DOG & PONY SHOWS: Robert Lucy on Backgrounds (2/6)

I first met Robert Lucy as co-creator (with his longtime partner Chris Wells) of The Secret City, their stupendous monthly celebration of secular artistic mindfulness, with the apt tagline, “We Worship Art.” I instantly became a huge fan and started volunteering my time to the organization. And I also learned that Lucy not only has great taste in art (he curates and presents the visual artist at every “service”) but he himself is a sought-after fine artist and portraitist. As reproductions of his paintings  make very clear in our Ideablog posts this week, Lucy is enormously gifted at capturing likenesses of animals (and human animals) that evoke smiles and deep identification—while also turning them into glorious pop-icons. What’s also outstanding is his ability to convey the monumental emotional significance that these animals have to their commissioning humans—no matter if they are actually teacup creatures off the canvas. We invited Lucy to contribute to our “Dog & Pony Shows” theme, because we think he “puts on the dog” better than any artist we have seen.
~Victoria C. Rowan, Ideasmyth Creatix-in-Chief


What is behind it all??

For my animal portraits, I’ve created a signature of bright colorful, graphic backgrounds that are fresh, contemporary and timeless. But I love to be challenged and to be directed in new directions and have done more traditional backgrounds, too.

The rays of color came from a series of doll paintings I did – hyper-real, 3-D portraits against a flat background – the backgrounds gave them a visual power, sort of like German Expressionism or propaganda posters, lending the dolls an iconic power.

When I started painting animals, I found that the backgrounds worked beautifully with them, too, surrounding them with a joyful burst of color and pushing the animal out of the canvas into our hearts and homes.

When someone inquires about a portrait, I ask them to send me a good photo that they love of the subject. We discuss what size they want it to be. Then we discuss the background.

Some people say “Do whatever you want,” some say “I like blue and green.” Some give me 3 or 4 examples of portraits that I have done that they like. One client sent me paint chips and I thought that was fantastic! Another sent me a fabric swatch, which provided the pattern for the background.

There’s the old joke about folks who want art to match the couch and how insulting this can be to the artist. The thing is, I could care less about that. I’ve done my own thing and expressed myself for 30 years. When I’m painting a commission, I just want to please my client.

One client’s dog, FRANK, died soon after she had commissioned me to paint him. (I’m often painting memorials for animals that are no longer living.) She said that when she was burying Frank, she had a vision of him with an aura of yellow and orange radiating waves, and she would to like memorialize him that way. Frank was one of my favorites.

See more of Robert’s Featured Creative posts on our Ideablog

~~~Robert Lucy has been painting and drawing professionally for over 25 years, and loving animals for my whole life. He has a B.F.A. and an M.F.A. from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago where he lived for 15 years and made a reputation for himself painting still lifes, landscapes, portraits and colored pencil drawings. He grew up in St. Louis, and after leaving Chicago spent several years on the Oregon Coast. In 2006 he moved to NYC, and most recently has moved his home and studio to Woodstock, NY in the Catskill Mountains.

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