On one of the coldest days of the year in Chicago, I ventured out to visit some artists in the Cornelia Arts Building in the Roscoe Village area. After a visit to Nancy Charak's studio, I went next door to meet with Darrell Roberts, who shares his studio with fellow painter Johannah Silva. Located on the west side of the building, Darrell and Johannah's studio consists of a nearly 400-sf space divided in half by a north-south wall with a small curtained doorway on the south end. They have been in the space since June, 2008.
A long hallway leads to Darrell's studio door, which he has painted red on the inside. His drawings and paintings cover nearly all four walls in the space. He has a table for drawing and is currently working on artist's books with pencils and pastels, which cover the entire table. He also has a small table he uses to mix paints and pumice for his paintings. Generally, he works with small canvases, which he holds in his left arm as he paints with his right. To save space, he has storage racks above his studio space for paintings as well as supplies, which he accesses with a tall ladder. Near the curtain dividing his space from Johannah's, there is an area with a rug and chair for sitting and observing. He has a laptop, microwave, a small refrigerator, and a radio in the space.
Working as an art teacher at Hyde Park Art Center and other organizations for nearly 10 years, Darrell decided to focus all of his energies on his own art in June, 2008. Represented by Thomas McCormick Gallery in Chicago, he has received art grants for his art and has been well received by corporate clients. As a result, he has been able to spend 6 to 8 hours at a time in his space, which he mainly uses for creating artwork.
Darrell's studio practices: "I get up mid-morning about 9:30 a.m. or 10 a.m, eat breakfast, and go workout. Then I walk to my studio. Once I'm there I check my email and the New York Times and other art articles. Then I eat lunch. Around 1 p.m., I may put a few marks of paint on a canvas or two or draw. I eat dinner around 5 p.m. and sometimes get into painting or drawing around 8 p.m. I have been drawing in artist books lately, and I may paint until 2 a.m. Late at night is usually when it really happens for me. I have my iTunes on my computer playing on random constantly."
"I am an abstract painter who creates paintings with thick built-up layers of oil paint with pumice for texture to the point of being almost sculptural. The paintings are definitely low relief with the edges of the canvas being just as important as the front in creating surface, texture, and color. My abstract paintings are documentations of the metropolis of Chicago as well as my environment. I work in series sometimes 10-15 paintings at a time and have over 50 paintings in progress in my studio. It takes 6-8 months for me to get a body of work to come together, or I should say for 'the paintings' to come together, as they subconsciously tell me what needs to be done. I have to wait and can not rush them or they may be ruined. The time spent looking and thinking is really important, and leads to the fun of the physical painting, which I work in an intuitive way. I just know that it is right or it will lead me in the right direction. I have to trust it."
Darrell has a solo show Surface Matters at Thomas McCormick Gallery in February.
Roberts' work is rooted in the everyday where landscape, architecture and his surrounding environment inform his paintings. Thick, richly textured surfaces convey movement and the tension of space, form, line and color are evident. Roberts has exhibited extensively in the Chicago area and trained at the Art Institute of Chicago.In addition, he will be participating in a two-person exhibition at the Galesburg Civic Art Center in April.
For more information about Darrell and his art, go to http://darrell-roberts.com.
Credits: Art images labeled with the artist's name were provided by the artist, and all other photos were provided by Amy A. Rudberg, unless otherwise indicated.