Steve Roberson: From Chopper Pilot to Award Winning Artist

Steve Roberson amidst some of his landscape impressionist paintings at Center in the Square’s first floor gallery.

Steve Roberson amidst some of his landscape impressionist paintings at Center in the Square’s first floor gallery.

Steve Roberson hasn’t been painting fine art all that long but he has always like to doodle and draw. That’ll happen when your father was an artist and a public school art teacher. “That’s where I learned…the rest was just practicing and looking at other artist’s techniques,” said Roberson, who also studied books on art and artists’.

For the past two years Roberson, who flew transport helicopters during a nine-year hitch in the Marines, has painted impressionist landscapes, a la Claude Monet, one of his favorites. He started with pencil sketches of Marine Corps aircraft “and sold a bunch of those for a while.”

“The stuff I’m doing now is really different than what I usually do,” said Roberson of his new mixed media work.

Roberson is still branching out and will debut yet another facet of his work during the next “Art By Night,” on Thursday, November 4 from 5-9 p.m. You can see his creations  at the Center in the Square building, in the first floor gallery.  That’s when a number of downtown Roanoke galleries will remain open until 9 p.m., as they do on the first Thursday of every month.

“I like to experiment and try different things, to see what I can come up with” said Roberson, who did a takeoff on the famous “Scream” painting with “Stinkbug Scream,” a nod to the noxious little creatures that have invaded Roanoke Valley homes this year. “Everybody could relate to it,” said Roberson, who was inspired himself by a stinkbug flying around his house.

The original stinkbug painting and several prints were snapped up when Roberson placed the oil piece on display at a Roanoke County boutique. “I actually had held off from doing oils for so long,” said Roberson, who claims he is still trying to nail down what his specific style is as a painter, even as his impressionist pieces seem to have found a niche. “I just love trying new things.”

Making the jump from pencil sketching to color oils “really kind of scared me,” said Roberson, who thought his work looked cartoonish at first.  He kept at it and finally found more earthy tones that satisfied him.

Roberson (38), a Chesapeake native who used to sketch helicopters while in the Marines, found an online course about the Flemish technique and impressionist paintings. He began to tackle the impressionist genre in earnest only about two years ago.

Facebook has been a “great marketing tool,” for Roberson, who often posts pictures of his paintings and bulletins about upcoming showings online. “You can really figure out quick who likes your work and who doesn’t.”

One of his pieces, The Path, recently took second place oil painting honors at the Smith Mountain Arts Council juried show. (Another Roanoke artist, former Patrick Henry High School librarian Anna Wentworth, took home a first place blue ribbon.) Roberson, who works for an accounting firm by day, figures he will continue to learn and grow as an artist: “I hope to never stop doing this.”  See or srobersonstudios on Facebook.

By Gene Marrano
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