Interview with Rob Colvin

This time I am very happy to interview Rob Colvin – one of the most experienced artists I’ve ever talked to! His images are so energetic and powerful, yet Rob’s style totally takes my breath away with its magical dreaminess and calmness.

In this interview Rob will tell us about his drawing experience and will share lots of tips of how to improve your acrilic and oil drawing techniques, as well as imitating acrylic paintings in Photoshop.

Click Continue to read more about Rob:

Hello Rob! Could you tell us a bit about yourself? Where you are from and what you do?

I live in Morgan, Utah, in the western United States. It’s a small rural farming community in the Wasatch Mountains of northern Utah. I love the mountains here and the red rocks of southern Utah. I’ve lived in Utah all my life, except for the 3 years I resided in Boston, Massachusetts, at the beginning of my career as a freelance illustrator. I’ve been a freelance artist for over 25 years. I’ve been married to my wonderful wife for nearly 30 years. We have six awesome children.

Do you have a formal education in art or are you self taught?

I loved to draw as a child and my parents encouraged my artistic interests. I excelled in art through high school and later graduated from Utah State University with a degree in illustration in 1984. I have always been self employed, creating images for magazines, newspapers, book covers, design studios and advertising agencies. In 1999 I shifted the focus of my work towards landscape painting, including an emphasis of strong design and simplicity as a part of my vision of the land. I still enjoy creating illustration work for stock, which gives me freedom to pursue ideas and themes that interest me. My landscape work is sold through art galleries in the western United States and through my website.

What is your favorite media? What other media would you like to master?

I love both oils and acrylics. I learned to use acrylics in college because of it’s immediacy in drying and the requirement to ship artwork overnight to meet deadlines during the first 20 years of my artistic career. I started to paint with oil paints in 1999 as a part of my interest in painting the land. I find both mediums to be enjoyable and frustrating. I’ve heard it said that one of the great benefits of oil paints is that is dries slowly, allowing you more open time to work the paint, but that it’s drawback is that it dries too slowly, frustrating your efforts to make quick changes and complete the work. Then there’s acrylics, they dry quickly, allowing you to make quick changes, but the frustrating thing about acrylics is that they dry too quickly, leaving you with very little time to manipulate the paint. Over time one discovers how to use these advantages and adjust to the disadvantages.

I hope to master digital painting next. I became interested in digital media about 5 years ago. I avoided it for a long time, because of the absence of the tactile manipulation of moving paint around on a surface. In the beginning I just fiddled around with Photoshop by scanning in my illustrations, then combining pieces from one into another to create a whole new illustration. Last year though, I had a friend who told me he had discovered how to create the paint textures I love and apply them in Photoshop. He tutored me on how it was done and I’ve fallen in love with the whole process. Now I can paint a complete illustration from start to finish on my computer and it looks just like my acrylic illustration style. If anyone is interested, my friend sells an instructional video series on how to paint with texture in Photoshop at

Where do your ideas for your conceptual images come from? I think you should do social campaign images! (Have you ever done that?)

Originally my ideas were generated from a particular assignment I was given to illustrate. I would read over the article and let it stew around in my mind for a day or so, (if time permitted with the deadline), I would consider the symbols I might use to represent the concepts and then I would sit down and start doodling rough thumbnails. Sometimes the ideas come quickly; sometimes it takes me a couple days to generate a satisfactory image. I usually would give a client several ideas to choose from. Now that I create images for stock I’m able to generate ideas without the restraints of a short deadline or a client’s narrow vision. I like to carry a sketchbook with me so I can jot down ideas when they pop into my head. I’ve never really created work specifically for any social campaigns. The opportunity has never presented itself.

Could you share some tips on how you create the “mistiness” like you do in your landscapes?

I love soft edges and texture. When I first learned to paint, I developed a dry brush technique that allowed me to work and blend the quick drying acrylic paint. It’s a process of layer on top of layer, creating wonderful textures and color harmonies. I usually put a wash over the top of my drawing and build up layers over that, working from my dark values to my lighter values. In my oil painting I like to use a quick drying alkyd medium so that I can build layers similar to the dry brush technique I incorporate in my acrylics. It’s a little slower, but a very fulfilling process.

Have you ever tried selling microstock? If so, how did you start? If not, why?

I started to sell my images back in the early ‘90s through a wonderful stock illustration company named The Stock Illustration Source. I was a little reluctant at first, many illustrators railed on the whole idea and said it would ruin the market and lower our prices. They were right, but the only constant in life is change. I saw the shift in the market and I decided it was better to take advantage of the incredible opportunity. I gradually submitted more and more of my work to stock all through the ’90s. Back then they published a yearly catalog with all the new images and sent it out to agencies and publishers all over North America. Stock illustration became my main source of income and it was an amazing income! The internet eventually took the place of the stock catalog and presented more opportunities to place my images in front of the people who might be looking for it. Microstock has been the next step in the evolution of the stock illustration market. It has lowered the prices even more and filled the market with an endless supply of images. Many people continue to complain about the changes in the market, but I see it as creating more opportunity for even more people all over the world. People like you, Anastasiia. You have taken the idea of microstock and created a wonderful world for yourself. I haven’t yet ventured into microstock, I still have over 900 images online, mostly with Stock Illustration Source. It continues to provide income, but my focus has been more towards my landscapes these past ten years. I fiddled a bit last year with learning how to create vector images in Adobe Illustrator, I’ll get back to it sometime in the near future, but I prefer to work with pixels for now.

What inspires you most?

I love shapes and the effects of light on shapes! I see geometry in everything, the patterns, the lines, the shapes and the subtle color shifts. When I look at a mountain at sunset or the shadows in the red rocks of southern Utah, I see the endless possibilities available for my art and imagination.

Could you give more detail about your creative process?

First, I think drawing is so important! Doodling is a key in unlocking a source of ideas unimagined. I like to doodle and sketch whenever I find myself waiting or sitting, hopefully I have my sketchbook with me and I just doodle. Most of the doodles I draw are useless, but you only find diamonds after a lot of digging. I have fun along the way. I try to let loose in my sketchbooks, I’m silly, corny and downright dorky, but that’s where I play. I can be a kid again. With my landscapes, I love to work from life. I like to be there, at the source, sketching and painting little studies. I return to my studio and create larger works from those studies.

Thank you for the interview, Rob! What would you tell readers of this blog and other artists interested in pursuing a career in illustration?

I always tell students that persistence is more important than talent! I know many talented artists, but the ones who persist are the ones who will find a way. It’s not easy, you need to study the different art markets and imagine how you can place yourself into that market and be successful. There are many opportunities, but they hide from you unless you’re pursuing them. Persistence requires passion and hard work, only then will you find the road less traveled.

4 thoughts on “Interview with Rob Colvin”

  1. I will never know why, but your art and your insight continue to amaze and enthrall me. I love the softness and curviness of your style and the shapes you paint. And I especially like your touch of whimsy.

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