PLAY­ING HIM­SELF

The fash­ion world’s favourite art bomber of the In­sta­gram era, DON­ALD ROBERTSON, talks to STEPHEN SHORT

#Legend - - GAME CHANGER - Don­ald is avail­able at As­souline book­shops and from as­souline.com

THE ANDY WARHOL of In­sta­gram is the ep­i­thet earned by Don­ald Robertson. Robertson’s work (pub­lished this month by As­souline in Don­ald), is multi-di­men­sional, sharp and hu­mor­ous, and is col­lected by stars such as Bey­oncé.

He has col­lab­o­rated with brands such as Smash­box and re­tail­ers such as Bergdorf Good­man. He is cel­e­brated by the worlds of fash­ion and art, and by al­most any­one see­ing his work for the first time, as an in­spi­ra­tion. As pro­lific as he is tal­ented, Robertson is known to his on­line fol­low­ers @draw­bert­son.

When did you first re­alise you were an artist or have you al­ways been one to wake up at the crack of dawn to paint Anna Win­tour on a US$100 bill?

Even though my work feels all over the place, I do have pa­ram­e­ters. I love lips. I love tape. I love colour. I am re­ally into fash­ion and beauty. And I love com­edy. I like a good joke. I love to laugh at my­self and any peo­ple who take them­selves too se­ri­ously. My fave sub­jects are al­ways sur­pris­ing me when they laugh along, too. Carine Roit­feld, for example. I have been pok­ing fun at her for years. She loves it. How great is that? Karl Lager­feld too, is in on the joke. Fash­ion peo­ple are just gi­ant kids.

Who most in­spires your art?

Pi­casso said he spent his en­tire life try­ing to paint like a child. I love that quote. It’s so true. Me too. Never grow up – Peter Pan said it best. All kids are born artists. It’s all about cling­ing to your in­ner big baby. Ap­proach paint and pa­per like you are two, not 22. Re­mem­ber, art is magic. Wave your wand around.

You dropped out of col­lege, yes?

I didn’t want to be a starv­ing artist. I wanted to live like a fi­nance guy, but do art for a liv­ing. That was my plan. Screw col­lege. You know what the best col­lege in the world is? Paris. That’s where I moved.

What did you learn in Paris?

I went to the school of be­ing French. I was a Cana­dian schmo who needed a Euro­pean take on the world. I wanted to be more so­phis­ti­cated. I started in Lon­don and then landed in the City of Light. Ev­ery­one should. Hard to ex­plain why. Just do it. I snuck into Paris fash­ion shows.

The ed­i­tors from Cana­dian fash­ion mags dragged me back­stage. I loved it. I loved photo shoots: mod­els, hair, make-up and mag­a­zine peo­ple. I loved the whole scene. It was a safe place for cre­ativ­ity and weird­ness.

So you were hun­gry, broke and tot­ing around a port­fo­lio in a coun­try where you didn’t speak the lan­guage. What was your big break?

I met a woman who changed my life in a blink. Her name was Francis Hath­away. She was a make-up artist. She knew I had run out of moolah and was head­ing back to Toronto.

She said:”Call these guys when you get home. They’re start­ing a lit­tle make-up line, and I think they would dig your work.” I said, OK. That lit­tle make-up line was Makeup Art Cos­met­ics, aka M. A.C. I was their first artist-in-res­i­dence/ idea guy. The rest is all on Google. The things I’m proud­est of are the rev­o­lu­tion­ary M.A.C Viva Glam cam­paign with RuPaul, and the art­work for them over the years. It was a blast.

I think of you as a David Hock­ney/boardroom hy­brid. How did you get into the busi­ness and specif­i­cally beauty?

Guess what? The beauty busi­ness is re­ces­sion­proof. You never had a bad year. Peo­ple will forgo food but never prod­uct. This is how I puffed out my fi­nance-guy life­style. I blended the world of van­ity with my love of art. It’s why I paint lips and work at Estée Lauder. Leonard and Ronald Lauder are my he­roes. They get it. They rule the art world and the beauty world.

As some­one dubbed the Andy Warhol of our era, what do you make of pop cul­ture?

For­get his piss paint­ings and soft-core porn movies. More than anything, the thing Andy Warhol did to shock me the most was be­ing a guest on this in­cred­i­bly cheesy prime­time tele­vi­sion show in the 1980s called The Love Boat. I’ll never for­get him com­ing down the ramp, play­ing him­self. It was ba­nanas. Andy made it pretty clear there are no rules. You just have to be wide-eyed and to­tally obliv­i­ous to what are set up as norms-for-life guide­lines. Try to find that episode of The Love Boat. #

T

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