What he does: By day, John Robertson is a pediatric pulmonologist. "I take care of children with lung and breathing disorders," he says. But Robertson really flexes his creative muscles by night. In his spare time, he crafts complex works of art.
For the past nine years, Robertson has been producing mixed media pieces, heavy in components and rich with symbolism. His more recent works have involved interactive portions, including touch-sensitive pads that trigger LEDs.
In addition to creating his own works, Robertson has undertaken the task of helping to helm IMAGO Houston, a group of Christian artists and art-lovers.
"We put on an art show every year around Easter, do different workshops, and have monthly meetings where we discuss some kind of topic relevant to a Christian who is an artist, " he explains. "The whole idea of IMAGO sort of came up because as a Christian artist, you're sort of a fish-out-of-water in both communities."
Why he likes it: IMAGO's draw is the unique community it offers to its members. "The Christian as an artist, you kind of look at the Bible a little different," Robertson says. "It means quite a bit to us that the fifth word in the Bible is 'make.' We feel like every time we create or make a work of art, we're imitating what God did."
Robertson says his art is largely communicative, and that means employing a great number of symbols and techniques. "Part of the fun for each piece is figuring it out - like how to get the glass to light up with LED lighting," he says.
"I feel like it's as close to what I'm seeing (in my head) as I can get," Robertson adds. "I've tried painting, photography and poetry over the years, but mixed media kind of allows me to capture my thoughts."
What inspires him: Robertson draws from his religious beliefs to craft his complex works. "I feel like the process of creating a piece based on scripture is very much a worshipful time in and of itself for me - the process is part of the whole point of it," says the doctor. "I rarely feel rushed to complete something because I feel like the process itself has purpose in my life. Probably half the time (put into creating a piece) is the planning and the thought process behind the piece, and figuring out how to accomplish it."
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If not this, then what? "I don't know what I would do with my free time," he says. The good doctor ponders it with a long pause, before chuckling and replying, "I'd probably waste it playing video games."
What's next? Robertson's next piece will be for the 2012 IMAGO art show at Houston's First Baptist Church. "The show is going to be themed on praise and worship songs," he says. "I'm going to hopefully do one on 'Amazing Grace.'" Titled "Newton's Lime," the piece will explore the life of John Newton, who authored the hymn. Previously involved in the slave trade, Newton was impressed in the navy and eventually became a prominent clergyman and a leader in the abolitionist movement. "The piece I'm working on is all about his life bearing this unlikely fruit," Robertson explains.
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