Outdoor Palette: Robert O’Brien

White Hollyhocks, 14” x 10,” watercolor on paper

"Light is the most important person in the picture." Claude Monet, 1840-1926 founder of French Impressionism

For the painter Claude Monet, the effects of light on a subject were as important as the subject itself. Throughout his life he attempted to illustrate the importance of light in our perception of a subject at a given time and place. He often noted that he was not painting an object, but rather the way light hangs on an object.

Robert O’Brien’s work keenly reflects this sensitivity to atmosphere. In “White Hollyhocks,” he subtly interweaves light and dark to create a shimmering image of a flower in the sun. The light gently drapes over the petals and leaves while the indistinct dark background describes the form. Light is center stage. As O’Brien explains: “One of my main objectives in watercolor painting is to create light through the use of shadow. In painting ordinary images, I find a fascinating interplay between the two. The transparency of the medium helps in bringing shadows alive while allowing the light to glow.”

O’Brien is a master of watercolor technique and a signature member of the American, National, and New England Watercolor Societies, among others. He is a well-known painting teacher in New England and holds watercolor workshops and plein air painting classes throughout the year. His list of classes and instructional videos can be found on his website: robertjobrien.com.

A solo exhibition of O’Brien’s work will be on display June 9-July 8, 2018, at the Southern Vermont Arts Center in Manchester, Vermont. He is represented by Powers Gallery, Acton, Massachusetts, and The Gallery at the VAULT, Springfield, Vermont.


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