Colorblind Artist Says Trial Sets Him Apart
Robert Moore calls Declo, Idaho, his home even though he leaves home for weeks on end seeking inspiration. In this case, the inspiration is in Missoula, Montana. He’s one of 12 artists painting the scenic landscapes of Big Sky Country.
“Plein Air events are very difficult because of logistics, but it’s exciting to have someone other than coyotes to talk to,” Moore says. “There’s feedback and camaraderie.”
Moore is mixing colors for his 14th and final painting of the week before moving on to Wyoming’s Wind River Range. He dabs at oily splatters on his pallet, mixing more for texture than tone because Moore doesn’t mind if the result isn’t perfect. He’s colorblind.
“When I see a rainbow, I see yellow and blue. I can’t see red and green,” he says. “But as long as I have order to the color, I don’t have to know what the color is.”
Lack of spectrum frustrated Moore when he first started his career four decades ago, but after studying form and technique, he stopped worrying about it. Now, he views his inability to perceive some colors as an advantage.
“Colorblindness is a trial I am thankful for, because it sets me apart,” he says. “A person who can see and identify the hues would never choose the colors I choose, but my paintings still feel natural even though I have little surprises of color other people wouldn’t pick.”
Many people wouldn’t pick Moore’s career. His father told him to study law, but Moore wanted a job that would put him in the mountains. Landscape artists study the scenery around them, so Moore chose art over law. Despite his sugar-beet-farming dad’s best-intended advice, the creative decision proved worthy. Moore and his wife, Rebecca, raised six kids on artist earnings. Moore still remembers his first gallery-worthy work.
“When I first got into Trailside Gallery in Jackson, Wyoming, I couldn’t believe it,” Moore says. “My art was in the front window once, and I drove around the block at night just to look at it. It was such an amazing thing to me.”
Even more amazing is his studio. It’s an old bean warehouse. He’s mentored nearly a dozen new professional artists over the years in that warehouse or at his home on the backwaters of the Snake River. He floated the river 20 years ago looking for a painter’s haven and found it on five riverbank acres, to which he added trees.
“I like the shape and design of trunks and love to paint aspen trees in particular because the trunks are white,” he says. “I can push any color into the trunk and it will be acceptable to the eye.”
Even if his own eye doesn’t recognize an aspen’s green gem tone in spring, he relishes the gold coin look of its leaves in the fall.
“Fall aspen groves are my favorite,” he says. “Now, that I can see.”
Photos courtesy of Robert Moore