Robert Ferguson is a contemporary impressionist painter in the mode of Claude Monet, Edgar Degas and Paul Cézanne. He is opening a studio in Pinyon Pines that backs onto national forest land with an unobstructed view of the mountains and a light-enriched environment.
Ferguson’s paintings are rich with color, as were those of the old impressionist masters. “It’s about the color of the air and the light,” said Ferguson, noting that working outdoors in his new Pinyon Pines studio environment (“en plein air” in painter parlance) is a tonic for the soul.
Ferguson recalled that often, when showing at art fairs, he overhears potential patrons saying, “Let’s go into the ‘gallery,’” meaning into his booth of impressionist oil paintings. They ask who did them and when he answers that he is the painter, they respond, “Oh, you’re alive?”
It’s an amusing story but indicative of the fact that Ferguson’s more than 2,000 career paintings do recall a style reminiscent of another time — from the late 19th century to early 20th century.
Said Ferguson of his work, “If it is a true impressionist painting, the eye will gravitate to the light. My paintings are windows into a place in time. Two hundred years from now I want people to view my works and experience what I experienced while creating them.”
Schooled at Parsons School of Design in New York, La Mesa (San Diego) native Ferguson quickly became a noted graphic designer and art director in Manhattan. But after a visit to the Metropolitan Museum on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, Ferguson saw a brochure he had created, and was especially proud of, lying in the gutter, having been rained on and repeatedly stomped on. “It was an epiphany,” he said, and at that moment, he decided to move back to the West Coast and commit himself to a career in fine art.
“It was a five-year transition,” he said, noting that it took a while to become financially successful in fine art after leaving his high-end and secure NYC art director career. “I painted my first plein-air painting in Blue Sky Canyon in Rancho Bernardo,” he remembered. “It was a tree and a path. It was too green with not enough color,” he said. But from then on, it was an upward career arc.
“People like my work and want to own it,” he said. “My paintings only have value based on how much joy they can bring to others. I’ve done over 2,000 paintings. I number each of them on the back and write where I was when I painted them.”
Ferguson has researched his ancestry and found he was related to Winston Churchill and Jane Austin, among others. “Knowing my ancestry explained my work to me,” said Ferguson. “I’m always the most traditional and conservative painter at art shows.” And echoing a statement of Churchill who was a prolific painter and believed success came from creating a body of work, Ferguson joked, “I am prolific enough to be important.”
Ferguson’s studio opening is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, April 22 and 23, at 69250 Indio Avenue in Pinyon Pines. Flamenco guitarist Milton Merlos plays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. There is a $5 admission charge that entitles entrants to win one of three signed prints and one of Ferguson’s paintings. Twenty percent of proceeds from art sales at the opening will be given to the California Desert Arts Council to fund its education mission. To view Ferguson’s work, visit www.fergusonart.com.