Margaret Hair: Taking time to breathe

"Urban Flower Box," by Rob Williams.
Courtesy Photo

Rob Williams’ life is all about balance.

He has a road bike that he rides for a couple of hours in the morning, and he knows the value of sitting on his porch with a six-pack and watching the world go by. He has it figured out.

The former Steamboat Springs local also paints for at least a few hours a day, but not in the relaxing way most people would picture.

“I’m flipping them around or flipping them upside down. Sometimes I throw them on the floor,” Williams said, explaining that his process isn’t violent – it’s just extremely physical.

That’s why he doesn’t like calling himself a painter. The image of sitting on a stool lightly applying brushstrokes to canvas doesn’t have anything to do with Williams, who doesn’t like to use canvas because he’s afraid he’ll cut it with the sharpened brushes and street-cleaner-salvaged metal bristles he uses as art tools.

“I rarely use a paintbrush as you would know a paintbrush to look like,” he said. With that process, Williams uses his graphic design background to make simple, colorful paintings. His latest collection opens today at K. Saari Gallery with a show called “Need to Breathe.”

“I don’t think people take enough time to take a breath and stop and see what’s going on around them,” Williams said. “They’re going to run that race their whole lives, and I realized I don’t have those legs.”

That kind of patient acceptance goes well with his process for making art – which, by his description, is a volatile mix of painting, shaping, scraping and cutting on canvas, followed by hours of babysitting to make sure the resin coating that covers his paintings doesn’t bubble.

“It’s taken a year to get it dialed,” Williams said about the resin coating. The process, which gives a slick finish to designs painted on hand-built wooden frames, comes out of a need to constantly change the way he works.

“I never want to have a consistent style. A consistent style gets boring,” he said. “So every painting I try something different, and that led me down the path to this resin.”

That tactic often leads to countless changes in each work before it ever makes it to a gallery wall.

“They do a lot of hanging out in my studio, and then I’ll grab it and do something to it,” Williams said. “Even when they get here, I always see something and I go, ‘Oh, I could cover that up.’ But eventually I have to let them go, or else I would have a studio with 1,000 paintings.”

It’s all very calm, the way Williams approaches his art and his life. And when you hear him talk about finding his way to a love for painting, that makes sense.

“My inspiration is the fact that I get to paint. I don’t find inspiration from a vacation or a beautiful day. My inspiration is huge just from the fact that I get to paint,” he said.

“Every time I do a painting, something turns out different. And that’s what keeps me going.”

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