Kirkwood artist and educator Mark Robinson is displaying his work through Sept. 30 at the Kirkwood Train Station.
photo by Bill Burckhalter (click for larger version)
September 20, 2013Kirkwood resident Mark Robinson has always loved mountains and music. Now he has reclaimed his love for painting. Robinson is displaying his watercolor talent at the Kirkwood Train Station through Sept. 30, during Art at the Station, sponsored by the Kirkwood Area Arts Council. Born and raised in Kirkwood, Robinson attended Robinson Elementary School and Kirkwood High School. He attended the University of Kansas (KU), and while he was involved in musical reviews and theater, he graduated with a degree in illustration.
Although he had the interest and ability to paint, he admitted that he did not have the attention span to sit for hours painting when he wanted to be someplace else.
After graduation from KU, he felt something was lacking.
"I discovered teaching and became a teacher at Hope Montessori in Creve Coeur," he said. "I teach kindergarten and I'm happy that I'm able to incorporate my art and my music in my classroom."
For years, he was a choir section leader at First Presbyterian Church in Kirkwood, and is now vocal leader and guitarist in the Praise Team at the church's Contemporary Arise Service, "while I still have the voice to sing," he said.
"But my friends and family kept reminding me, 'When are you going to paint?'" he said. "I knew that I had the talent, but with working, traveling and raising children, I could always come up with an excuse."
Having children did not keep him entirely away from his painting. He got out his watercolors and would do one painting a year. For a while, he did paintings of people's homes. Then an interior design company commissioned him to do a mural, which led to other work.
But, he still had that desire to immerse himself in the painting that he felt inside, the subjects that moved him to do more of what he wanted.
On a trip to Africa, he took a picture of a group of young boys, and he fell in love with photography. This love became the basis for his painting.
His painting titled "The Boys of Chief Makuni's Village, Zambia, Africa," came from his photo. "Potted Geraniums in Aunt Doris's Courtyard" came from a photo he took while attending an art institute in San Miguel de Allende in Central Mexico.
"This led to more portraits from San Miguel, which inspired some watercolors on my part," he said.
While, by his own admission, Robinson would continue to "dabble" for a year, he now says the time is right to take it a step further.
"I'm in that groove where I'm just ready for it," he said. "This is the time of my life."
Enjoying the Process
Any creative endeavor takes time, and painting also takes the space to be able to walk away for a time without taking apart the workplace.
"Jim Kosvanec, a nationally-known watercolor artist that I studied with, taught me how to leave my watercolors out so I don't have to clean them off," Robinson said. "I add supplements and just cover them. I was able to manage my work much better.
"He taught me how to wet my paper, staple it to keep it from bubbling, and have it ready to go, but mostly how to work on some watercolor, walk away for a new perspective, then come back two or three days later and do more.
"Kosvanec showed me how I can paint little bits at a time," he said. "It took me a year to paint the African children because once I started painting each face, and with the layers of faces, I realized that if I ruined one face, the whole picture was ruined. So I had to be incredibly careful, and I almost went through a panic phase worrying about 'What if I ruin it?" so I would get nervous. Then I would buckle down and get right into it."
Robinson compares painting to running a marathon.
"Sometimes, it can be almost a painful experience, but once I complete it, it's so rewarding," he said. "I'm enjoying the process more as I trust myself and get more confident about what I'm doing, plus allowing myself to make mistakes. Maybe a painting isn't going to work out and I need to let it go. That's hard to do."
Robinson and his wife, Susan, have three children; Jordy, who lives in Orlando, and Emily and Max who live in Durango, Colo.
"My family is a big inspiration for me," he said. "I love to paint when I'm happy and my family makes me happy."
Colorado and the mountains also make him happy and he will be returning there in a few weeks, where he will find inspiration for mountain watercolors.
"My goal is to do bigger paintings that I can eventually take to Colorado and show in some galleries there," he said. "I want to work on paintings that could possibly be duplicated as I start focusing on ways to commercialize it a bit."
Art at the Station
Last year, Kirkwood City Council Member Nancy Luetzow, who happens to be Robinson's friend, told him that it was time to show his art.
The Kirkwood Area Arts Council saw his paintings and invited him to display his work at Art at the Station. His collection features, in addition to those mentioned, landscapes, still lifes and portraits.
Robinson's show will be at the Kirkwood Train Station through Sept. 30. For more information, call 965-7100 or visit email@example.com.