INSPIRE ME! Artist of Month: John Robertson

I imitate my Creator whenever I create art.
By Ernest Disney-Britton

I met John Robertson on Twitter. He's a mixed-media artist who loves God & art, and is also co-director of Imago Houston, a group organized for Christian artists and art lovers. While all our previous INSPIRE ME! Artists are full-time, John is a departure from that norm because his day-job is as a pediatric pulmonologist who can't stop creating artwork based on Christian themes, and linking his Christian-themed poetry and uniquely appropriate frames. We were quite taken by this unusual combination of faith and talent, and that makes Dr. John, our INSPIRE ME! Artist of the Month for February 2013. I hope you enjoy meeting him even half as much as I have.

1. What is your faith tradition, and how did you develop into an artist who explores religion? I am a Christian mutt. I was baptized as an infant in a Greek Orthodox Church and attended an Episcopal school for 7 years. I gave my life to Christ at a Young Life camp in Colorado in high school. I was baptized again, this time by my own decision, several years later in college by a Church of Christ missionary in my apartment’s swimming pool. My wife and I currently attend a Southern Baptist church but I have great appreciation for the sacred rituals of the “high church” traditions, especially the iconography of the Orthodox church. I have been an artist since childhood, when my grandmother taught me to draw and color by holding Crayons in my hand. For reasons I can’t fully explain, I feel a need to create art. It is how I share my faith with others and how God ministers to me.
2. How do you describe your artwork? What style or genre is it? The majority of my art is based on the Christian themes and I believe that I imitate my Creator whenever I create art. Materialist poetry is the genre I aspire to, but mixed media collage is often the label given. The only “materialist poet” I know of is the professional artist Dario Robleto, who coined the phrase to describe his work. I challenge myself to infuse every possible aspect of the work with meaning. This includes not only the final appearance of the work, but the choices of materials, including the frame, dimensions and shape of the work. “Newton’s Grace (2012)” is a depiction of grace from the perspective of the author of “Amazing Grace”, John Newton. His journey of faith began during a storm in the north Atlantic in the late 1700s.
3. Have you ever had to defend exploring/engaging religious themes? My reply would be that religion houses all of the really interesting questions that are asked and answered by art. In “Job’s Universal Constant (2007)” I used one of Job’s lamentations to explore the comparison between the universal scientific constants that underpin our reality with the nature and character of God. Where else should a religious person go for inspiration than to that which has shaped, shapes, and promises to continue shaping the human soul? However, many church goers demand a defense of art itself. To them I reply that artists imitate The Artist by creating.
4. What do your collectors say about your work? Complex, profound, deep. (I don’t really have any “collectors” per se, but that is the feedback I often get.)
5. Who would you like to collect your work, and why? It is my hope and goal that my art would move some of its viewers farther along the journey of their faith. I would like it to be collected by such individuals.
6. What other artists have influenced your work? Dario Robleto has been the greatest influence on me as an artist. He currently lives and works in Houston, Texas and has coined the phrase “materialist poet” to describe himself as an artist. His work is a deep, pregnant unity of form and function. I discovered Joseph Cornell (1903-1972) several years after my started creating mixed media collage and greatly admired the museum quality of the work that was often composed of dime-store purchases. Andy Goldsworthy is a British land artist, creating natural art from the things commonly found in a certain environments: fallen leaves, clay, river stones, etc. Ron Dicianni’s work has always been impactful to me. There is some insubstantial spiritual quality to his work that plays a chord in my soul. I feel as if he paints at the intersection of the spiritual with the tangible.
7. How can A&O readers collect your work? I am also a pediatric pulmonologist in Houston, Texas and specialize in the treatment of children with breathing disorders. View my work on my website www. and contact me for purchase at john.robertson(at)