Meet the 2017 Featured Art Artist

This year’s featured art is by Robert Hurst. Read our interview below with Hurst to learn more about the work behind the featured art piece and his art career.

Tell us about yourself, your artistic background/career, where you are from and where you live now.

I’ve always been drawn to creating art and drew pictures constantly in my childhood. I would look at small photos of my classmates and render them larger to better know what my friends looked like, as I had awful eyesight. Finally at the age of 10 or so I got glasses, but still kept drawing. I lived in South Houston for my first 10 years then my family moved to the Spring, Texas area where I remained until moving to Austin in my 20’s. I visited Austin many times throughout high school and was definitely drawn to the city. I finally moved to ATX in 1985 with $50.00 and two boxes of clothes.

Throughout my life, most — but not all — of my jobs had some connection with art; picture framer, graphic designer, architectural illustrator, part time art show exhibitor, etc. My first job in Austin was at Ultra Art, a frame shop just purchased by the illustrious Dalhart Windberg. There I framed Mr. Windberg’s originals and prints. After 3 years of some much needed tutelage, I moved on to GoGo Studios where I worked for the most awesome Bill Narum doing album covers and music posters for Antone’s, Threadgill’s, and various band and events. I went from a fairly regimented work place to a fairly gonzo one. Both men (Windberg and Narum) are / were brilliant and I owe so much to them.

Throughout most of my life I’ve been active in sports (martial arts, motocross, football, baseball, rugby, volleyball), so I painted what I knew. In 1990 Earl Campbell commissioned me to do several pieces for him. Then I began doing sports memorabilia shows and found my niche. And, as they say, “The rest is history”.

What was your creative process for the featured art piece?

While meeting with the Armadillo team several ideas popped in my head immediately, and most were scuttled just as quickly. When I’m excited about a painting / project my mind often works this way, fast and furious. One image kept creeping in, however. An armadillo casually walking away from the viewer on a keyboard. From there I researched, then went to canvas with paints, as I do not sketch in advance.

What was your favorite part to put together?

This piece had a lot of the elements that I enjoy incorporating in my art: color, movement, composition, unusual angles, and creating an entirely new image.

Was there a challenging part of creating the featured art piece?

I often have a “finished” composition in my head before I start. Then it’s time to find reference material. That takes as much time as creating the painting.

Is there a 709 hidden in the piece?

There is a “709” in the headstock of the guitar.

Tell us about your history with the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar.

I’m not sure of the exact year I began showing at the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar. It was soon after it was moved from the Opera House to the Austin Music Hall. Mid ’90’s, I think. Chip and Debra Dupont lobbied for my acceptance. Bruce took a chance on a “sports artist” and we both think it was well worth it. My first year at the ‘Dillo was quite the learning experience. Although I had been to the ‘Dillo many times as a patron before my first year as an artist I had no idea the professionalism, stamina, dedication, and commitment the show requires. Bruce and many other artists offered suggestions that helped me become a better presenter of my art and helped ease the transition from a wanna be Armadillo artist to one in fact. What I learned subsequently affected every other show I did (do) in a positive way. Over the years, my work has expanded from almost exclusively sports themed to music, critters, and Austin-Texana. Much of my sports and music art is autographed by the subject. This is the biggest show I do and has been for 15 years. It was an honor to be invited and to now be part of the family.

Tell us about the first dollar you made selling your art.

The first “dollar” I made was 50 cents for a colored pencil drawing of a deer jumping over a log in second grade to a classmate’s father.

What are your favorite art supplies or tools?

I’m almost exclusively an acrylic on canvas artist, although I am versed in watercolor, oil, pastel, inks, marker, and some clay sculpting.

If you could work in any other medium, what would it be?

I’m interested in doing more sculpture, painting more plein air, and travel subjects.

Tell us about being a sports artist.

I kinda got into sports art (primarily painting subjects related to sports) by accident. I always included one or two sports paintings in my early art shows, but never considered IT as my niche. After the Earl Campbell commissions my focus changed to sports. I began doing sports memorabilia shows. That introduced my work to many of the greats (past and current) in the sports world at the time; Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Muhammad Ali, Earl Campbell, Bob Lilly and more. In 1994 I was invited to be one of the artists in the new Ballpark in Arlington Sports Art Gallery. It was the first exclusively sports art gallery within a ballpark. Soon I was in Minute Maid Park, Pittsburgh Pirates, Baltimore Orioles, and a sports art gallery in Atlanta. At one time I was in more sports art galleries than any other artist in the country, albeit briefly. I became the artist for the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in 1997, the artist for the National College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006, and artist for the Texas Heritage Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2011. What I do is paint each of the inductees. Prints are then made, signed by the inductees, and offered for sale. This is a fundraiser for the museums. I also did work for the College Football Hall of Fame for a few years, and from 2001 – 2009 created the artwork for Rodeo Austin (AKA Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo).

The inductee paintings are usually a single image. My favorite sports pieces to create are complex multi-image compilations celebrating a championship, a city’s history, an individual’s history, etc.

What are your five favorite songs, albums, or musicians?

Hmmmm, that’s a toughie. Nothing gets my air drumming “skills” hopping more than Led Zeppelin’s “In My Time of Dying”. Best concerts were Pink Floyd’s “Animals” tour and Bruce Springsteen circa 1975. I love live jazz, the purity of voice of Eva Cassidy, ELO, U2, B-52s, The Offspring, AC/DC, ABBA, and Linkin Park are great traveling music. Kate Bush is way up there, too!

Is there any wisdom you would like to pass on to emerging artists?

Always be lernin’.

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