the art of Robert Steven Connett

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Robert Steven Connett is a California artist who takes his current inspiration from biological forms — both flora and fauna, micro and macro, land and ocean dwelling — from which he generates new variations, as though he were painting with recombinant DNA. He is a masterful painter of other-worldly creatures harmoniously swimming along in complex dreamscapes. Intricate geometric patterns make up each new species, meticulously painted with illuminated detail.

01/19/2016 - From COLOSSAL

Since he was a child, Robert S. Connett was fascinated by nature. And not just any type of nature, but the tiny worlds that quietly exist without being discovered. They thrive under rocks and under microscopes and Connett was the kid who went out looking for them, bringing home everything from spiders and earwigs to snakes. This perhaps explains the self-taught painter’s equally fascinating worlds he conjures on a canvas, often in painstaking detail. These “underworlds,” as Connett describes them, are often comprised of densely populated organisms. Some look like a droplet of seawater under a microscope. Others resemble a Where’s Waldo version of our amazing animal kingdom. Any could be a small square of Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” magnified hundreds of times. The organisms are a combination of accurate depictions based on scientific observation, as well as plucked from the artist’s own mind. They are worlds that Connett himself would want to walk into and we can’t blame him! His most recent work—a total of 7 paintings—will be shown at the upcoming annual Los Angeles Art Show that runs from January 27 – 31, 2016. You’ll find Connett’s work at the Copro Gallery booth in a section aptly titled “Littletopia”. Many of his pieces are also available as prints. (via Hi-Fructose)

01/18/2016 ~ From HI FRUCTOSE

The work of Los Angeles based artist Robert S. Connett, featured here on our blog, portrays a dark and bizarre world teaming with microscopic life. In his own words, “a collection of things that I find extremely appealing and engaging. I paint things that enchant me, and I paint because I enjoy seeing my imagination come to life.” His images present rare and overlooked creatures, from aquatic organisms like ciliates, shrimps, and crabs, to a myriad of butterflies and rainbow-colored grasshoppers, that he best describes as miracles of life. Each organism is rendered with excruciating detail, based on studies from his own collection of specimens and books of scientific illustrations, brought back into a vibrant living environment. For the upcoming LA Art Show, coming to Los Angeles on January 27th, Connett has create a new series of acrylic paintings that will be on display at the Copro Gallery booth. Some of the pieces, such as “MICROVERSE II”, are among his largest to date measuring at around 40 by 60 inches, a followup to a piece created for his 2014 solo exhibition “The MICRO WORLDS of R.S. Connett”. Though overwhelmingly lush and densely populated with decorative life forms, this is not a world that escapes death, as in his painting of a human skull in “Cemetery Flowers”, or plant-like creature taking root in a mummified corpse. However, Connett believes that each life form is destined to regenerate and evolve, and that plants, animals and even inanimate objects can possess an energy which is a form of life.

5/13/2011 - Short bio

Born in 1951 in San Francisco, California, I began drawing and painting at the age of 27. I continued to create artwork as a hobby for 20 years during which time I owned and operated an insurance brokerage firm in San Francisco. I sold the firm in 1998 at age 47 after my home and art collection was destroyed by a fire. I then moved to Los Angeles in 2003 where I began my full time art career at the age of 52

2010 - David Carmack Lewis ~ The following;

There are artists out there who eschew traditional approaches to drawing but are nonetheless obsessed with detail as a way express what are often frightening visions of the world in general and humanity in particular. H. R. Giger and Chris Mars spring to mind. Their roots lie in the dreamlike visions of Heironymous Bosch. It is a difficult artistic path. Most who try it fail to develop a unique vision or compelling style and get mired in cliché psychedelia. This kind of work is often driven by direct experiences with drug addiction, insanity or both, which can explain the rarity of finding such artists who also have the discipline to excel. R. S. Connett has become one of those exceptions.

7/2010 - INTERVIEW


Question.. Can you tell us where you were born and a little history about your childhood? 

RSC:  I was born 08/19/1951 in San Francisco, California. At an early age I learned to draw as an outlet.  I did poorly in school. I was often depressed, and in trouble. Throughout my childhood years I expressed myself by drawing pictures with a ballpoint pen and paper.  Drawing lightened my moods. My parents sent me to a psychologist at age 6 to address my unhappiness and poor grades. The doctor encouraged me to draw more. This grew into a permanent relationship with drawing and making art.

Out of curiosity- did it help your mood or your grades?

RSC: My moods, yes, my grades, not at all. I was passed from grade to grade without learning to spell nor read. (These things came to me later in life) The inner city school system of San Francisco was overcrowded in my day, and children who did not keep up were passed on a “TRIAL” bases. I went from 1st through 6th grade, always on this “trial basis”, afraid they would put me back a grade if I screwed up. Inevitably, I did screw up, but the “trial” was a bluff. I was still depressed and angry. I was aggressive, sullen and violent little vandal. I ended up being tossed out (expelled) from the school district proper. I was sent to a “continuation school”. I cut most classes, spending my days in a cloud. At age 16. I dropped out in the 11th grade with straight “F’s”. However, my art did improve.

