Art and Surf

Madeleine Bishop
Robert poses with his work on display at Down Creek Gallery.
Robert poses with his work on display at Down Creek Gallery.
Photos by Madeleine Bishop
Art opening showcases local artist’s beach-inspired work.

Robert Chestnut will make his professional art show debut on Wednesday, June 10th, at Down Creek Gallery.

But this isn’t Robert’s first ever show on the island. 

“Kitty Mitchell actually gave Katelyn Gaskill and me our own little art class in high school and we had a show in Deepwater Theater,” Robert said. “It was actually similar to this show. I had all kinds of things -- pictures, paintings, drawings. 

Robert moved to Ocracoke with when he was eight years old and for a time lived on a sailboat in the harbor with his family. Even then, he remembers art being a major part of his life.

“I didn’t fit in that much when we first moved down here,” Robert said. “Eventually I did, but I think art was a big stress reliever when I was younger.”

Art and Surf

Throughout high school Robert continued exploring different artistic pursuits including painting, drawing, and photography. He then decided to pursue an art degree at Gardner-Webb University before transferring to Jacksonville University where he earned his bachelor's degree in Fine Art.

Robert says that he was exposed to many new techniques and gained valuable experience as an undergraduate.

“I would have never learned how to etch without school,” Robert said. “I wouldn’t have really cared about it either.”

Now, etching and printmaking are major staples of Robert’s work. His time in college also helped him to find his style as a painter.

“I’ve always painted, but I learned I liked oil paints more than acrylics in school,” explained Robert.

At Jacksonville, he ventured outside of just painting and printing.

“I actually took a sculpture class that I really enjoyed,” Robert said. “We learned how to weld bronze and make a full sized sculpture and we made some bronze sculptures for the quad of the school.”

Art and Surf

The nearly 10-foot sculptures of two bronze dolphins are not Robert’s only ocean-themed work. After growing up on Ocracoke and attending college further down the Atlantic coast, much of his work is inspired by his love of the beach.

“It’s definitely very beachy themed,” Robert agreed. “I use a lot of bright colors.”

Bright colors, shells, beach trucks, fish, and even the Ocracoke Lighthouse populate Robert’s various pieces, earning his work fun, and sometimes silly names like Packed Like Sardines, Cheese Grin, Grand Old Beach Whip, Sally’s Sea Shell, and Old School

For his senior thesis at Jacksonville, Robert combined two of his passions, surfing and art.

“I made some surfboards and had them in an art show for my senior seminar class,” Robert said.

Robert actually made the surfboards from start to finish, shaping them and eventually printing on them. One of his bright pink boards spotted with fish he printed on himself will be displayed at his art show on Wednesday.

Art and Surf

While the boards are works of art, they aren’t just for show. Robert rode his original board a number of times in the summer of 2014.

“You can’t make it and not use it,” Robert said.

Robert also created an original oil painting on an existing surfboard that Ride the Wind, his parent’s surf shop on the island, then donated to be auctioned off at the 10th Annual Firemen’s Ball last month.

In his spare time, Robert says he likes to go to the beach, he likes to surf, and he likes to make art.

“And pictures. Photography. I like to do that on the side a little bit,” Robert said.

Robert has more than 50 different working digital and film cameras. Recently, he has been shooting black and white film that he develops and prints himself. His monochromatic photos are a stark contrast to his vivid oil painting and prints, but he pursues photography for a different purpose.

“I like that you can capture what you’re looking at when you take a picture,” Robert explained.

Art and Surf

While he won’t have any of his original photographs at his art show, there will be a little something for everyone.

“I have a bit of everything there,” Robert said. “I’m going to have a surfboard, seven or eight paintings, and all kinds of prints like screen printing, etchings, stuff on linoleum.”

So wherever your art interests lie, come on over to Down Creek Gallery Wednesday night from 5 - 8 p.m. to see some amazing local art and maybe even purchase your own Robert Chestnut original. 


Comments powered by Disqus