“I work from a place in the mind that I discovered where reality, memory, imagination and the dream world meet.”-A.Robins
The stroke—how illusive it can be when mastering the game of pool.
We all know that peak performance can only be attained when the stroke is at its finest. The “brush stroke” to an artist has the same connotation—again, striving for the purest balance of relaxation, focus and strength behind every silhouette, to create the perfect scene. I believe I’ve found the perfect comparison of the stroke between billiard player and artist—capturing the essence of the sport of pool on canvas.
His name is Arthur Robins.
Let’s imagine a time long ago in Brooklyn, NY. It was the 1950’s and a mother is pushing a stroller down a narrow sidewalk with a small boy in tow on their way to “Arty’s Pool Hall.” When they walk in they hear Elvis on the radio singing “Jailhouse Rock” and the crack of billiard balls with a cloud of chalk dust over the entire room giving it an intriguing and mysterious atmosphere.
This was Uncle Arty’s pool hall and this was Arthur’s first introduction to the world of pool. Even though he can barely remember the times spent in the pool room, it made a lasting impression that carried over to his vision for billiard art. Robins’ “pool art” has been revered and collected by top billiard players around the world and his work resides in thousands of private and public collections in over 50 countries.
Giving us insight into his love of painting pool scenes, Arthur wrote:
“My first pool painting was a tribute to my close friend Fred Schuback, an awesome artist and incredible pool player. He didn’t look like much, didn’t impress you upon meeting him, and could beat the pants off most people in pool. He died in 1991, and I painted Pool Hustler in memory of him. The experience of painting pool was so intense for me that I painted one after another. Ideas poured out of me. It wasn’t until years later that my Mother told me that before moving away from Brooklyn at age five, she had wheeled me into my uncle’s pool hall as a baby. It was called, ironically Arty’s Pool Hall. I then remembered shadowy figures moving mysteriously around slabs of, well lit, green. I then understood a lot of what connected me to this pool world.”
Arthur admits that his paintings are collaborations between him and God. He said, “Several years ago, in search of a higher power, I demanded that God show Himself…I closed my eyes and began to paint. To my amazement, I had painted a man’s face appearing to be laughing, crying, dreaming, singing, sleeping, and talking—all at the same time!”
A great place to review all of Arthur’s paintings, specifically billiard images is on his website. There you will see his unique style of painting where one can get the real feeling of the gritty atmosphere of the pool room by the images he paints. For instance, almost all of the men are in suits with ties; however, there are characters within the same scene with muscle shirts and t-shirts. There are very few female figures. This was probably because of the era when women were not generally accepted in pool halls and certainly not as billiard players.
Within his settings, hanging on the walls of the pool rooms are paintings of abstract cityscapes. Some look like San Francisco, Seattle, New York and probably more which I am not familiar. The distorted objects lend a unique visual. Looking into the huge tip of the cue, while the player is small and insignificant or making the 8-ball huge in anticipation of the cue ball drilling it into the pocket.
As I read through the many articles written about Arthur Robins, one of the most profound paragraphs came from an article written by him called “Discovering the Nature of Existence through Art.”
“My work is universal in the sense that my language is universal. All people from all lands and times can interpret my images. My art transcends this culture and this century even though it addresses it and includes it or criticizes it. I believe all art should be a universal language accessible to all people everywhere.”
This statement leads me to believe that Arthur Robins has a deep understanding of the power of the stroke and has mastered the “Brush Stroke of Genius.”
Photo via Arthur Robins Editor: Dana Gornall