Back in July of this year we received a brief but interesting email. “This is good”, announced the title. I ignored it for a while expecting that it was a sales pitch from yet another internet “entrepreneur”, but eventually I gave in and opened the email. It was in fact a lovely note from Lee Robinsong and his wife Patty – they had just happened upon our website and appreciated our original content and had written to tell us so. Lovely – as a New Zealander would say!
Intrigued by the old-world charm and generosity of the note, I surfed over to Lee’s beautiful website and found myself absorbed in his many “circulist” images which depict the natural world through the lens of his artist’s eye. I was also very engaged by the image of Lee presented on the website – I found myself thinking, “I wish I could sit on that seat with him with a glass of good wine and find out what makes him smile so happily!”
On that topic, artists please take note: In yesterday’s feature article we discussed the importance of a high-quality artist bio and photo in communicating an understanding of the artist and their work. Lee’s website is a great example of image and story woven together very creatively to make us want to know more.
We chose Lee as our featured artist for this week because hisÂ “circulist” style and realization shows a very unique interpretation of the beauty and life on our planet – and also because his life demonstrates the lifelong commitment to art representative of a true artist. Lee also appears to be having a wonderful time being an artist – and we can all learn from that!
We welcome your comments on Lee and his work at the end of this article. Website and contact details can also be found at the end of the article.
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Note: Use the slide-show controls to pause or go to a specific image. Mouse over the images to see details about the artwork.
Lee Robinsong was born in Germany in 1955. Raised in a British diplomatic family, he lived in Chile, Switzerland, Algeria, Ethiopia and England, before settling in Canada in 1973.
Lee was a student of the late Sir Kyffin Williams RA, the Welsh landscape painter, and Anthony Green RA, the renowned contemporary British painter, at Highgate School, London. After completing further studies in fine arts and graphic design in Winnipeg, Manitoba, he became the art director for the Greenpeace Chronicles, Canadaâ€™s first environmental publication.
In 1980, Lee moved to British Columbiaâ€™s Cortes Island, where he co-founded the Hollyhock Retreat Centre and began to paint full time. Here he refined his signature â€œCirculistâ€ style. Influenced by the Cubist perspectives of Picasso and Braque, and the Cree teachings of the Medicine Wheel, Circulism ties together the belief that you can view an object from every direction simultaneously and that everyone views the same object differently. Leeâ€™s Circulist paintings offer the viewer a subjective, holistic view of the natural world.
Over a thirty-year period, Lee created 35 Circulist pieces portraying the beauty and power of landscapes in British Columbiaâ€™s Desolation Sound and in Glastonbury, England. Many of these circles were painted in Hollyhockâ€™s Raven building, which was once his studio. Leeâ€™s works are now included in collections across Canada, the US and Europe.
Lee Robinsong lives in Victoria, BC, with his wife Patty Loveridge. He has two daughters, Erin and Kaeli Robinsong.
The Art Marketing Secrets Signature 6 Questions
1. What led you to become an artist?
IÂ grew up in a British diplomatic family, which meant that we moved from country to country, from continent to continent every four years. Growing up in such a manner, life was a fleeting affair, with home and friends ever changing. Making art was an attempt to record the sense of belonging; to make sense of what I saw, smelt and felt, rather like keeping a visual diary. By the time I was eighteen, I had lived in Germany, Chile, Switzerland, Algeria, Ethiopia and Canada. To this day I feel compelled to make anÂ obsessivelyÂ detailed visual record of my home.
2. What happens for you and what do you feel when you are in the creative process?
Painting for me is a lifelong affair. I often liken the process to that of composing a symphony. I come across a place that feels compelling. I find myself returning to that place in different seasons and time of day. The journey of painting begins with the building of the stretcher and preparation of the canvas. Once the painting process begins , it is as though the painting does me. Like meditation, I have to overcome all the inner voices and feelings that would distract me. These circular paintings can take up to five months to complete, so once the difficulty of distractionÂ dissipates, I move into a place of deep satisfaction as the process unfolds.
3. What is your favorite piece of your own art and why?
This summer I completed a painting that was an extreme challenge, one that I have long waited to produce. The painting is called, ” Un Jardin a Ben Aknoun , El Dzayer, 1966″. In 1966, as a boy of eleven, I lived in an old magnificent Moorish Villa in the country just outside Algiers in Algeria. It was a powerful time of puberty, when I was starting to make sense of my world. Later in life the place haunted me to the point ofÂ obsession. I had a few faded photos, and from those and many discussions with my siblings and parents, managed to put together a complete detailed picture of that place at that time. I had to establish a time of year, time of day and what kind of plants and trees grew in the garden. The only ones who could verify the accuracy of my vision were my family, who were quite affected by the completed work. It was like retrieving andÂ honoringÂ an important part of my life. (Editor’s note: “Un jardin a Ben Aknoun, El Dzayer 1966” has been accepted into the prestigious Sidney Fine Art Show. The show runs Friday, October 16 to Sunday, October 18 at the Mary Winspear Centre in Sidney.)
4. What would your perfect artist-life look like?
I’m at a point in my life and my art that I realize that this is it. I create paintings in a manner that a trades person plies a trade and craft; it’s what I do.
5. How are you marketing your art?
In my twenties thirties and early forties, I lived on a remote rural Island between the mainland and north Vancouver Island. I was part of a small group that started a retreat centre that became very successful. People came from all over the continent to take workshops or retreats. To my surprise, I sold pretty much every work I made selling them off the wall at the center and never gave much thought to the concept of marketing. Now in my fifties, I live in the small town of Victoria, and I’ve had to completely reinvent the way I sell art.Â FortunatelyÂ I have a partner who is incredibly supportive of this art thing I do, and Â together we started a company that produces limited edition reproductions of my work and cards which we sell through retailers here in Victoria. Next spring I will focus on marketing the work in Vancouver. Marketing has turned out to be the larger part of what it means to be a self supporting artist. One cannot underestimate the value of the lowly art card sale; each one represents a seed that goes out into the world. I’ve found that having a website isÂ criticalÂ to the new marketing, not so much as a direct sale device, but rather as aÂ referenceÂ accessibleÂ world wide.
6. What else are you busting to tell the world?
A simple message; keep your eyes open – life is a fleeting affair. Support the Arts whenever you can.
What an interesting life this artist has had and such unique and beautiful work. Surrealistic/graphic/extra-terrestia/inner journey plus no doubt good for left-right brain integrated thought. Thanks for profiling Lee.
Beautiful beautiful work and words! I love the idea of your paintings as a kind of symphony of place – and that you become more intimate with that place by painting every little rock and tree-needle and cloud pattern..
Lee I have loved your work for years
I love the image of Lee at work on "Un Jardin a Ben …..". What an amazing piece of art. It looks like the sort of world i would like to live in! I enjoyed the answers to the 6 questions too – gave me a deeper insight than I would have got just from the bio. Thanks for sharing Lee with us.
How fine to look through the window that this profile opens on Lee – his work, his person and his life beautifully woven together!
I am glad I read the whole article. Because the answer to #6 is perfect.