Pointillism transformed art in the late 19th century. Are pixels their match in the 21st?
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. A thousand words don’t even begin to describe the amazingly talented work of local artist David Roesner. The Maryland native and former Mt. Vernon resident, has garnered a lot of praise for his surreal aesthetics and design.
“It’s just something that I’ve always done,” explained Roesner about becoming an artist. “I’ve always drawn and doodled. I started taking it seriously in high school and devoted a lot of time and discipline to developing drawing and painting skills.” Roesner also mentioned that he always had a passion for art and design but it was the creative drive that honed his technique. “My middle school drawings looked a lot like everyone else’s but when I decided in high school to focus on art it became a priority. After a lot of hours of practice, it turned into a refined skill.”
As a graduate of Calvert Hall College High School, Roesner was faced with a dilemma when choosing the right college. “I ended up having to decide between art school and architecture. It was more a pragmatic decision. I didn’t know anyone as an artist, and I didn’t see it initially as a legitimate profession. Nothing against my background, but at the time I didn’t see that painting was possible.” Roesner went on to graduate from the College Park School of Architecture. Eventually, his foray into architecture allowed him to balance two of his passions. “I count my blessings that I am able to paint and do what I love and sustain that with architecture. Today, I work two days a week at an architecture firm. Right now, painting is the majority of my time and income. It’s the majority of my inspiration, but I’m not writing off architecture, either. I’m trying to find the balance between the two.”
Roesner’s developing artistry meant drawing from his own well. “I was largely self-taught after high school. Calvert Hall gave me the foundation and practices that I was able to expand into the canvas. It gave me the discipline to sit in front of a painting for hours at a time. Those teachable moments helped me to maintain that kind of practice in my life. It provided that building block to keep me sane and help me to investigate what makes the world tick.”
Working almost exclusively in oil on canvas, Roesner’s work goes far beyond just the actual painting. “I often build and stretch my own canvases, so they are large and personal before I get to paint them. I’m intimate with the material and preparation is part of it. It’s almost a ‘spiritual preparation.’ You’re attached to it before the inspiration evolved into the artwork itself.”
Roesner had to give pause when faced with the age old question of what inspires him as an artist. “Personally, what seems to be developing as a trademark style is a digitalization and pixelation. It’s a deconstruction of an image and sort of looking at perspective and depth. The way we interact with technology in amazing. Everything about life itself is increasing technologically and digitally. Currently, now, questions of technology and self are important for artists to ask today. What does that look like in terms of our life today? What would that representation on canvas express itself as?”
Reflective, humble, and pensive, Roesner says his journey has had its bumps. Having been sober for the last three years, Roesner’s sobriety has allowed him to delve deeper into his artwork. “I loved to say that I was an artist and a painter when I was sitting on a barstool next to you,” Roesner recounts. “I was waiting tables and spending every penny and hour wasting it on the next drug. Sobriety is a foundation in my life. It’s a great gift to be able to paint with a clear head and do the things that I only said that I was going to do.”
Roesner’s story of addiction does not reflect the exaggerated celebrity stories that one hears in the media today. “I didn’t have a crazy history with drugs and alcohol, but it obviously was in my life enough that I lost my ability to become an artist. I was in a downward spiral, but thanks to some supportive friends and family I’ve been able to change that. Art has been a crucial piece to show that there’s more than drinking and drugs.”
Roesner further explained that his sobriety has affected his work as an artist in many positive ways. “It allowed me to separate what I thought was creativity from its true form. The creativity was muted by the mythos of the drunken artist. The mythos of the tortured soul. That type of thinking is just a convenient way to avoid responsibility in your life. The fear that I would lose that creative edge, but I found that now it’s the opposite. Today, the art gets to grow and I know that would have been impossible the way I had drank. There’s now more zeal for life.”
See the artist’s work at Davidroesner.com and in Baltimore at Artdromeda (1800 Washington Boulevard, through January 28th), City Cafe (1001 Cathedral Street, through year-end), Coreworks Studio at Copper Mine Racquet Club (1422 Clarkview Road), the Woodberry Wellness Center (2000 Giraud Avenue), and Flaunt Salon (827 West 36th Street).
Gregg Shapiro is the author of Fifty Degrees (Seven Kitchens, 2016), selected by Ching-In Chen as co-winner of the Robin Becker Chapbook Prize. Other books by Shapiro include the short story collections How to Whistle (Lethe Press, 2016) and Lincoln Avenue (Squares and Rebels Press, 2014), the chapbook GREGG SHAPIRO: 77 (Souvenir Spoon Press, 2012), and the poetry collection Protection (Gival Press, 2008).
He has work forthcoming in the anthology Reading Queer: Poetry in a Time of Chaos (Anhinga Press, 2018). An entertainment journalist, whose interviews and reviews run in a variety of regional LGBT and mainstream publications and websites, Shapiro lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with his husband Rick and their dog Coco.
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