Making Art and Doing Commerce: Finding the Balance with Robert Bentley

Many of us wonder: Could I have a creative career? How would I sustain myself? Should I just jump and hope everything will work out? We asked Robert Bentley, 68, who has a thriving dual focus, his business and his art, how he balances the two pursuits.

AGEIST: When did you start painting seriously?

Robert Bentley: I first thought I was a painter/artist in fourth grade. I graduated from Pratt Institute in 1972 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Painting.

Artwork Robert Bentley

AGEIST: Have you found that you are painting more these days?

RB: Yes. I am painting more than I have ever, these days. I am in the studio three days a week, Friday through Sunday and often a few more hours after dinner. Sometimes a tough choice between painting and MSNBC.

AGEIST: How have you been balancing your revenue job vs your art production?

RB: I like my gemstone business, fortunately. I have fun there, actually. The two identities keep me balanced. Too much solitude in the studio and I can get stuck in my right brain.

Artwork Robert Bentley

AGEIST: Do you have a certain place/space where you make art?

RB: My painting studio is on the second floor of the building that I live in — a 400-square-foot apartment — and it is getting filled up with a lot of paintings.

AGEIST: Do you have any sonic preferences for your art making? Music? Type? Or Silence?

RB: I have been listening to a lot of opera playlists lately… things like “66 of the World’s Most Beautiful Arias.” I think it helps me concentrate.

Artwork Robert Bentley

AGEIST: Have the mediums you are using changed any the last few years?

RB: I really love oil paint. I’ve always been interested in white lines as a way to describe energy and I’ve been making a lot of scratchboards that I find interesting — a masonite panel coated with Kaolin white clay and then a black ink surface. I scratch away the black surface and make the white lines that I’m interested in. I’ve been making pictures about string theory.

Artwork Robert Bentley

AGEISTDo you schedule certain times of the day for your business?

RB: I am in my gemstone business Monday through Thursday, 10 – 4.

AGEIST: How would you define success in your art?

RB: Success? Art for me is a practice.

Robert Bentley’s studio

AGEIST: Do you foresee a day when you would only do your art? Or perhaps you enjoy the balance of having dual pursuits?

RB: My gemstone revenue stream has done two things: One, I have great tools — tons of brushes, really good quality oil paint, and lots of canvasses. Two, it has protected my freedom to be reckless. Recklessness is an important part of creativity. I’m free to explore many different directions. Right now I have about six different vocabularies I’m cultivating. Many of my old friends with high-profile art careers are obligated by the market to make a branded product but I’m free to do anything. For me, the success of a painting is where I observe something that is being cultivated in my unconscious mind and it manages to appear on the picture plane and ring true. Last week I found a painting that I did twenty years ago, mostly made up of flowers, and I was surprised to see thematic continuity in what I was doing with the flowers and what I am doing now in my string theory paintings — they were the same thing. It was like my self got to see myself, over a twenty-year span. I really enjoy the balance of having double pursuits.

Here to read our profile on Robert Bentley

Here to read our profile on Chukwuemeka Ben Bosah, engineer and art curator

Here to read about artist John Mosler’s show, The Decline of Intimacy

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The ideas expressed here are solely the opinions of the author and are not researched or verified by AGEIST LLC, or anyone associated with AGEIST LLC. This material should not be construed as medical advice or recommendation, it is for informational use only. We encourage all readers to discuss with your qualified practitioners the relevance of the application of any of these ideas to your life. The recommendations contained herein are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. You should always consult your physician or other qualified health provider before starting any new treatment or stopping any treatment that has been prescribed for you by your physician or other qualified health provider. Please call your doctor or 911 immediately if you think you may have a medical or psychiatric emergency.


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