Born in West Chester, Pennsylvania, Robert Caldwell spent his boyhood years in Verplanck, New York, where he learned to love the outdoors. The Boy Scouts were a conduit to nature for Robert and provided him with some of his most memorable adventures, including 50-mile canoe trips in upstate New York and backpacking in Cimarron, New Mexico. Although Robert always loved to draw, it was in middle school that he discovered art’s magic; that he could draw an image on paper that looked three-dimensional. Sidetracked by music (first the violin and then the saxophone), Robert returned to art in high school following his family’s move to Northern Virginia. By his senior year, he was taking four art classes a day, working solely in graphite and colored pencil. He also oversaw a team of student artists who painted a mural in the cafeteria that he designed, and won several local competitions, including a storyboard contest for a TV commercial about conservation. Robert attended Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, where he graduated in 2000 with a B.F.A. in communication arts and design. He won several awards in college including an honorable mention in Strathmore Artist Papers; a student illustration contest and a certificate of merit from the Society of Illustrators, which resulted in his work being displayed in New York City.
Today, Robert’s passion for art and nature can be seen in his highly detailed, realistic paintings and drawings. Never without his camera and sketchbook, Robert draws inspiration from familiar items. He searches for elements that are often overlooked but that provide opportunities for compelling compositions, particularly where people and nature intersect. Working from his Midlothian, Virginia, studio Robert uses photographic references complemented by field studies to compose his drawings and paintings.
“This is where I make the choices that affect the underlying structure of the piece,” Robert says. “I like the challenge of creating a well-balanced composition…it’s like solving a problem and trying to figure out how all the pieces fit together. Just like a house, it’s what’s under the surface of the artwork, “what you don’t see,” that makes it beautiful. You don’t see the load-bearing supports in a million-dollar mansion, but without them, the house would crumble.” When painting, Robert starts with a detailed drawing and then adds color layer by layer using the drawing as a valuable guide to creating astonishing detail. He employs a similar technique when drawing with graphite. “I work in layers, using the hardest grade pencil first and work my way through to the softest grade, slowly building on top of each existing layer. This is what gives my work depth.”
Robert regularly exhibits his work in regional shows, including the Aldie Mill Art Show & Sale in Aldie, Virginia, and Art at the Mill in Millwood, Virginia. In 2007, his piece “At Rest” was selected for the prestigious Birds in Art exhibition at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin. In 2008, his painting “Faded” was selected for the Art of the Animal Kingdom XIII show at the Bennington Center for the Arts in Bennington, Vermont. Also in 2008, his graphite drawing “2008 (Rat)” was selected for the 48th Annual Society of Animal Artists Exhibition, Art and the Animal, at the Neville Public Museum in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Robert will also exhibit his work at the 38th annual Waterfowl Festival in Easton, Maryland, this fall and, in 2009, at the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition in Charleston, South Carolina. Robert is represented by Berkley Gallery in Warrenton, Virginia.