The Art of Clem Robins
By KATHRYN HINTON
“Clem Robins has been lettering comics since 1977, for every major, and quite a few minor, publishers. His work has been twice nominated for the Harvey, and once for the Eisner and Wizard awards. His current projects include Hellboy, B.P.R.D., Unknown Soldier, Greek Street, First Wave and How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less. His book The Art of Figure Drawing was published in 2002 by North Light Books. It has since been translated into French, Spanish, German and Chinese, and still makes the ideal gift for any occasion.
Robert Beverly Hale taught Clem Robins that an artist learns the structure of things, and then only consults nature incidentally. Robins is no longer sure that he buys this notion, particularly as concerning his current obsession, landscape. Nature serves up an amazing concoction of effects, and never repeats itself. At least for the moment, Robins is approaching nature as a willing student, not as a master. He hopes you’ll take as much pleasure in his renditions of dazzling sunshine and atmosphere as he had in attempting to record their poetry on canvas.
Robins studied drawing and painting at the Art Students League of New York, where his teachers included Hale, David Leffel, Robert Philipp, Joseph Hirsch and Ted Seth Jacobs.
His drawings and paintings are in collections all over the country, and in the permanent collection of the Cincinnati Art Museum.
While modeling on and off over the last year or two. I had the privilege and the honor of befriending Clem Robins. I have had firsthand experience of seeing his sumi ink figure sketches in process or his figure in landscape paintings in process.
Clem Robins, in my humble opinion, has led a very interesting life and has many fascinating stories about his experiences. As a child growing up, Clem said, “I was a pain in the ass.” Then he went on to describe his father Symour Robins with great love and admiration in his voice. His father was a great influence over Clem as an artist. Clem said his father was the greatest artist he had ever known in his life. One of Clem’s memories about his Father was when he introduced him to his Anatomy class at the Art Academy. He told his student during his introduction. “My father is the greatest artist I have ever known in my life.”
As he continued to share more about his family, Clem said that his father was born in Canada and was raised in Brooklyn. He told me his mother was his father’s secretary and that his sister is a very successful writer who is about to publish her fourteenth book; his brother in law is a sound designer works for George Lucas.
Clem shared some of his experiences from when he attended the Art League in New York. One of his instructors was Robert Beverly Hale who was a legend and a brilliant lecturer. Clem learned Anatomy from Robert, but he did not know how to draw which, in Clem’s opinion of himself, held him back in drawing, it was not until later when he met Carl Samson who taught him that the purpose of learning anatomy is so you can learn to draw the figure without the model. Clem learned to take what he saw and to communicate as truthfully as possible.
Clem worked in comics since 1977; he was 21 when he first started getting work. He started with Gold Key, DC and Marvel. He has worked on comic books like Batman and Superman. At the age of 26 Clem was also a courtroom illustrator for television. After having such a tough time mastering Anatomy, he later can to teach it at the Art Academy.
Clem wants to be remembered as someone who thrilled people when he taught the bible to them. He wants his pictures to stand on their own merits. Clem said, “No one has heard of Willard Metcalf but I have on my wall. I wouldn’t mind at all if pictures I make, gave people the idea of how I saw the world for better or worse. I would like them to physically last. I would like to be remembered that I have integrity, not cutting corners. I would like my pictures to reflect that.”
Clem has artwork hanging in the permanent collection of the Green Acres Artist’s guild in Indian Hill in the old Fleishmin Mansion. He will also have art hanging in the Rotting Haus gallery, date and time TBA.