How I Do This – Robert Szot – Ep 14
January 26, 2022
ON TODAY’S EPISODE
Becoming an artist does not come with an instruction manual. The journey to find ourselves and our art is not “one size fits all” and could be described as non-linear at best. So the question remains: How do we pull this off? That’s why I started this podcast. Depending on who you ask, there are a million different answers and always something to learn.
My guest for this episode is Robert Szot. Rob is a New York-based painter smack dab in the middle of his purpose. He holds the wisdom and clarity of an artist who’s been making their art for over 20 years, yet he exudes the passion and drive of someone just starting out. Listen as he shares about finding his way as a painter, breaking down the barriers between life and art, and creating art that sparks a connection.
Listen if you are interested in…
- Rob’s background, how he got his start, and working through the ups and downs [3:23]
- Breaking down the barrier between life and art [10:59]
- Diving into Rob’s creative process and the logistics of his art [18:52]
- Rob’s relationship with line, shape, and color [33:28]
- The feeling Rob wants to convey with his artwork [40:25]
Step outside of the box
One of the craziest things about Robert Szot is that he doesn’t have any formal art training. And while you don’t need formal training to be a good artist, most people have at least taken an introductory class before they decide to make a career out of it. Not Rob. At the age of 25, he decided to move to New York City and pursue art professionally. That was 20 years ago and he hasn’t looked back. Bottom line: If it makes sense to Rob, he does it. And I think that’s what makes his art so good. It’s not only an extension of Rob but it’s marked by the same freedom of expression that he approaches art-making with. He doesn’t look at a blank canvas with a list of do’s and don’ts found in an art school textbook. He allows the painting to tell him what it needs instead of the other way around.
For Rob, painting is all about relationships. Whenever he starts a piece, the first day is about establishing interesting and contentious connections between the elements of line, shape, and color. Then he either complicates or resolves those relationships as the painting develops. His biggest advice for the creative process is not to get attached to a small square on a canvas. Sure, you can use it as something to build off of, but nothing should be considered too precious to surrender if the painting requires it. We have to let our art take on a life of its own while we’re creating it and not force it to be something that it isn’t.
Break down the walls between you and your art
Rob constantly tries to remove any barrier between who he is and the art he’s creating. His goal is to maintain a consistent dialogue with his work and he achieves that by being in the studio every day. He encourages artists who want to break the art/life barrier to be present and live amongst their work to keep the conversation going. By constantly immersing yourself in the world that is your art, the barrier between it and everything else begins to erode.
The fruit of this effort is that you no longer have to look towards external sources for inspiration. In fact, when your work becomes a part of who you are, inspiration isn’t even necessary. There is an endless well of work inside you that is begging to come out. Another benefit to breaking that barrier is that your work changes with your life. Keeping a fresh perspective in your art is both critical and challenging. Every artist wants their work to be uniquely theirs and constantly evolving. By decompartmentalizing your life and art, you open yourself up to a level of authenticity that naturally causes your art to change when you do.
Creating art to create connection
Art is predominantly subjective. Especially if you’re trying to enjoy it. You would be hard-pressed to find two people who get the same exact feeling from the same piece of art. And therein lies the beauty of what it means to be an artist. You can communicate chapters, books, and volumes with a single stroke of your brush. The feeling Rob aims to convey in his work is that there was real thought and effort put into it. That no line or color was used by accident and that everything on the canvas was done with intention. He wants those who enjoy his work to say “There’s a message in there…somewhere” even if they (Rob included) don’t quite know what that message is.
Beyond a first glance, Rob wants people to develop a relationship with his paintings. He calls it a “slow unfolding” as each canvas has an ever-evolving story to tell. In the same way that he’s been dialoguing with a piece during its creation process, he wants viewers to start their own conversations with his work…even if that conversation is filled with silent reflection. Ultimately, Rob wants to create connections with his art. He loves the idea that long after he’s gone his “ghost” will be hanging out in an art gallery waiting to have a conversation with the next person that passes by.
Resources & People Mentioned
- SoHo Art Materials – where Rob gets his aluminum stretcher bars: https://sohoartmaterials.com/
- Aluminum stretcher bars: https://sohoartmaterials.com/tri-mar-aluminum-stretchers
- Belgian linen – this is what Rob paints on: https://sohoartmaterials.com/raw-linen/5281-belgian-linen
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the founder of Art2Life.
With over 20 years experience as a working artist and educator, I’ve developed a systematic approach that brings authenticity, spontaneity and joy back into the creative process.