2010-08-25 / Front Page

Brush with greatness

By Caroline Gecker INTERN

Robert Caldwell in his home studio Lisa Billings/Chesterfield Observer Robert Caldwell in his home studio Lisa Billings/Chesterfield Observer If a picture is worth a thousand words, then Midlothian artist Robert Caldwell has been saying quite a bit lately with his nationally recognized wildlife paintings. The West Chester, Pa., native discovered his passion for art at a young age, working with graphite and colored pencils through middle and high school. It wasn’t until he arrived at Virginia Commonwealth University that he discovered his true love was painting.

“A professor of mine suggested I color in my drawings,” recalls Caldwell, 37. “It took me several years to figure out what he meant by that, but that’s basically what I do now: I start with a finished drawing... and then start to add color layer by layer.”

In 2000, Caldwell graduated with a bachelor of fine arts in communications art and design and has been taking the art world by storm ever since. His realistic nature paintings have won him considerable praise and recognition, and Caldwell is happy to be doing something he loves.

“I enjoy the painting process...I guess what inspires me is the thought of capturing a moment in life that is easily overlooked because of our hectic lives,” Caldwell explains. “We are all so ‘connected’ and ‘on-the-go’ now that...we don't take the time to enjoy the small moments in life.”

Hopefully, Caldwell is enjoying the big moments, too, because his career is having plenty of them. Most recently, his work was selected for the prestigious Art and the Animal exhibition at the San Diego National History Museum and the famous Birds in Art exhibition at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wisconsin. Birds are some of Caldwell’s favorite natural specimens.

“Obviously, I like to paint birds,” he says. “They are readily available for almost any environment that I choose to paint. I love architectural elements, and it makes it easy to find an intriguing composition with those elements and then insert a bird into the composition.”

Still, Caldwell is keeping his significant success in perspective.

“I consider my greatest accomplishment to be the ability to paint every day from my [home] studio...and raise my little boy, [Jacob],” he says. “I have the honor of having my work included in the nation’s most prestigious wildlife art exhibitions, but that doesn't compare to having my son run into my studio with a big smile on his face, telling me about the new Lego model he has made – that’s a real accomplishment.”

While Jacob and Caldwell’s wife, Kristen, are certainly his top priority, it is clear that painting brings him considerable joy as well. In the future, he hopes to travel around the world to “capture moments in other countries and bring those back to create paintings, and then share the paintings and the stories that go with the images” that he creates. Indeed, Caldwell enjoys watching how people react to the stories his pieces tell.

“I love to watch people look at my work without them knowing that I am see their expressions. I know I have captured something relevant when they leave the painting with that little smile on their face, as if they remember that scene from some subconscious reflection.”

Local fans eager for a taste of Caldwell’s work can see select pieces at the Berkley Gallery in Warrenton, Va., or visit for more information about his art.

Return to top