Question.. Is there an event or experience that helped form who you are today?

RSC: If I had to point to one experience it would be very difficult, if not impossible. The only experience (experiences) which make me feel fulfilled and happy are my experiences with creativity. Everything else falls short. Consequently, I pursue the experience of creation with more determination than anything else.

In 1995 my house burned down, all the way down to the ground. I was alone with a house full of lit candles. I awoke with the room engulfed in flames. I barely had time to run out the door. In fact, the soles of my feet were burned from the burning floor. I was taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation. The real harm was the total destruction of my home of 20 plus years. I had nothing, not even cloths. In that home was an immense art collection, including many of my own pieces. I was (am) an avid collector. This was a phenomenal life time collection of art and artifacts. All of it gone in a moment. I was in shock. I created no artwork for almost 10 years after this event. I almost died of self pity. Eventually, I dragged myself out of my despair. I began painting again. For the first time I realized the frailty and shortness of my existence. I think this experience helped me to fully focus my energy toward my art. I became a full time artist who paints every day. To do this I gave up many things, mostly the things money could buy. Living from ones art, and especially a person deciding to drop everything and do only art, usually leads to money problems. I sometimes suffer now for lack of money. However, I believe in what I am doing, and I understand the importance of doing what I feel is meaningful, to create a small footprint on this world by way of my art. Dedicating each day to art is much different than creating art as a hobby, which is what I did before my decision to dedicate my life to my art. I am more serious about the years I have left on this planet .The fire experience helped me see how tenuous my life is, and eventually this knowledge motivated me to take the risk to do something that I feel I was born to do, my art. It's a hard road, but infinitely more fulfilling than taking an easier road.


Question. What was first piece of art that you remember creating? The media?

RSC: My first recollection of making art is using crayons in a coloring book. I remember that a woman, (not my mother, probably a babysitter) helped me by showing me that placing all my crayon marks in one direction, rather than scratching erratically, made the picture look better.  That might have been the beginning of my art career. I believe I was 4 or 5 years old. 

Do you happen to have this art? or another piece of childhood art?

RSC: No, sorry Anything I had prior to 1995, with a few exceptions was destroyed. Nor does anything exist with relatives.


Question.. What generally inspires you to create a piece? What inspired the last piece you completed and what was it?

RSC: I am moved to create art that stimulates me. I have ideas which are enthralling to me, that make my spine tingle. I want to make them appear! I see these visions in my consciousness and attempt to externalize them onto paper. I am also motivated to show others. It’s something I am proud of. Something that I can do well.  I do not always succeed because my ability to render these ideas is not always equal with the ideas themselves. This is frustrating. However, as I practice, I become better at capturing these elusive ideas. When I do succeed, I am gratified in a marvelous way.

My most recent paintings express my interest in what I call the "UNDERWORLD". I'm fascinated by the worlds that exist beyond our immediate vision. The tiny worlds that thrive all around us, and even upon and within us.

I have an abiding interest in the flora and fauna that live in these tiny worlds "under" our normal field of vision. The things that one must hunt for in the grass, in the pools of water, or with a microscope.

I try to render my interpretations of these tiny worlds in my paintings. I love the insects, fish and simple life forms.

Some of these creatures create exceptionally complex social structures that in many ways mirror the world of human beings.

Question.. I've noticed there is quite a bit of wondrous science/life in your images? Is there an impetus for this?

RSC: I am fascinated by nature. I was always the kid who looked under rocks and brought home every kind of living thing as a “pet” … Spiders, earwigs. There wasn’t all that much in the city. We had the old San Francisco Garter snakes, one of the most beautiful of that species. Now on the point of extinction I believe. I brought home crabs from the docks, salamanders from the gardens. I suppose I loved all this because I had so little access to it. I used to fish in the sewer grates with a stick, string and bent pin, (poor worms!) I felt bites too! (in my vivid imagination of course) When I was 5, my father bought a boat. It was something you could take out into the ocean. I recall those dawn fishing trips were filled with the happy anticipation of sea monsters! We brought some up to! I would gaze down into the deep water of the ocean imagining all sorts of things. The real things I saw out there were enough to stoke the fires of my imagination for many life times! Every time we went out there I would see something amazing! My fascination with sea life was created thus. We only had that boat for 2 years, but these were formative years for my young brain. I suppose my fascination with painting the life forms that I do comes from a wish to go back to those wonderful days on my childhood.


