Art News

Remington Robinson: Inspired by Everything From Meditation to Mint Tins

Remington Robinson: Inspired by Everything From Meditation to Mint Tins (5)
Remington Robinson at his Boulder studio with some of his Altoid-tin paintings.
Painter Remington Robinson has an unlikely inspiration in Eduard Albert “Billy” Meier, the Swiss author and photographer who claims to have had repeated contact with extraterrestrials. About fifteen years ago, Robinson discovered Meier while surfing YouTube; he eventually traveled to a tiny town in Switzerland to visit with the one-armed UFO scholar. Today, Robinson’s painting of Meier hangs prominently in his Boulder studio.

“I think that the movement he’s created with his literature very well could be the most important event that has happened in history,” Robinson says, “but 99.99 percent of people don’t know about it. He says that the meaning of life is to evolve our consciousness and to expand in all areas of knowledge and wisdom and also just be more peaceful, loving. He says there are human beings throughout the universe and that applies to all of them, and I just liked that.”

At the studio he’s shared with a few other artists since the summer of 2020, Robinson — who goes by "Rem" and carries himself with an infectious youthful energy — enthusiastically flips through a book of Meier’s photographs of purported flying-saucer sightings while discussing Meier's worldview.

“I try to embody it in my work and meditation, too," Robinson explains. "I feel like all my work is kind of a byproduct of meditation. Painting itself is a form of meditation, because anytime you’re concentrating, it’s meditation. It’s basically a form of meditation, but also, anytime you’re painting from life, you’re studying reality and you’re recording reality through your consciousness and putting it down on a canvas or a piece of wood. What Meier says is that real truth is integrating yourself into reality, and it is recognizing reality and certainty in recognition of reality.”
Courtesy Remington Robinson
Robinson, 35, grew up in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, a small town near Cleveland. His late father was an architect, and Robinson got into art as a preschooler, playing with colored pencils and drafting supplies in his dad’s office.

“I was exposed to a lot of painting when I was growing up because my great-grandfather was a painter," he adds. "We had paintings of his all over our house, my grandma’s house, my aunt’s and uncle’s houses. I also really liked Monet and Dalí and other painters. Maybe I was a painter in a previous lifetime, or I wanted to be a painter and was like, 'Okay, this time I’m gonna do it.’

“I was sort of inclined toward art when I was little,” Robinson continues, “but I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up, and then when I was in high school, I took a painting class and there was an assignment that I ended up really excelling at, and in sophomore year of high school, I thought, ‘Maybe I could do more with this.’”

Robinson moved to Boulder in 2004 to major in studio art at the University of Colorado. After faring poorly there, he enrolled at Front Range Community College to improve his academic standing. He ended up transferring to Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design and finished his degree while continuing to live in Boulder, traveling an hour and a half by bus each way and, at one point, accidentally leaving his great-grandfather’s vintage oil paint behind on a commute.

Along the way, though, he learned to integrate Meier’s cornerstones of "love, peace, freedom and harmony" into his work.

Today Robinson, who has developed an impressive following on Instagram, lives in Boulder with his partner (a physicist) and her daughter. While he’s currently working on a large, rose-themed mural on the outside of the Acoma apartments in Denver, over the last few years his passion has been painting tiny, intricate  landscapes inside Altoid tins.

“I started doing plein air painting, painting from life, in 2016," he recalls, "and I started seeing people here and there online, on Instagram, painting in Altoid containers, and that sounded fun, so I decided to try it out.”
Courtesy Remington Robinson
As he paints, Robinson keeps the inspiration going with music — “mostly the Dead, classical music, Stephan Bodzin and deep house.” While all artists have different tastes in music and different music-listening habits, he says that for him, “it’s beneficial to be productive if you’re listening to music that makes you feel good, that kind of exudes creative energy — music that’s peaceful.”

Robinson’s fascination with Meier plays into this, too. “The fundamental thing from him is that anything that’s good for your psyche is beneficial because anything that you’re creating, if you’re an artist, is created through the powers of consciousness," he explains. "If your psyche is in turmoil, it mucks everything up, and if you’re able to have a clear psyche or a state of equilibrium, it makes creativity flow a little bit better.

“That’s why I listen to the Grateful Dead, I think. I like listening to their live shows, the ones that exude creative energy and are exciting, and with classical music I’m able to calm myself down and focus more intently.”

Each Altoid piece takes Robinson anywhere from one to three hours on average. He mostly paints Colorado scenes, but “anytime I get away, I try to get at least a few done,” he says. The “Altoid-container paintings,” as Robinson calls them, are a stark contrast to the large-scale, realistic landscapes he used to regularly produce; one of his favorite large pieces — which he refuses to sell — hangs in the lobby of his studio.

“That takes a long time, putting all these points along the canvas and then scaling them up with math,” Robinson says of the large pieces. “I like to try to make [my work] look like a photo, but sometimes it’s more fun to let loose. I think the important thing is getting the feeling of what the initial idea for the painting was, what inspired that painting in the first place. If you’re working from life, the sun can shift or the clouds roll in, and the life goes away.

"Some people start chasing the light instead of what you initially came there for,” Robinson adds. “It’s important to remember what the initial inspiration was, why the painting was started in the first place.”
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Pittsburgh native Adam Perry is a cyclist, drummer and University of Pittsburgh and Naropa University alum. He lives in Boulder and has written for Westword since 2008.
Contact: Adam Perry