Rob Henry is lifelong resident of the Washington, DC area. He grew up in Arlington, VA, lived in the District of Columbia for many years and currently lives in Bethesda, MD with his wife Anne and their corgi, Ally.
Rob has been painting watercolors for over 20 years. His first artistic love was photography and all of his early training was in that medium. On a trip to the eastern shore of Maryland in the mid 1980’s, Rob Henry saw the work of a watercolor artist named Francis Gregg whose landscapes of the area stirred something inside him that no photograph ever would again. He bought several small works and studied them to try to see how she had done them.
About the Artist
I love the experience of painting watercolors. The same things that seem to scare many artists away from painting watercolors is what draws me to them. The immediacy of the medium, it’s “uncontrollable” and “unpredictable” nature, those things that only watercolors can do. The “accidents” of paint flowing where it wasn’t supposed to go and the flow of one color into another. That is what I enjoy so much about watercolors. I’ve heard so many people say “ I wish I could paint watercolors” “it’s such a hard medium to learn” The fact for me is that I learned how to paint in watercolors and have a hard time trying to paint in other mediums as the process is almost the exact opposite. It’s like driving a car backwards.
I also love the fact that watercolors, for the most part, are quick and clean and portable. It’s just as easy for me to paint in my studio, outside on a picnic table or on my lap in a car someplace. I can throw a few things in a bag and I’m ready to paint anywhere. I don’t have to haul around a ton of equipment.
I tend to paint out of my head. By that I mean I don’t usually paint just what I see, whether its in front of me or in a photograph. I like to use that as a starting point but then let the painting take me where it wants to go. Sometimes, when it works its almost magical. Often it doesn’t, but I can learn from every mistake that I make. The pile of paintings in the basement lays testament to that.
My favorite subject to paint are landscapes. I tend to paint landscapes that bring me a sense of peace. My landscapes are almost never a real place, or an exact representation of a specific place. My landscapes are more about a sense of a real place rather than just trying to recreate something that I could photograph.
My work as an artist started painfully slowly. It was a long time until I was able to paint something I really liked, and an even longer time to allow myself to be referred to as an artist. I didn’t have any training in art or painting in college. I concentrated on photography as an artistic outlet and hobby. A lot of the basic concepts are the same. What makes a good photograph often translates into what would make a good painting. Principles such as composition, shapes, contrast and focus all work the same in both.
I think painting watercolors is more a state of mind than anything else. If I’m tight and trying so hard to get something “right” I might as well put down my brush. I need to be relaxed and loose and let things happen on the paper. I can start out knowing what I want, but I'm often much happier with a finished piece when it is revealed to me when I’m done.
While he did not have any formal art training in school, Rob has taken classes for many years at the Art League School in Alexandra Virginia. He was blessed with access to high quality instructors there including Gwen Bragg, Ted Betts, Peter Ulrich and Susan Herron.
His work is often created with multiple washes of color; creating dramatic, impressionistic, paintings with a feeling of serenity and a sense of peace and wonder.
Rob Henry recently retired from National Geographic Creative, the stock agency and archive of the National Geographic Society after 35 years. During that time Rob edited the work of hundreds of the National Geographic’s photographers and reviewed hundreds of thousands of images over the course of his time there. It was an incredible opportunity to see the world from the comfort of his office and to see how some of the worlds greatest photographers share their vision with the world. Rob has decided to devote more time and attention to his art on a more “full time” basis now that he is retired and to use those same skills to share his vision of the world through watercolors.