My painting, "THE NIGHT TRAWLER" is a painting about those wonderful days of my childhood. This is what I wrote;

Many years ago, when I was a young boy, my father would wake me before dawn to go fishing in the Ocean. We would drive through the foggy San Francisco streets to "Muni Pier" , buy bait wrapped in yesterdays newspaper, and drive across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito. There my father had moored an old 26 foot inboard with a cabin. To my young eyes a Ship! As the first false dawn light began to color the world, we would board with our gear. Trembling with the morning chill, breathing out hot steam into the cold, he'd start the engine. The smell of gasoline, bait and salt water is a heavenly memory. We made slowly out the jetty and into the San Francisco Bay to cross the "Potato Patch". This is an area of rough water under the Golden Gate bridge where many a small boat has gone down in a sudden storm. Past this fearful patch of rough water lay the beautiful blue waters off Marin County, California. We would skirt the shore, find a still cove and drop anchor. These coves were always surrounded by high cliffs with wild trees overhanging the edges. The Cliffs were natural wind breaks. The water was blue black with its depth, and still as a mirror. The smell there was pine forest mixed with salt water, morning sun, exhaust fumes and dead fish. When I die, if I smell this, I will know there is a heaven after all. My excitement to begin was so extreme that my fingers would tremble while I set my hooks and sinkers. My father and I would sit side by side in lawn chairs as the boat gently swayed in the calm morning water. The fog would clear in spots and open holes in the sky. Through these openings rays of white orange sunlight would appear. Someone called these "The Fingers of God". And what fish we caught! I never knew what monstrous beauty I might pull from those waters! Creatures from science fiction! Things that I was sure no one had ever seen before! Huge green purple kelp fish with bulging eyes and fins that looked more like seaweed than fish fins, mottled with countless of hues of blues, greens and violets and blacks. They were covered with tiny slithering worms and tiny jittering crustacean fleas. Amazing things that I would stare at with the wide eyed wonder of a seven year old boy. There were Leopard Sharks with beautiful black spots. Fish that looked like futuristic cylindrical space ships, Crabs, giant jellyfish, White sharks as big as our boat! (Very scary!) and so many more! The sea's imagination knows no bounds! The fish my father wanted were the Salmon and Stripped Bass. He once caught a 50 pound Salmon off the Gate! There were big Bat Rays that might take 3 hours for my father to land. He would never know what they were until it surfaced. He always thought he might have a huge salmon, and would curse in rage when it was only a "F-ING RAY" that he had sweated hours to bring to the surface! My favorite times were slow and silent. When our lines made the only ripple upon the water. The only sound was the soft lapping of the dark water against our boat, the sound of gulls, and my fathers breathing. I would try to match my breaths to my fathers as we sat in silence. I was a miniature version of him, looking into the dark waters thinking our thoughts. I wonder now what he was thinking. I wanted to be him. He was perfection. It was the perfect harmony of a father and son. It's a precious jewel of a memory. In my painting are remembrances of the rocky cliffs and the calm waters of these pristine California coves. I wonder if they are still there as they were way back then? (Circa 1958) I wonder.


The Night Trawlers LINK

Question.. What materials, specific brand of paint/glue/pencil do you prefer to use? A favorite? And why? 

RSC: I use acrylic paint. My favorite brands, (I use all three) are OLD HOLLAND, GOLDENS and HOLBEIN, in that order. Old Holland makes beautiful and unusual colors. Goldens has perfect consistency and a massive product line.  Holbein has a super high pigment load and its consistency is between a liquid and solid state. This can come in handy with glaze. I use OLD HOLLAND glazing solution which I find by far the best for my uses. 

I use LOEW-CORNELL synthetic golden taklon brushes (series 7000 rounds and 7350 scripts) in bulk. These are inexpensive detail brushes, and I go through many.  I also use OLD HOLLAND and ISABEY Sable oil and watercolor brushes for glazing. 

I like to sketch with BIC ballpoints. I hate getting graphite or charcoal on my hands, so I avoid using these whenever possible. However, I use white charcoal pencils for drawing on dark surfaces.


Question. Is there a technique, procedure or tip that you have discovered, you could pass onto other artists? A specific tidbit of craft, advice or mechanical expertise?

RSC:  The best piece of advise I can pass on to any artist is work hard and long, and become totally “absorbed” in your art.  If you have a love of art, you can cause that love to flourish by feeding it. Cease to feed it, for any reason, including good and logical reasons, and it will eventually die. Be intensely and obsessively preoccupied with the art that you love. Make everything else secondary if you wish to succeed.  Be inspired by other artists, but do NOT compare yourself to others. Be your own yardstick.


Question.. What is your favorite word? Last song you chose to listen to? 

RSC: I love words to much to have a favorite. I listen to audio books when I work. I do not like to be judged by the music I choose to listen to.

If you insist on a favorite word, I’ll give you one I invented; “OBLIGATIONIST” and/or “OBLIGATIONISM”.


Question. If you could pick one piece of art to own, out of the world's museums, personal collections and galleries, what would it be?




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