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Photo by Dante Fontana
Rob Bonslett, a self-described portrait painter, opened his watercolor painting studio and school on May 1, 2011, in a Historic Old Town Roseville storefront.
On the walls of the studio are examples of Bonslett’s work, including portraits of a young Johnny Cash in a piece titled Round the Bend, and Tiger Woods with his 3-iron over his shoulder in Perfect Swing. Intermingled among the famous faces are many landscapes. These images of the country and the sea are also excellent examples of his work in an artistic medium he has been in love with for more than 30 years. “I don’t try and control the water,” Bonslett explains. “I just set its boundaries and add pigments.”
Author William Gough said, “The making of an artist is more than the training of hands; it’s the training of the eye, the ear, and the listening heart.” These concepts are very apparent in Bonslett’s work and his teaching style. He has the rare gift of being a talented artist and an excellent instructor and mentor. Roseville resident Patty Haydon, Bonslett collector and student, waited for years before taking a painting class. “He is a very talented and patient teacher,” Haydon says. “He gives his students a passion for painting.” She saw his work and knew she wanted to learn more. “I had never seen colors like that,” she adds. “I never knew watercolors could be that way.”
Self-taught Bonslett credits a few people with putting him on the watercolor path. Starting in his early teens, he used to hang out at a neighbor’s house. Sharon Smith, a master watercolor painter, lived right down the street and offered classes in painting. He would accompany his mother, Winnie, to the house where he was mesmerized for hours by Smith’s work. He also attended a few watercolor workshops by internationally known artists Tom Lynch and Jeannie Vodden. “I am constantly learning,” Bonslett admits. “This medium takes a lifetime to master.”
Bonslett draws from his experience as an outdoorsman to capture the mood and colors of his landscapes. As a former Alaska resident and fishing guide, he knows how to realistically paint trees and nature. “The shapes of trees are so random,” Bonslett explains. “If you are not careful they can look like little lollipops.” He uses just three colors in his palette to create each painting and chooses different hues of red, yellow and blue, depending on the mood he wants to impart. “My paintings are playful with colors,” says Bonslett. The goal of his paintings is for the viewer to “play” in the painting. That is how he determines its success. “The more time I spend planning the image,” he explains, “the longer the viewer can enjoy the piece.”
Bonslett’s painting classes are fun, affordable, and held throughout the week. In four sessions, you will learn to prepare the paper, set up a palette of colors, and how to paint land, trees, water and great skies. “I teach my students how to let the paint do the work,” says Bonslett.
For more information, visit robbonslett.org.