Name: Robert Fox
Home: Oregon, USA
Medium: Glass, clay, fiber, bronze, ink, colored pencils, pastels
Member of Artist Co-ops: Lunaria in Silverton, Oregon and Red Raven in Salem, Oregon
Robert Fox is willing to answer some questions as this month’s featured artist even as he is busy getting ready for “the big show” which for him is 11 days at the Oregon State Fair.
He is part of the Artisan Village, where a group of artists not only display and sell their art, they demonstrate how to make the pieces. He will be creating pendants and earrings from glass rods using a torch.
Full disclosure, he is not someone I started following on twitter. I met him years ago in an art class at a community college. He is my husband.
So, let me share some things I learned in the following interview:
What were your first memories of doing art or having an interest in art?
In grade school I would draw people from my imagination. Classmates would ask, “Who are they?” and I’d respond, “They’re no one in particular, they’re from my mind.”
What kinds of things spark your imagination?
Movement…the flow of different things. I’m inspired by so many things around me: wire, fibers, tiny plants, huge skylines, anything visual. When I’m in the shower or on a long drive there is a part of my brain that relaxes and I create art pieces. I can work out a detailed mechanism or solve a design problem.
Some artists take classes, some have mentors, while others are self-taught. In what ways did you learn your present skills?
I’m mostly self-taught. I took some classes in art history and different technical classes, learning things that were harder for me to sort out for myself. What kinds of gas mixes for torch work, specific chemicals for glaze making. Those classes not only helped me with technique, but with vocabulary, like the different types of frescoes.
Sometimes I would have an idea of something I thought was unique and I’d be sitting in an art class looking at a photo of something done hundreds of years ago by the Greeks. Well, I’d think to myself, that’s another thing I’m too late to invent.
Presently, I’m not taking any classes, although I have been going to a weekly life drawing “group” for about eleven years. No matter what other medium I’m working in…this weekly artist circle brings my focus back to drawing and practicing my eye-perspective coordination.
Would you tell us a little about some of the art pieces you have worked on?
First thing that comes to mind is a Christmas pastel. This was a type of collaboration. My strong suit is not organizing a still life. Yet I wanted to create something with a Christmas theme. Since visual organization is a strong suit of my sweet wife, [honestly, I did not force him to say this] she gathered different ornaments, etc from around the house, dragged in some boughs from outside, and created the still life. It was then my turn to recreate this still life in pastel. One year we took a picture of it and used it as our holiday card.
Years ago when I bought my first torch, my son and his fiancé came to me with an interesting challenge. They wanted matching hearts as gifts for the bridesmaids. Not matching each other, but matching the dresses. These would be beaded, given, and then worn during the ceremony. I wanted to make the heart unique. Hearts are a symbol made from every material; glass hearts abound. I wanted to make mine unique. After more tries than you can imagine, I finally created my signature twist that lets the heart sit flat and adds an elegance. To this day, glass hearts are my top seller.
I consider myself an artist/inventor, making many of my own tools for torch work. In the last year I’ve invented a specialized cart that allows me to work on my Plasticine (waxy clay) bowls from a sitting or a standing position. I spend hours creating a detailed design. Then I use the model to make my own form into which I pour porcelain or stoneware slip.
These are two examples of bowls in process. I press real leaves into the Plasticine, which leave a mark in the clay when I pour the porcelain slip into the mold I’ve created. I then glaze and fire several times before it is a finished product.
What part of the art process do you most enjoy?
The beginning, when I get the first inspiration and grab my sketch pad. I work in clay, bronze, wood, glass, pastels, charcoal, wire, metal (almost anything I can get my hands on). But glass is my favorite.
It is immediate. I mean a bronze can take months before you are done with it. I can do one of my mermaids in two days and see the results. I like that. Seeing the results helps me the next time I step into my studio.
What about the business of being an artist.
Frankly, I’d just like to make art and give it all away. My wife shudders when I say that, but it’s the truth. But that’s a hard way to make a living. Pricing is hard because most people cannot understand how much work and love goes into making an art piece. If I just paid myself minimum wage many pieces would be crazy expensive. I appreciate when customers understand the hard work that goes into each piece. Most of the time I do art by myself. I love demonstrating at the Oregon State Fair, because they can see what I do and I can hear their feedback.
If you had unlimited funds, share what kind of work space you would have, where, and on what would you focus?
I’d work on large Plasticine images with major detail which I would then ship off to a bronze foundry. That sound like a lot of fun.
What suggestion/s do you have for people who want to make their living as an artist?
Make sure you love what you do. If you do something because others love it, you’ll find yourself trapped. Make sure to stay true to what you love.
Thank you, Robert, for being this month’s featured artist. Also, good luck at the fair!
The artwork is beautiful! A great interview.