About the artist
Rob Zeller Bio
Robert Zeller is an artist and writer, based in Oyster Bay, NY. Zeller received a BFA from the Boston Museum School and Tufts University and an MFA from the New York Academy of Art. In addition, he continued his study of classical form with private anatomical study with the sculptor Sabin Howard, and also at the Water Street Atelier.
He is the recipient of two Posey Fellowships in 1998 and 2000, respectively, and won a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant in 2007. Zeller has exhibited his artwork in Los Angeles, Houston, and Paris.
Besides using traditional techniques in the creation of his own work, one of Zeller' s career objectives has been to promote training in traditional figurative art- making techniques for other artists. He believes that there has been a resurgence of interest in the human form, and has directed much effort to help foster interest in traditional training for artists of varied backgrounds. He has achieved several important accomplishments in that regard
In 2009, Zeller founded the Teaching Studios of Art in Oyster Bay, New York, an art school devoted to teaching traditional techniques to artists of all ages and levels of experience. The school offers a full range of traditional art classes for adults, as well children and teens, including Portfolio Preparation and Development (for artists ages 13 and up), Portraiture, Figure Drawing and Painting, Oil painting, Watercolor, Pastel, Foundation Classes and Art Lessons for Children (Ages 6-8 and 9-12 years old). The school has taught hundreds of students, in both weekly classes and workshops with some of the best contemporary figurative artists.
Zeller is also the author of The Figurative Artist’s Handbook, a comprehensive guide to figurative drawing and painting, for The Monacelli Press, published in 2017. The book features some of the finest figurative art of the past and the present day. Included are Michelangelo, Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Peter Paul Rubens, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Gustav Klimt, Edward Hopper, Andrew Loomis, Andrew Wyeth, Lucian Freud, Odd Nerdrum, Eric Fischl, Bo Bartlett, Steven Assael, John Currin, and many others. It provides in-depth step-by-step instruction and features sections on composition, portraiture, and painting. It includes chapters on creativity and on keeping a a sketchbook to help with artistic vision and evolution of creative ideas, from initial inspiration to fully developed work. Also included is an extensive section highlighting the great movements in figurative art throughout history—from ancient Egypt and Greece to the present. The book is available at bookstores around the world, as well as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Getty, Mass MOCA..
In addition, he has written essays for The Brooklyn Rail and Drawing Magazine. In 2014, he was the subject of a feature profile in Professional Artist Magazine. He has been quoted or written about in several national publications regarding The Teaching Studios of Art, including American Artist and Studios magazines.
In 2017, Zeller co –curated The New Baroque, a group exhibition at Booth Gallery in New York City, featuring 24 of the best contemporary figurative artists working today. The New Baroque was inspired by The Figurative Artist’s Handbook. Much like the Baroque period, the diverse array of artists in this exhibition spoke to contemporary political, personal and formal artistic concerns using a common, figurative language in uniquely personal styles. The original Baroque, an effort largely financed by the Catholic Church as a reaction to the Protestant Reformation, favored the “Blockbuster”, large-scale dramatic paintings of Biblical scenes that illustrated how this material world interacted with the Divine, the spiritual. Entirely secular in nature and more personal in scale, this exhibition featured artists who dug deeper than the mere appearance of things, the first level of realism.While the book was used as a starting point, Zeller and Booth Gallery Director, Casey Gleghorn moved beyond the scope of the printed text. They added artists not included in the original printing, both painters and sculptors, to reflect a broader spectrum of new and exciting voices in the figurative movement.
While I am influenced a great deal by contemporary figurative artists as diverse as Neo Rausch and Bo Bartlett, the truth is I have been fascinated by Renaissance painting. Part of this is due to a Catholic upbringing in New Orleans. As a child, I remember having dreams about angels swirling around the ceiling in my room as I drifted off to sleep. I was a little different, even then. There is something grand and sweepingly bold about the great Italian and Northern European artists in the 15th and 16th centuries. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to grow up and draw like Michelangelo, paint like Titian and Leonardo, design compositions like Tintoretto, etc. These men were giants to my younger self, me in the best possible way.
But, as an adult, someone who reads philosophy, psychology and Joseph Campbell, I've grow more attracted to the exploring the subconscious and the archetypes of dream imagery. Personally, I do not see a point top going back in time for artistic answers, but I do see the point of traveling inward. I have become a Surrealist in sheep’s clothing.
Photograph by Sandro Baebler Photography