Artist Spotlight: Robert Bean

Local artist Robert Bean can’t particularly pinpoint when he first started exploring his creativity, but he has plenty of quirky anecdotes.

For instance, he says, “When I was pretty young, [my parents] were painting the house and I had a little pedal car that I was in. I decided, well, I’m going to paint it, and before they realized what was happening, I had also painted part of the house and my mom’s new station wagon with house paint.”

In elementary school, Bean discovered comic books which only furthered his interests. “That was where I first realized that … you could make art into something and it could be a paid job,” he explains.

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Early on he was into superheroes, but as time went on he began to follow Neil Gaiman’s work as well as Bill Sienkiewicz. He says of Sienkiewicz, “He’s really painterly and has this energetic style – there’s a fine art style to what he does.”

Bean works in most drawing media and paint, himself, and employs high contrast.

Throughout school Bean pursued art, even though he says he took “the roundabout way” to getting his degree. When he enrolled at UALR he was finally ready, as he says, “I was older, and I knew what I wanted out of it – that made a really big difference.”

Directly out of college Bean was able to land a job with a design firm, although he quickly realized he didn’t fit in that environment. Luckily for him, one of the firm’s clients offered him a job as a company designer. He says, “That gave me the income I needed. … It allowed me to start making my own work.”

In the beginning, Bean wasn’t too sure about the business side of being an artist, an issue he believes many young or new artists struggle with. Thankfully he has numerous resources at his disposal – the guidance of his successful parents and his wife, who is a CPA. He also went through an Argenta-based program, Artist INC, which helped as well.

But to combat this, he’s really put himself out there, and that’s lead him to curating exhibitions. For instance, Bean currently curates an exhibition with Arkansas Capital Corporation Group, thanks to an association he made with Al Hodge though a business networking group.

His goal with the exhibit is to get more support for the arts from the local business community. He says, “I think Central Arkansas has a great community in terms of the artists, and I think there’s a lot of great individuals who support it. What we don’t have as much in this community as other communities do, is business support. That’s what I want to change, and that’s what Al and I are trying to do at Arkansas Capital, is get more business involved with it.”

The program at Arkansas Capital has been ongoing for a little over three years now. The exhibits last two months currently, and will soon include a new aspect during the second month of the show in which the artist will come in and talk about a particular aspect of the work.

Bean has also recently become involved with the art at Mugs Café in Argenta, which came out of his network of artist friends. He and a few other artists who graduated from UALR around the same time kept in touch. Their meetings kept growing in size, however, so now they sit at the large table in the back of Mugs on Thursday mornings. “We’re loosely known around here as the artist bunch,” he chuckles.

Bean has a different angle for the Mugs shows. He explains, “Mugs is a really cool foodie spot in town and there’s a certain kind of person that comes to this place. … I want to make this program have a more illustrative and graphic feel.” The current artist is Kasten Searls’s show, “Networks.”

Within that vein, Bean also plans on keeping the prices low, with a few exceptions, as he says, “I want this program to be something that young collectors can get into.”

In terms of exhibiting his own work, he looks back to an exhibit he did at Gallery 26 in 2012. “I did a series of pastel drawings that were called “Fragile Moments.” That series was the first one where I really truly unified a series ­– they were all exactly the same size, cropped exactly the same way … they all felt like a part of something.” Bean likes to tell a story with his work and tends to work in series, and often writes before he starts drawing as a part of his process.

Bean is glad to call Rock City his home. He says, “Little Rock has a lot of great food and great cultural attractions for a fraction of the price of most cities. You can actually live here as an artist and live comfortably.”

If you haven’t already, check out Bean’s work.

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Artist Spotlight: Robert Bean