you can feel through his artwork the passion and the color of the Caribbean, with the soul of the big city.
He doesn’t define his artwork as political, just human, as he says, his primary subject is the human form, specially inspired by the female figure. From styled figurative realism painting in oils, to drawing in charcoal and pencil, Reid’s pieces are a universal language where we can all be inspired.
In this Q&A Robert Reid shares with PoseSpace part of his beautiful pieces, how his style changed over the years, how growing up in the Caribbean inspired his art work, and more.
Can you tell us about your background as an artist?
My creative journey began in Trinidad and Tobago (my birthplace) where I was introduced to several significant Caribbean artists. They mentored and nurtured my natural, untrained talent. After migrating to New York, I attended The School of Visual Arts followed by a 4-year certificate program at The Art Students League studying under Ted Seth Jacobs, Michael Grimaldi and Peter Cox.
What was it like growing up in the Caribbean and how has that influenced your work as an artist ?
The first things that come to mind are the Carnival experience and the lush landscapes…from the vibrant colors the way we walk…. the way we talk … I try to incorporate all that into my work. There’s a certain freedom…a certain joy, laughter, and rhythm. Hopefully the viewer can recognize these elements in my work.
What life experiences have influenced your work?
My various occupations have exposed me to a wide variety of personalities. I have always been able to find the beauty of the human spirit and inject that into my artwork.
What do you think of PoseSpace? Do you have a favorite model?
I think PoseSpace is a great resource for artists to use photo references, especially in recent times when we are so isolated from the live studio. Whether formulating ideas for a composition or using photos in illustration projects, PoseSpace provides a wonderful online reference site. While I have several favorites, I am partial to Thea … there’s just something about her poses that moves me from the visual to my expressions on paper.
How has your style changed over the years?
I don’t think my style has changed. I do hope that it has expanded. While working in different mediums, I am more confident in my line and enjoy a sense of greater freedom in my quick sketches.
What are your favorite mediums and why?
Watercolor / Graphite pencil / Conte` a Paris
Watercolor: There’s a freedom that comes with watercolor, but yet still there’s a certain amount of speed that you have to have and swift decision making, knowing that you can’t go back or redo certain areas of the painting. That’s why it is unforgiving yet so beautiful.
Graphite Pencil: I first fell in love with it doing architectural drawing so that has always been a special influence.
Conte’ a Paris (crayons and sketching pencil): A few years ago, I resumed using Conte a Paris and I rediscovered the beauty of it, especially with my quick sketches.
How do you start a work – do you have any ritual?
Watercolor- I always start with a pencil drawing to make sure I’m satisfied with the composition. I then stretch the paper and take it from there.
Oils on Canvas – I do a charcoal drawing, first check it and then double check, to make sure that I like the composition, and the drawing is precise. Once satisfied, it is sprayed with fixative then I move on to painting the larger shapes and background.
In terms of routine- I sometimes use a timer, so it helps my focus as I wouldn’t leave the studio until the timer goes off. I enjoy listening to music as I work, Calypso music and jazz vocals are my favorites.
Do you have a favorite living artist, whether famous or completely unknown?
I do. I truly admire Paul Goodnight @paulgoodnightart for his illustrations of the African -American experience. I would also add Thomas Blackshear @thomsablacksheariiart / Zhaoming Wu @zhaomingwuart J.Hunsung @j.hunsung are also among my favorites.
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