The number seven comes with a lot of biblical baggage. God, the book of Genesis tells us, took seven days to create the world. (Six, really; the Almighty rested on the seventh day.) Pharaoh dreamed of seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine, and so on.
It therefore seems fitting that it took seven years for artist and Eau native Claire Samuel Robertson to illustrate the Old Testament. The recently completed project – with 257 highly quirky paintings spanning 520 pages – will be released in June 2022 by 11:11 Press of Minneapolis.
Robertson, a graduate of Eau Claire Memorial High School, received his bachelor’s degree in sculpture from the University of Minnesota in 2010. After that, he explains, he rebounded artistically: making music, writing and paint. In 2014, he had the idea of illustrating a book, preferably with an integrated suite. In the end, he decided, the Old Testament of the Bible did the trick: it’s a rich text that has inspired centuries of art, plus it has an unparalleled fan base.
So Robertson started painting, mostly using latex paint and micron pens on watercolor paper. The word “surrealist” comes to mind to describe his style. Traditional biblical decorations are replaced by Americana: a colorful cowboy rears up in a leotard. Men and women in swimsuits revel as their pontoon sinks into a storm. A mustached surgeon dissects a pizza.
Robertson says his style isn’t exactly “pop art or hyperrealism or surrealism or comics.” Instead, he says, “I strive for a flexible and refined style that can follow the line of realism, impressionism and cartoonish while still being experimental.”
Oddly enough, this fits well with Old Testament words, which can be layered, confusing, and downright weird. “I didn’t go there to highlight its glory or to make fun of it,” says Robertson. “In many passages of violent performances, I would be drawn to misfortune. Other times it was phrases or funny things that I thought could inspire an image. “
Now that the illustration is complete, Robertson is encouraging people to pre-order the book, which will fund its printing. The illustrated Old Testament is available for preorder online for $ 115 at 1111press.com/oldtestament.
Learn more about Robertson at misterrobertson.com or on Instagram @SamRobertsonArt.