Assistant Managing Editor
WILBRAHAM Robert Brooks has a way of capturing every day aspects of life so that even the most mundane activity such as washing clothes seems hip.
Art comes naturally to him. He is a witness, if you will, for the beauty in life that often goes unnoticed as we proceed about our daily lives. Brooks said there was never any doubt in his mind about what he wanted to do.
Before he spent 24 years honing his skills as a freelance illustrator for clients such as AT&T, long before his modern art was coated with bold colors and striking realism, he was a Minnechaug Regional High student who simply liked to draw.
He credits late Minnechaug art teacher Joseph Van West as his most influential mentor. It only seems fitting that Brooks should return to lead one of the first of workshops put on by the new Wilbraham Art League, in the town where his career began.
"It's just one of those things I've always had in me from the beginning of my life. Art is like breathing to me," Brooks said.
Destiny had Brooks born into a nurturing artistic environment. His uncle, Richard Stevens, was a well-known water colorist who also doubled as his next door neighbor. His other uncle, Springfield Art League past president Robert Waleryszak, also invoked creativity into his life.
Last week Brooks moved through the backyard of his childhood home which his sister now owns. By the pond where he set up his easel, his son Max by his side, Brooks tried to explain what his craft means to him and what he hopes his Sept. 17 workshop on Plein-Air painting will offer.
Plein-Air is from the French expression "en plein air" which means "in the open air," and is used to describe painting outside of a studio.
Susan Nieske, vice president of the Wilbraham Art League, is an old friend of Brooks. He said when she asked if he'd be interested in the workshop he "thought it was a great idea."
His workshop will focus on the basics such as explaining equipment, he will work with attendees to produce a demo and provide a critique at the end of the session.
"I want to help participants quickly digest a scene," Brooks said. "On location painting is different than studio work. You have to take a quick grasp and then make an impression. It's all about looking at shapes and colors."
Brooks said one of the most important things about art is creating it for the right reasons.
He has worked on major advertising campaigns in the past. His works are also at various galleries including The Munson Gallery in Chatham and R. Michelson Galleries in Northampton, so he said he understands the pressures that can come along with trying to create pieces and simultaneously wonder if it will sell.
"It can work against you," he said. "The best your going to do is when your doing it for yourself. Stay true to you."
Brooks strives to keep his own advice.
"I want to paint our time. Great art is of its time," he shared.
Brooks said when he looks back at artists he admires, the pieces that are revered are those that reveal the events of that era. That is what he hopes to portray in his contemporary pieces and is the logic behind paintings like the one of two men in a laundromat titled "Coin-Op."
"I want to paint things that are timely handicap parking, telephone booths," he said, adding that many years ago a sight like men doing laundry was not common.
Even though he said art "is part of making my day a meaningful day," he also shared that Max is the greatest thing that has ever happened to him.
Brooks said he spent so many years focused on his career that he is happy to make it his number two priority now.
"[Being a father] is so everything," he said.
He is also welcoming the transition from artist to teacher.
"I would like to do a handful of workshops a year," he explained. "Being a teacher is a whole different animal."
The Wilbraham Art League's workshop featuring artist Robert Brooks on Sept. 17 is open to all no matter their level of skill. The cost is $50 for art league members and $70 for non-members. It will take place at Wilbraham & Monson Academy, 8:45 a.m. - 4 p.m. Contact Wilbraham Art League Vice President Susan Nieske at 596-2076.
Visit www.rob-brooks.com to learn more about the artist.