Robert Zube

Questions and Answers with Robert Zube

Q.   How long does it take you to paint a picture?

A. It varies. About one painting out of ten falls off the brush and is perfect in less than a day. Another one in ten fights you to the death, and it can take years of touch up to get it just right. The remaining eight in ten paintings fall somewhere in between. It probably resembles a bell shaped curve.

Q.   How do you decide what to paint?

A. I record what I've done, what I have imagined and where we have travelled. It is helpful to understand that anything can be an artistic motif. It becomes a matter of recognizing a motif when you see one. Lately, I have been painting pictures to strengthen parts of the different continua where I may be weak.

Q.   What inspires you?

A. Inspirations are illusive. They do not come up to you, bite you on the nose and say here I am. They are more like hummingbirds. Suddenly they flit by, and in a moment they are gone. You must always be prepared to seize that moment when it presents itself. Since anything can be a motif, you must simply keep your eyes and ears open.

Q.   What do you like to paint most?

A. I like different things for different reasons. For example, I like landscapes because they are perfectly suited to brush strokes. I also like to seek out motifs that have never been painted before. These tend to be variations on pop art. For example, I have painted the morning newspaper, my credit card, my fingerprint, a license plate and a traffic directional sign on the freeway.

Q.   What kind of painter do you consider yourself?

A. I am a painter of anything that can be seen or imagined. I tend to paint with brushes, although I also often use a roller. I use acrylic paint from a tube or one gallon can, and then I seal it with anywhere from one to a dozen coats of lacquer. The sealing protects the painting surface and evens out differences in sheen.

Q. Where did you study painting?

A.  I have never had a lesson in art or a class in art history. That would have ruined everything. I never wanted to pick up another painter's bag of tricks, and I never wanted to absorb an art historian's misguided analysis of history.

Q.   You say you have never taken a class in art history, and yet your knowledge seems so broad. How did you learn?

A. There is nothing that stops one from entering a museum, reading a book, or stumbling on to something that just seems to make sense. One can also apply techniques acquired in one discipline (such as anthropology) and apply them to the study of another (such as art history). You can also learn a great deal about success and failure simply by painting a picture. I have now painted about 1,600.

Q.   How did you reach your conclusions about Van Gogh and Picasso?

A. These two have always seemed difficult to decipher. And many people have tried. For me, the answers came in a heartbeat. With Van Gogh, I just happened to look out of a window in a Berlin cafe. I knew instantly that Van Gogh had looked through a similar window and saw the same thing that I did: that is, what the old glass did to color and form. With Picasso, I learned about the most difficult middle era of Cubism while tracing a picture he had painted of his art dealer, Henry Kahnweiler. I again knew instantly that he had erased half of a sketch to achieve a new structure.

Q.   Why have you continued to paint all these years?

A. I have enjoyed exploring all of the different things you can do with paint. I also wanted to do something that might be remembered. This will likely turn out to be my Theory of Artifacts and Creative Strategies. It presents a classification system that can accommodate all of the paintings that have ever been painted. That seems to me to be a pretty good accomplishment.

Q.   Just what is this theory?

A. It begins with the presumption that all paintings are artifacts that are separate from the artist that created them. This makes it much easier to classify the paintings according to their physical characteristics. Paintings can be differentiated just like plants or animals.

Q.   At what age did you begin your artwork?

A. I had asthma as a child and had to stay home from school perhaps two days a week. I began drawing and painting to amuse myself. I outgrew the asthma but just kept on painting.

Q.   How many paintings do you do a year?

A. It has varied over the years between one a year up to a couple of years where I painted nearly 100 each year. Over time, the average seems to be about twenty. I have a simple rule. I resolved years ago that I would paint at least one good painting a year. Without knowing it at the time, I had charted a lifetime plan. There has been only one year where I was up until midnight of New Year's Eve finishing the one painting for that year.

Artist Engagements

Zubeum artists Robert and Eileen Zube are available to lecture on art topics related to painting, quilting and the theory of art. Please contact the artists to schedule a timetable for presentations. Contact