Metro-East News

Art on the Square artist gives retirees tips on how to draw

Shirley Sargeant and Charlotte Yost take a close look at the work of graphite pencil artist Robin Lauersdorf. Lauersdorf, in the background, speaks to residents at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows retirement living community. Lauersdorf speaks about his art career and the long process it takes to complete his current style of whimsical pencil drawings. Lauersdorf was one of seven artists participating in the Art on the Square Artist in Residence Program.
Shirley Sargeant and Charlotte Yost take a close look at the work of graphite pencil artist Robin Lauersdorf. Lauersdorf, in the background, speaks to residents at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows retirement living community. Lauersdorf speaks about his art career and the long process it takes to complete his current style of whimsical pencil drawings. Lauersdorf was one of seven artists participating in the Art on the Square Artist in Residence Program. dholtmann@bnd.com

Graphite pencil artist Robin Lauersdorf said he can have ideas for his artwork bouncing in head for years.

And when he’s ready to draw, it can take months to finish one.

Lauersdorf’s latest drawings are realistic but come with a touch of surrealistic humor. In one drawing called “Gone Fishing,” fish-shaped crackers are leaping from a snack bowl into a serene stream. Also, water from a knocked over plastic water bottle becomes a waterfall that leads into the stream and a fisherman has just landed one of the cracker fish.

On Thursday, he participated in Art on the Square’s Artist in Residence Program at The Apartment Community of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, where he talked about his career and philosophy behind his drawings. In past years, the Artist in Residence Program was conducted at schools but this year the show organizers wanted to include senior citizens in the program as well.

I really like black and white. There’s a real purity to black and white, a real elegance that I like, and nobody else is doing it.

Robin Lauersdorf

The 16th annual Art on the Square will be Friday to Sunday on the Public Square in downtown Belleville.

Marian Mueth and other residents of the complex were impressed with Lauersdorf’s work.

“I think he’s great,” Mueth said after attending Lauersdorf’s presentation.

Lauersdorf, 59, of Monona, Wis., sold his first drawing in 1983. It was a portrait of Clint Eastwood.

“I was fascinated that people actually would be willing to spend $15 to buy a print of my work.”

Today, you can get his prints starting at about $50. He sells one or two originals a year. These cost from $2,000 to $10,000.

Lauersdorf, who participated in the previous two Art on the Square festivals and won an award each year, said he likes to attend shows such as Art on the Square where the show organizers allow artists to sell reproductions.

He always uses pencils and never paints with colors even though his wife tells him he could make more money if he branched out into painting.

I like to create a lot of whimsy and humor in my piece without being cartoony. I think people need to laugh a little bit more.

Robin Lauersdorf

“I really like black and white,” Lauersdorf told The Apartment Community residents. “There’s a real purity to black and white, a real elegance that I like, and nobody else is doing it.

“There’s a reason for that, because it takes a very long time to do and it takes a lot of patience to draw like this.”

After starting out with the celebrity drawings, Lauersdorf then drew nature scenes and montages of buildings on college campuses.

He said that after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the art market plummeted, and he was looking for a new topic to draw.

That’s when he developed a line of drawings that prompt double-takes from viewers.

“I like to create a lot of whimsy and humor in my piece without being cartoony,” Lauersdorf said. “I think people need to laugh a little bit more.

“I want to have fun with them. I want people to laugh. I want people to come into my booth and when they see my work they either smile and they laugh and I feel totally rewarded.

“Much better if they would buy a piece,” he said in getting the crowd to laugh.

One of the residents asked Lauersdorf what type of ideas he thinking about painting next fall and winter when he heads back to his studio after traveling to art shows throughout the spring and summer.

He said something involving a Tyrannosaurus rex comes to mind: Perhaps a T. rex roaring to life and the plastic dinosaur models he uses are running away. Another scene may involve a joker from a deck of cards.

Lauersdorf said he began college as an architecture major but switched to art because he enjoyed his drawing class so much. He is inspired by the late Dutch artist M.C. Escher, who is known for the “Drawing Hands” drawing that depicts two hands drawing each other.

Lauersdorf said he produces “hundreds” of shades of gray to create a three-dimensional look to his drawings. He uses eight types of pencils: 2H, H, HB, B, 2, 4, 6 and 8.

“Drawing is learning to see and draw what you see,” Lauersdorf said. “I can teach all you need to draw in 30 seconds. From there, it’s up to you to practice. Drawing is very simple. What’s the difficult part? Interpreting what you see and put it on the paper.”

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