, by Robert Ferguson, 2012, oil, 30 x 19 in. Collection the artist
"A lot of collectors expect artists to be spirited, entertaining non-conformists," says Robert Ferguson of Escondido, California. "I didn't set out to provoke controversy with my plein air and studio paintings, but if the publicity from exhibiting my paintings of nude male and female models helps me sell work, then I welcome the notoriety." Napa Eucalyptus
, by Robert Ferguson, 2011, oil, 30 by 40 in. Private collection
Ferguson recalls, "When I first began painting outdoors, I traveled all over the world and created about 1,000 paintings. Because I started my career as a fine artist in 1998, I have never worked from a photograph. I believe that the magic and energy of the moment would be lost if I were to work from photos. I work strictly from life or from my plein air studies."
"Once I finally had a private studio, I could pursue a long-standing ambition to paint from live models. For centuries, artists have understood how important it is to paint the nude figure, so I was excited to finally have a space where I could challenge myself to paint live models. I started out doing the traditional thing of painting female models, but for understandable reasons it was hard to convince women to pose nude in a private studio for a man they didn't know. Men were more willing to pose, and I liked the idea of confronting the public with paintings of nude and semi-draped male models. At the time, it seemed as though painting a semi-nude self-portrait was a logical extension of that confrontation." Crepe Myrtle on the Prado
, by Robert Ferguson, 2006, oil, 20 x 24 in. Private collection
Ferguson started painting nude models in 2006, and it was at that time people began seeing him as some kind of radical artist. Although that wasn't intentional, he admits that he may have fanned the fires of notoriety by posting photographs and videos of himself painting nude models, skinny-dipping, and standing in his underwear on top of the van he drives to painting locations. "I stripped down when I was out by myself on a really hot day and standing on top of the van," Ferguson demurs. "The owner of the vineyard came by and asked if he could take a photograph of me in my underwear so he could show his friends what the crazy artist was doing. I thought my friends on Facebook would get a laugh out of the photograph, so I posted it on my profile. I usually segregate the photos and videos of the nudes on a separate page that advises people they might find the content objectionable."
Ferguson painting in his underwear on top of his van
Ferguson says that although he continues to paint hired male and female models, 90 percent of his sales are of landscape paintings. "I sell a lot of my work at outdoor art festivals at which I only exhibit the landscapes," he explains. "I have two distinctly different markets for my work. Buyers at the Beverly Hills Festival tend to like my male nudes and figurative works, whereas people who come to the La Quinta festival tend to buy my local landscapes. Even the sales through my website and my storefront gallery are most often to collectors who first saw my work at one of those shows." For more information, visit www.fergusonart.com
or read the artist's blog: http://fergusonfineartstudio.blogspot.com