By Irene Ruddock
Robert Roehrig is a Setauket artist who has been active in the local art world for many years. He is primarily a landscape painter who has exhibited his oil paintings through his membership in several art organizations, winning awards and accolades along the way. The current vice president of the Setauket Artists, he enjoys spending time with his wife Joan, children and grandchildren, singing with the Harbormen Barbershop Chorus, and playing paddleball with his friends.
Were you interested in art as a child?
I always loved to draw. An important early influence was an artist named John Nagy, who had a TV show in the 1950’s that provided lessons on how to draw. I found it fascinating, so my parents bought his instruction book for me. In it, the artist showed you, step by step, how to complete a picture. I still remember the pictures: a railroad train with smoke billowing, a boy wearing a sombrero, etc. I happily finished every one.
Could you tell me about your journey as an artist?
I took art courses in high school and at Hofstra University, and throughout the years, I continued to draw and paint with watercolor. When I retired from teaching, I decided to try something I hadn’t done since high school – oil painting. I soon found the versatility and rich colors of the oil medium to my liking. I loved the process of creating an oil painting — choosing the scene, forming the composition, mixing the colors, applying the paint, making adjustments and viewing the final piece.
Where do you look for inspiration?
I enjoy painting Long Island landscapes and seascapes, as well as scenes from countries my wife and I visit while on vacation. In my paintings, I try to capture the beauty of the natural world. Interesting boats or buildings also attract my attention and I often choose subjects that highlight the contrast between sun and shadow. While traveling, I’m always on the lookout for a potential painting. The completed paintings help to rekindle some wonderful memories.
What techniques do you consider most important to obtaining your artistic vision?
As a realist painter of land and sea, it took years of practice to gain some competence. I found that brush control and the ability to blend colors is critical. For instance, to achieve the soft look of clouds or reflections in a lake, I lay in colors with a medium brush and then very gently, in even strokes, blend the colors with a large, very soft brush. If necessary, I can go back later and add a little more definition.
Are there present-day artists whom you admire and learn from?
I admire and learn from many of my fellow artists. The exciting thing about art is that every artist has a different technique so visiting an exhibition is a learning experience. In terms of the larger art world, I always loved the paintings of Edward Hopper, Andrew Wyeth and Winslow Homer, and, more recently, Joseph Reboli.
You have won many distinguished awards. Can you list some of them?
I was chosen as the Honored Artist in the 2016 Setauket Artist Exhibition where I won the Award of Distinction for my painting, “Late Afternoon, Brooklyn.” At the Mills Pond Gallery in 2018, I was selected to be part of the Winner’s Circle, winning first place for my painting, “Off Duty.”
I was especially honored to be “Artist of the Month” at Long Island Museum Arts in Stony Brook (LIMarts) in 2018 where I was asked to exhibit my works in their gallery. And finally, I was awarded first place in the juried North Shore Art Guild’s exhibition Perspectives of Long Island, for my painting, “Still Afloat.” Each award I have won has brought me much satisfaction.
What advice would you give to other artists?
I would advise them to improve their skills by continuing to paint since you learn by doing and experimenting. I would encourage them to stick with a painting since sometimes the unexpected happens and the painting that didn’t start out so well ends up being a nice surprise.
Where are you presently exhibiting?
From May 16 to June 6 I will be exhibiting with the Setauket Artists at the Deepwells Mansion in St. James. You may also see my painting of West Meadow Beach at the North Shore Art Guild Gallery in the lobby of the Holiday Inn Express in Centereach through June 13. Visit my website at rhroehrig.com.