Robert Phelps started his artistic career by being a decorative painter at Disney, mainly painting interesting scenes and doing caricature work. He progressed onto becoming a Fine Artist, doing exhibitions since 1996. His subject matter is of vibrant and uniquely coloured figures, both portraits of humans and animals.
I have decided to research Robert Phelps as I felt his focus on animals and colour relates to my ideas for my project nicely and I could benefit from trying out his methods of applying paint onto a surface. His works have an Expressionist or Fauvist style which I find interesting as I have researched these terms throughout art history and I could benefit by researching these further.
I like the fact that Robert Phelps doesn’t limit himself to one type/group of animals and I feel that I should try to do studies of a range of animals rather than just farm animals although this will involve going to places like zoos to gain primary evidence which I will have to arrange in my free time. If I don’t have the time to do this, however, I can still learn from his techniques and unique style, particularly his interesting use of colour to benefit my work and push it further than just being a painting of a cute farm animal.
I couldn’t gain access to good quality pictures of Robert Phelps’s work due to security on the website so I took a screenshot. Although the image isn’t of great quality, this painting relates to my project through the use of the goat and a sense of being in an enclosure. I particularly feel that the combinations of bright and dark colours create a great balance and makes the image very captivating. The painting is simple and yet built up in areas such as the goat’s face of different tones of the same colour which add depth and detail and makes it look like real fur despite the painting being abstract.
Although this painting has a lot more realistic colours, it still has small strokes of colour which add depth and make the audience want to spend more time looking at the painting. An interesting quality of Robert Phelps’s work is the range of backgrounds and environments in which the animals are, making me wonder if he has a lot of access to different animal attractions or whether he works from photographs. I find the use of green in the goat’s fur works well with the brown colour and I feel I could apply this to my own work as I tend to stick to quite simple colour schemes and the additions of small areas of colour could make my work a lot more effective.
In a lot of his goat paintings, they are gazing directly at the viewer which is something I have been exploring within my own work to see the different emotions this can evoke from the viewer as well as creating a connection or making the viewer feel uncomfortable. There are some paintings looking to the side, but I have decided to only include the paintings that are relevant to my own practice as that is something that I, as well as other people, feel works well from feedback during my crit. Robert Phelps adds a lot of texture to his paintings which is relevant to his subject matter.
https://www.youtube.com/shorts/EaFovmt0JUs – a short video of Robert Phelps working on some paintings. I decided to include this video as it shows that he likes to use his fingers to apply paint as well as brushes which I think is a really interesting method as it can add texture and make the artist literally a part of their work. I also found out through the description of the video that he likes to experiment with ‘alla prima painting’ which is a wet on wet paint technique that allows you to produce work in a spontaneous style without too much perfectionism.
Robert Phelps also has an art Etsy account – https://www.etsy.com/shop/RobertPhelpsArt – in which he sells his artworks in a range of forms, including the original paintings as well as prints of his paintings in the form of good quality prints, t-shirts, stickers, mugs, phone cases and tote bags. This is interesting as it could be something I can explore in the future provided enough people are interested in my work and I make myself present in the art world.
In the above image, I find the image on the far right quite interesting with a real cat being behind the painting. Although a different cat entirely from the one in the painting, I find this playful photo has a good composition and brings the painting into the real world. Although I doubt I would be able to take photos like this with my own paintings due to farm animals tending to nibble on whatever they can get access to, I still found this particularly interesting and is something I could explore if I were to focus on more chilled animals.
Since I don’t have a lot of experience selling any of my work or items with my designs printed onto them in my professional practice, looking at the ways artists such as Robert Phelps is informative and educative and gives me an idea of how I could price my own work, although this does differ artist to artist.
For this sort of business to work, I feel that you need to have a lot of social media presence and have a good following of your work to know that people would actually buy them. As well as this, I would have to factor in being able to afford materials or getting another company to do the different prints for me so I feel that if I ever explore having a small business, this will be a venture in the future when I have enough money to feel stable to keep it afloat and enough time to dedicate myself to it.
How Robert Phelps’s work is influencing my work:
- I am fascinated by Robert Phelps’s use of colour as colour is a vital aspect of my project and finding artists to influence me helps a lot in deciding colour palettes
- The subject matter of Robert Phelp’s work is also relevant, particularly his paintings of farm animals – in particular goats. The additions of fences and enclosures are very interesting in the context of my work as it seems as though Robert Phelps likes to explore animals’ emotions in enclosures similarly to what I am hoping to achieve in my work
- The gaze of the goats is effective as they are looking directly at the viewer/staring which is a concept that I am interested in as it evokes a lot of emotion in the viewer and creates a connection between the subject animal and the viewer. I am intrigued by the different ways people can be affected by paintings and how an image can drastically affect or not affect the viewer at all