Another Pilot Down: The Artwork of George Gonzalez

Friday, June 26, 2009

Artist Profile: Robyn O'Neil

Alright, I’m going to do something new here. Periodically, I’m going to make an “Artist Profile” entry on some various living (sometimes local) artists whom have caught my attention. I’ll include links, my thoughts, and information about them so you can all check them out.

For the first “Artist Profile” I am putting the spotlight on Robyn O’Neil.

Robyn was born in Omaha Nebraska and currently resides in Houston Texas. She has had various shows all across the country and around the globe. The bulk of her work is all primarily drawings. Straightforward, pencil drawings. Which in the artwork is tough to break into since most art shows cater to mixed media and paintings (and they tend to place drawings to the side). Below is one of her pieces:

"Everything that stands will be at odds with its neighbor, and everything that falls will perish without grace"

Yesterday, I had the fine pleasure of meeting her when she made a visit to UNT’s College of Visual Design and gave a talk about her artwork. As I sat in attendance listening to her describe and explain some of her work I couldn’t help be floored at what she was saying. Mostly all her pieces are all very personal and her series is one continuous storyline. Her work has reoccurring characters, places, and attitudes. The figures she depicts are destructive, sometimes caring, sometimes delusional drone men. Women are never present and a few of the animals that do appear are used as cautionary figures of what could or shouldn’t happen.

She uses only a mechanical pencil and starts her drawings from top to bottom. In order to avoid smearing the pencil lead, she puts a piece of glass on her hand while she draws away. I haven’t mentioned how some of these drawings are extremely HUGE! Some of her pieces are so big, she has to lie down on the floor with the paper on top of her just to continue them. Her artwork below, titled “These final hours embrace at last; this is our ending, this is our past” is 83 x 166.8 inches! A size that I don’t think I can ever pull off.

Robyn is also the very definition of dedicated. In her talk she admitted to taking up to 4 to 5 months finishing pieces (and by 4 months, I mean 4 months). She typically spends 12 to 15 hours a day, 5 to 7 days a week working on her drawings in her Houston home. She doesn’t have much of a social life and every time she is away from her studio she doesn’t feel as comfortable.

When asked about why she uses only a mechanical pencil, O’Neil said that she is able to capture lines caused by her anxiety that would otherwise be overlooked if she had used a graphite stick or charcoal. That is something I can respect and identify with. Something else that caught my attention was when she said, “I like to think of my artwork as a sentence to a novel.” Meaning, despite that each drawing says something different about her, they are all essential to each other and tell a much bigger story. As if you all don’t already know by now, my work is the very same in that respect. For years I’ve tried to describe it and say what I really mean, and when I heard it back to me yesterday.. it all made sense.

After her lecture, I talked to her about that and that I really admired what she has done. I can really relate to her work and after you see some of the pieces she has done, you can see a lot of elements that I use in my own drawings.

I recommend ya’ll check her stuff out.

"The Disruption"

Robyn O'Neil's Website
The Believer - Interview with Robyn O'Neil
Arts Journal Article

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