Over the past decade, Atlanta-based artist Janssen Robinson has been painting the town with the stealth and precision of Zorro. He slows his pace a bit for an interview with Erika Ward to share his story from the very beginning.
There’s nothing sweeter than a trip down memory lane. This is especially true when you crossed paths with a talent like Janssen Robinson. He’s come a long way since I first met him in high school. No embarrassing stories here, only admiration for a dear friend whose dream of becoming a phenomenal artist has been realized. I remember one of his first commissions included drawing and painting our school’s mascot (a Raider/Pirate) in the center of the gymnasium floor. We all stood around proudly and in wide-eyed astonishment at the masterpiece he created.
I fast forward through the yesteryear and to the present where now have the honor to interview, for BluLabel Bungalow, my friend and seasoned artist, Janssen Robinson. I hope you enjoy!
Erika Ward: My three kids create artwork at the speed of light. I always wonder who’s going to be our “Baby Picasso.” At what age did you realize that you have a natural gift for drawing and painting?
Janssen Robinson: Remember those watercolor sets we all got when we were kids? I think I was six years old; I messed around and learned the chemistry of mixing water with dry pigment and with a brush, spreading it across the paper to create something. Instantly, I fell in love with that form of expression and never let it go.
EW: What part did your parents play in developing/supporting your craft?
JR: I would say the most important part! Early on, my mother recognized my interest in art and always supported that interest by buying me supplies and enrolling me into art programs. Every time at Christmas or on my birthday I could count on getting some new art supply.
I remember one strange summer occasion; I had to have been around ten years old. My mom took me to a high school somewhere in Buckhead and there was a classroom filled with kids sitting at tables like the ones that you see in chemistry labs. On each table there sat a bowl of popcorn, not to eat but to draw without looking at the page. The instructors said imagine you are an ant crawling over the popcorn and slowly draw that path. Wow, imagine how that felt! I realized much later that I was being exposed to college training. Through the support of my mother and stepfather, my natural abilities in art were cultivated early.
EW: Having cultivated your artistic foundation here in the States, how did your prior studies in Cortona, Italy influence the work you do today?
JR:That was my first time studying abroad, so it provided me an international perspective I had never previously experienced. Atlanta is great, but I could never have seen the world the same way as I did in Italy.
EW: When I learned of your recent work, I immediately thought “I need to host an event. ASAP!” Real-time paintings, how did you come up with this concept?
JR: The “Now Painting” concept, as I call it, came about from a desire to get myself out in the art world and do something that I love. Giving to causes, painting in front of diverse audiences, meeting new people and challenging myself, all are accomplished with this concept. I feel like this is my calling and it gives me purpose.
EW: I would have to do my best not to hover while you work. Amazing. What goes through your mind when you are creating a “Now Painting?” Do you freeze a moment in time and paint from memory?
JR: No, everything is all about the “Now.” I keep a clear mind, because everything changes. The crowd, for instance, is constantly moving and, if outside, the light is constantly changing. This is the thrill and challenge of the unexpected. I recently made a Now painting on a boat at Lake Lanier. The rock of the boat in motion and the changing tree line were welcomed challenges for me.
EW: In your absence, what do your paintings say about you/who you are/how you work?
JR: They say, “Janssen wants you to look at the everyday world differently. There are events taking place now and you may have never given it a second thought until now. He works fast and captures the energy of a setting, imagine yourself somewhere in it.”
EW: What can we do to help promote outstanding artists like yourself and those around the world?
JR: Thank you! For starters, I think it is imperative that the world knows we even exist. The art world is huge and only a select few get the attention they deserve. Our culture should never get to a point when funding for arts is cut from a budget or eliminated from school curriculum. Creative people solve the problems of the world. So, creative outlets like yours need to be magnified and pervasive just as much as TV and radio.
Favorite artist medium…Right now, acrylic.
Artist you admire [either classic or contemporary]…Louis Armstrong, his canvas was sound. Some of the most beautiful colors.
When you are not painting, you also enjoy…. I enjoy listening to new music and discovering new sounds.
What would we be surprised to learn about you….. I think you would be surprised to know that Istudied scientific illustration.