Insider of August: Robby Delson

A hero’s journey from art brut outsider to IBEX Insider

Something clicked when Robby Delson—a neuroesthetic painter, anime/manga enthusiast and judo athlete from the Netherlands—met with IBEX Collectors Albrecht von Stetten, Kiki Kim and David Willson. For starters, they shared a love for Asia, the arts and this miracle called humans.

The three art collectors recognized the value of Robby’s art work: raw, real, pugnacious and endearing as the man himself.

“They saw ‘me’”, recalls Robby, “David and Kiki have the gift of understanding the psychology of an artist. Over time I’ve experienced how they’re able to bring out the best in us, IBEX Insiders, as persons and as professional artists.”

A New Home

“Albrecht gives wonderfully insightful feedback on technique, Kiki critiques artistic concepts, while David has given me life-changing guidance on building my brand and business as an artist.”

A triple black belt in martial arts, David had a natural advantage when it came to coaching Robby as a painter with 20 years of experience in competitive judo and a restless mind from years of street life, sheltered living and psychotherapy.

“Being welcomed into the IBEX Insiders family has helped me stabilize quicker and find my true bearings in art,” says Robby, who calls sheltered living a ‘real estate scam’.

From Expression to Reflection to Neuro-Infographics

Looking back, Robby distinguishes his artistic development into three stages: a first ‘van Gogh-like’ period of uncovering and expressing his emotions through rap music, drawing and painting.

Then followed a second more reflective stage where he digested his experiences, notably in conversations with fellow artists and visitors at exhibitions, such as Art Brut Biennales in Hengelo, the Netherlands, of which he retains fond memories.

In the third phase, his ‘personal struggle took on a more universal meaning’, as he puts it. Delving into neurology and neurochemistry, he developed a dual insider (patient) and outsider (observer) perspective on the ways our bodies and minds interact—insights which he felt he could best express non-verbally through paintings, a sort of scientific statements in pictorial form.

Those reading and journaling days resulted in self-portraits that vary from Goth-style pierrots to heads covered in Egyptian-labyrinthian murals, with evocative make-up, masks and watchful skulls, their black-and-white lines and surfaces punctuated with the occasional bloody red detail.

“In christianized Western thought,” Robby expounds, “we’ve all but eliminated Satan, evil, and dark energy, while in early Christianity and in many other cultures good and evil, darkness and light are both recognized as forces in life that we have to deal with. Think of Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu, yin and yang engendering one another, djinns that are very much alive in Islam, and even Jesus exorcising demons for all to see.”

“Rather than extinguishing or turning away from fire, Zoroastrianism teaches us how to understand and manage it, work and dance with it, which seems more like the path I’ve had to take,” he muses. “Especially when, for survival, we retreat to our reptilian core brain, things become black-and-white again, eat or be eaten. And that shows in my earliest work,” he concludes with a smile.

Toward a More Granular Realism

Robby’s fourth and currently unfolding stage is an intentional stepping stone toward hyperrealist oil painting, the firm dot on his artistic horizon. Though his mediums of choice are still Conté crayons of pierre noire and pastel sticks, his technique is transitioning from drawing toward painting: layering and mixing his colors much in a painter’s way.

Robby builds up his works on a black charcoal or graphite background, which he may spread or partly erase. However, he can never restore such a ‘blackboard’ to a pristine tabula rasa: traces will remain, like shimmering memories, which is exactly the point of his technique. He’s also taken to working from reference photos, enabling him to capture micro-expressions like never before.

“Earning my belts in the visual arts, I’m moving up from brute force to smarter technique,” observes Robby, ever the judoka. With his Asian-inspired mindset, he regards art foremost as a craft to be honed, with individual expression coming in only after that. His ‘sums’ are private but the ‘outcomes’ are public.

Inspiration and Friendship

After the horses (“my muses”) on his naval parents’ farm and Los Angeles street mural artist Robert Vargas, several IBEX Masters have become Robby’s inspiration.

This topic unleashes a waterfall of praise and gratitude, one of Robby’s qualities: “Emanuele Dascanio drew me into IBEX Insiders and I owe him so much. Arantzazu Martinez taught me about healthy masculinity and good intimacy, her flowers give me goosebumps. In another painting, her models’ fingertips touching ever so lightly, that’s like a moonlanding to me.”

“Christiane Vleugels sees and is beauty. Dino Valls’ artistic journaling inspired me to persist in my own journaling, even when it meant not picking up a brush for a long while. Then there’s Aurelio Rodríguez López with his amazing sea scape, Hae-Kwang Jeong from Korea, simply too many to mention!”

“IBEX Insiders has been such a safe and welcoming, indeed healing, community for me. The talents here are amazing, and they won’t compete like people do in other places. Instead, we support one another. With encouragement. But also through brutally honest advice, in a spirit of friendship.”

He credits the three IBEX Collectors with guiding him toward a more professional approach as an artist, helping him to “improve technique, build a social media following, negotiate better contracts, all that jazz. But most of all, they’ve helped me understand myself better as an artist and a human being, to see my artistic path before me and walk it with joy and confidence.”

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