22 Questions With Robert Brunelle

22 Questions With Robert Brunelle

1. Name: Robert Waldo Brunelle Jr.

2. Age: 62

3. Hometown: I was born in Rutland in 1958. My family has lived there since 1905. My folks still live there today!

4. How would you describe yourself in three words? Creative. Antiquarian. Humorous. 

5. What’s something not a lot of people know about you? I suffer from many odd phobias, as well as a touch of OCD.

6. How do you start your day? Often by going to my studio to draw a cartoon I dreamed up during the night. I try to do at least one creative thing before breakfast daily.

7. What is the most adventurous thing you’ve done in your life? Taught art to middle school aged children every school day for 31 years. 

8. What’s your favorite food? Dark chocolate.

9. Do you have a day job? I retired from teaching art in public school in 2012. I am now a painter, sculptor, freelance art educator, book illustrator and political cartoonist, so every day I am doing one or the other of those things.

10. What mediums do you work in? I paint mostly with acrylics nowadays.  My cartoon strip and book illustrations are drawn on a computer using a graphic tablet, and my sculptures are made of wood, foam core and acrylic paints.

11. Why these mediums? When I began painting back in 1978 I used oils, however I switched to acrylics in the mid 1990’s because they are less toxic, and I don’t need to use smelly paint thinners. When I began my cartoon strip Mr. Brunelle Explains It All in 1997 I used pen and ink on paper, but I switched to drawing them digitally in the early 2000’s. It is much easier and faster to draw them digitally, and I can email them to my editors rather than relying on snail mail. I started making kinetic sculptures out of scraps of wood and foam core back when I was teaching because that was what I had laying around my art classroom. 

12. What inspired you / how did it start? I’ve been drawing since I was a small child. Fortunately, my parents kept me well supplied with lots of paper and pencils, and encouraged me to keep at it. When I was in the 8th grade my teachers began to recognize my talent, and they also encouraged me. I was also lucky to meet two professors when I was at St. Michael’s College, Lance Richbourg and Roy Kennedy, both of whom set me on my path to becoming a professional artist. Lance taught me painting and art history, and Roy taught me sculpture and printmaking. I shared a studio with Lance after I graduated, and we are still friends today.    

13. Do you have a process for creating? I am a bit obsessive/compulsive, so I must do something creative every day or I can’t sleep at night. I have two studios in my home, a large one for making sculptures and prints, and a small one where I paint and draw my cartoons and book illustrations. I always have one or two paintings in progress at all times, and I like to finish at least two every month. Every year I choose a theme, and then try to create at least two dozen variations on that theme (I’ve discovered over the years that 25 paintings is the perfect number for a solo art show). As for the cartoon strip, I draw at least three per week, and once a month I send them all to the editors of Funny Times and Humor Times. It is a political strip, so I watch the news every evening, and jot down ideas based on current events. My kinetic sculptures are much more labor intensive, so I only make two or three of those each year.

14. When are you most inspired / what’s your favorite time of day to work? I generally do my cartoons first thing in the morning, and I do my paintings after supper in the early evening. I got into that habit when I was a teacher, because when I got home in the afternoon I was usually too tired to do anything!

15. Which artists inspire you? My paintings are often compared to those of my hero Edward Hopper. His painting “Early Sunday Morning” which I first saw in a college art history class, is what made me want to become a painter. Other artists and cartoonists who inspire me include Charles Addams, Robert Crumb, Goya, Edward Gorey, Daumier, Breughel, Gluyas Williams, Renoir, Roy Lichtenstein, Kandinsky (my sculptures are abstract) T.H. Benton, Winsor McCay, Peter Arno and Gary Trudeau. 

16. What do you listen to when you work? I prefer to work in silence. I suffer from chronic migraines and I am slightly deaf, so sounds distract me. When I am not working however, I enjoy listening to classical music, or early (pre-1950) jazz. I play the fiddle, and I like listening to bluegrass and Old Time fiddle bands as well. 

17. What are your thoughts about being an artist in Rutland? I visit Rutland every month, and my folks keep me updated as to artistic happenings there, but I haven’t lived in Rutland since 1980, so I’m afraid I couldn’t comment on that. However, I do applaud the efforts of the Chaffee to promote visual arts in the area.  

18. What is your earliest memories of making art in Rutland? The very first time I  exhibited my art in public was in a group art show at the Chaffee, back in the mid 1970’s! I’ve also exhibited my art at the Moon Brook Gallery, and in the lobby of the newly renovated Paramount Theater, and I had a solo show at the Chaffee in 1992. When I was a teen I worked at the Rutland Historical Society (I was both an art and a history major in college), and I helped them put together the book Rutland In Retrospect (I collect vintage photographs, and some from my collection appear in the book. I also wrote the pages about the history of automobiles in Rutland).  My roots in Rutland go back generations, and old photos of Rutland have inspired many of my paintings.  

19. Which arts organizations in town are you currently involved with? At the moment my only connection with the Rutland art scene is via my membership with the Chaffee. I was delighted to have several of my Dropped Foods paintings in (the) recent show The Five Senses, and I look forward to participating in future shows.

20. What’s your favorite art exhibit / project you’ve seen in Rutland? I used to participate in the Art In The Park shows back in the 1980’s, which I think are a wonderful way to bring art to the general public.

21. What would you like to see for the future of the arts in Rutland?  Because I am both an artist and a historian, I would love to see some sort of art project or show that deals with Rutland’s rich history! 

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