By Curt Peterson
water-colorist Robert J. O’Brien, who has participated in 15 of the 23
years the Vermont Crafts Guild has sponsored Open Studios Weekend,
says the event is a “win-win” for both artists and their local
A water color of a peony by Robert J. O’Brien.
“Having multiple studios
to visit brings larger audiences to see and buy the artists’ works, and
both the artists and the visitors patronize local vendors, spending the
money the outsiders have brought into town,” O’Brien said.
The artist has been creating watercolors for over 40 years, 38 of them
in Vermont. “I came to the area for a job at a map-making company in
Chester,” he said. “I was dazzled by the bright colors and changing
light in Vermont, and, after a year I decided to take advantage of them
and left mapmaking for watercoloring.”
O’Brien’s paintings capture the contrasts of light and color and
shadows. In 2014 alone, his landscapes and architectural studies won him
six prizes from various watercolor organizations, according to his
website. A Buffalo-area native, O’Brien was educated at SUNY/Fredonia
and SUNY/Buffalo; now, he is the educator, operating very popular
watercolor workshops full-time.
“I’ve done programs as far away as Hawaii and Alaska in the US, and I frequently hold them in France as well,” he said.
The nearest workshops are in Lebanon and, he says, “Many of my students come from the Quechee, Hartland and Woodstock areas.”
Often more than a dozen students sign up, but he thinks that’s the ideal number for both the teacher and the taught.
O’Brien is looking forward to Open Studios this weekend, which will
include a total of 212 participants. “Ninety percent of the studios
invite visitors to see their own work, the other 10 percent are
galleries or multiple studios that have combined their art,” he said.
The Vermont Crafts Guild website, vermontcrafts.com, has a map, listings and photographs from the participants to help visitors plan their own tours.
“It’s a great way to show off our work,” O’Brien said. “First of all,
we artists don’t have to schlepp our work around to galleries. We also
forego having to pay gallery commissions, which is nice, and buyers
really like to purchase art directly from the artist. I encourage people
to get out there and plan a day of visiting studios this weekend. Once
they do it, they will make it an annual tradition.”