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Artist Showcase: Robert (Mike) Horton

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The last letter of your last name appears just below your finished portrait. You draw back from your table and gaze reverently at the hours of careful concentration represented there. Unknowingly, you’re holding your breathe, it’s as if some far corner of your subconscious has routed the attention of even the most involuntary operations to the artwork in front of you.

This work of art is more to you than just a collection of shapes and values, it is literally a piece of you—the combined effort of mind and muscle to transform your abstract thoughts to concrete form. It’s finished. Now what? Sure the work brings you pleasure, but is that its sole purpose?

When Robert Horton was six years old, he spent a summer with his grandparents. He remembers one day crafting a ship on the ocean out of some multi-colored dried beans from the pantry. It was a humble offering to the art world, but Robert was so pleased with the outcome that he gave it to his grandfather as a gift. His grandfather received it like a true champion, to him it was a masterpiece worthy of the most exclusive office wall real estate he could find. “He beamed with pride as he bragged on me!” remembers Horton. “I remember him saying,” ‘my oldest grandson made this and I believe someday he will be a fine artist.’

From that point on, Robert determined that art wasn’t just something for him to make and then tuck away in a closet somewhere; it was meant to be shared. Inspired by his grandfather’s confidence in his ability and a passion for art, Robert began working with pencil and drawing portraits of everyone he could. All through Jr. high and high school, he continued to pursue art under the direction of his favorite art teacher Ms. Kapuscinski, whom he had the good fortune of having for almost his entire pre college art experience.

After high school, Robert slowly lost touch with his artistic side and began to draw less and less. “Once a year or so I would get inspired and draw a portrait, but I could see I was losing my touch,” he recalls. Then, a few years ago, Robert received news that a lifelong friend of his had lost her father to cancer. Robert was a close friend to the family and knew her father well. When his friend asked if he would draw a portrait of her late father he was honored, but also quite concerned. After years of not drawing, he was worried he wouldn’t be able to do justice to such a great man. “Of course I said I would…[but] worried that I may not be able to do him justice. I had become so rusty.”

“My first attempt was horrible!” exclaims Robert. “I went on line desperately looking for art instruction that may bail me out. Where was Ms. Kapuscinski when I needed her the most?” Robert put in many hours of searching and trial and error, but finally came up with the best product he could. He presented it to the mourning family and was thrilled when they received it warmly. “They loved it and I guess I was able to do that great man justice,” says Horton.

A short while later, when the same friend sadly lost another family member, Robert was invited over to their house. As he walked through the door, he was introduced to the pastor who would be performing the funeral. “This is our friend Mike. He drew the portrait of Dad," they said as they pointed to the picture hanging on their living room wall. “My mind raced back to my childhood and my grandfather showing my silly beans pasted on cardboard saying ‘some day my grandson will be an artist,’” Robert recollects.

“I don't plan to ever lose my touch again,” says Horton, a sentiment he backs up by drawing nearly everyday. All those years ago, with nothing more than a literal “pile of beans,” Robert answered the question posed from the start—is art’s soul purpose to bring pleasure to the artist alone?

For Mike, that’s a resounding no! He realized early on that art is meant to be shared. It has the power to heal and inspire, but this power isn’t fully recognized until shared with others. So, as you create your own works of art, whether with beans, pencil, paint, or whatever, remember that what you make just might mean the world to someone else.

Do you have an experience where sharing your artwork helped someone else? Tell us about it! Leave us a comment and tell your story.

You can see more of Robert's work at the 5-Pencil Method Community.

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