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The Original Cool: Donald Robertson

The Original Cool: Donald Robertson

You know what I like? People who don't take themselves too seriously. Especially when they are insanely talented people who create things that are so appealing that you love them instantly, and never seem forced. Artist/Entrepreneur/Instagram-superstar Donald Robertson (@drawbertson) is one of them. 

I remember the first time I heard about Robertson because it was right when his boy twins Charlie and Henry were born, and one of the first things I saw on his Instagram feed was them in the hospital. Henry and Charlie since then became the CUTEST babies on earth, and an obsession for 170k+ people who love Robertson's art as much as they adore his twin boys. (And can I please toot my own horn here? Years ago, I was the first one who named "Handsome" Henry. Since then it has become Henry's moniker, and a hashtag. I count this as one of my lifetime achievements. In fact, I want my obituary to say "The creator of #handsomehenry and many other things she didn't actually create.) 

Anyway. Robertson is very, very cool on his own. He is actually one of the creators of MAC Cosmetics and the Viva Glam campaign, an Estee Lauder Artistic Director, a children's book author (hello Mitford at the Fashion Zoo, the sequel is coming soon as well), a nut aficionado, as well as a J.Crew collaborator. Actually, Robertson's collaborations are manifold from Bloomingdales' breast cancer awareness campaign to cult French boutique Colette, from Flirt Cosmetics to IAmMoreThan project, from GlamGlow to American Marie Claire, Glamour, and Instyle magazines. The dude is nonstop, so much so that it is not uncommon to see his followers ask him whether he ever sleeps on his Instagram feed. (He says he does. Given how productive, he obviously doesn't do it as much I do.) 

Donald Robertson

Donald Robertson is often titled "Andy Warhol of Instagram", and there is good reason for that - he usually (but not entirely) creates "pop art", with vibrant colors through acrylic paint and bright gaffer tape. He draws people, famous, living, and imaginary - his children's book Mitford and the Fashion Zoo is full of characters inspired by fashion insiders such as Anna Wintour (aptly named, Panda Summers) and Grace Coddington (even more aptly named, Ace Salmonton). It is quite obvious from how prolific he is that he takes is work seriously - while doing the opposite for himself as an artist, and his subjects. And yet, he always manages to create something that makes the viewers and subjects of his art happy. With his tongue in cheek approach, it is not surprising either that he is a big champion of neon gaffer tape, and the simple Sharpie - a tool you can apparently make fabulous art with if only you had the talent (And maybe you do. If that is the case, I admire and commend you. I surely do not. I know this because I did try doing multiple Robertson-style Sharpie drawings. They looked like nothing but black noodles offering a blood sacrifice to gods. I wish I took a photo of it to scare the crap out of you.)

As you can see, I really, really like Robertson's work. Along with David Downton, he is one of my two favorites. So when I heard on Instagram that he was going to take over Bergdorf Goodman's windows last year, I had to go check it out. (Which, admittedly, was a bad idea because I suck at meet and greets. I get too excited, and I try not to seem too excited, so I end up as stiff as a broom and absolutely creepy, and people I meet probably wonder what the hell is wrong with me.)

But I did go. And I was so eager to meet Robertson that I arrived before the store opened - because I wanted to be in the front of the line. Needless to say, it turned out the meet and greet was not going to start for another 2 hours. And I was the only loser there.

Donald Robertson

 

But being the creep that I am, I waited. And while I waited, I got a makeover I really did not want. Before I could realize what was happening, one of the Estee Lauder associates at Bergdorf sat me down, and literally started plucking my eyebrows while saying "How much better I would look for Donald." In that chaos I remember responding by "I actually just like his art." but I don't know if she was listening. Because she then kept plucking and proceeded by filling in my brows at the same time. (I went home with that eyebrow pencil, and three lipsticks I didn't really want because I am also a sucker. I have thick eyebrows that quickly turn into huge caterpillars when I fill them in. An eyebrow pencil was the last thing I needed. But again, the suckerness is very strong in me.)

Thankfully, Robertson showed up early to set up (I was THAT early.) He just came in like everybody's friend, his backpack casually on one shoulder with a big smile on his face, and I have to say, he was the friendliest/chillest person ever. The Estee lady whom at that point I really, really did not like pushed me towards him, and said "She is your big fan!" (not embarrassing at all), and Robertson was sweet enough to overlook the awkwardness and chatted with me for a while about the windows, and how Charlie had gotten sick that morning but will be in later in the day. And after having had my photo taken with Robertson (by the Estee lady, who else), and got my gaffer tape I felt like I had to leave since I was the only crazy person there at that hour. So I packed up my eyebrow pencil, my three lipsticks, said thank you to Robertson, and left as awkwardly as I came. 

It was awesome.

Another thing I really like about Robertson is that he uses a lot of materials that you wouldn't think to make art, like pizza boxes as canvasses or ketchup as paint. At least to me it feels like art is approachable and FUN, rather than something that you can only create under certain specific conditions for it to turn out good and "respectable". (Granted, even the artists who create "fun" things do a lot of prepwork, thinking, and studying.) But I just like that the guy takes spinach leaves, jam, tomatoes, or whatever and creates art. I guess that's how it is when your life is actually interwoven with it. Art is supposed to elate and inspire, right? I think Robertson does that very well, and what I like even better is that he does it without taking himself too seriously. Like Matthew Mcconaughey takes himself seriously. Mark Wahlberg takes himself seriously (remember the TRL clip where Eminem mocked him for the Funky Bunch, and he was about to punch Eminem in the throat? It was priceless.) Mariah Carey takes herself seriously (OH MY GOD. By the way, please listen to this NYT Popcast about Carey. It was great analysis and such a fun conversation to listen to.) That kind of uppity artistry is a complete turn off for me. Great movie bro, no I don't want to watch it.

All in all, I like Robertson's artistic style very much. I love fashion illustration, and he does a kind that I am a complete sucker for. But I also like that he makes art so accessible, breaks the rules of how one can make art, what an artist looks like (YAY for suburban parents making pop art!), and just creates art that makes me happy. I just wish that I was not stupid enough to ask him for a small drawing rather than asking him to write my name on gaffer tape when I met him. You meet your favorite artist, and what do you ask for him to do? Write your name on gaffer tape. 

Idiot (as can be evidenced by the smile below.) 

Donald Robertson

You can see more of Robertson's art on his website, and read this Vanity Fair piece about him here

(Title photo courtesy of Donald Robertson)

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