Multi-Faceted Man:  Robert Bryan, Artist

By Sara Jane Richter

Even as a child, Robert Bryan realized that he possessed artistic talent.  His teachers curried his creativity by encouraging him to draw and paint.  Growing up in Okeene, Robert and his family moved to Hennessey in between Robert’s junior and senior year, and he graduated from Hennessey High School in 1974.  

Art might make a good career, but Robert’s life got busy as all of our lives do.  He matured, graduated from Oklahoma State University, married his lovely wife Brenda in 1983, had two daughters named Lindsey and Jennifer, and entered the world of insurance with a Farm Bureau office in Hennessey.  Art and his interest in the field fell by the wayside.  He indicated that he just didn’t have the time or the patience for his art any longer.

In his forties, he wanted a hobby that would relax him and allow him a creative outlet.  Therefore, he thought that he’d tap into his long-dormant art talent and decided that a paintbrush would feel good in his hand once again.  

He returned to college to earn a teaching certification in art and taught art at Emerson Middle School in Enid for a few years.  After retiring from the public school classroom and while working for Metals USA in Enid, Art tapped him on the shoulder again.  He determined that he should paint for himself and learn about the field to improve his skills, so he enrolled in a painting class offered for adults at Hobby Lobby in Enid.  Here, he learned all about acrylics, and his natural knack for drawing and painting came back to him.  That paintbrush felt better and better.  He enrolled in other classes, too, like figure drawing and oil painting.  He likes using oils best as he soon learned that using oils allows him to easily cover his mistakes on a canvas.  

Now that maturity had increased his available time and patience, Bryan realized that he needed time and self-motivation to engage in a painting project and to complete that project. His favorite subjects include cowboy life and cowboys, horses, cattle, deer, elk, buffalo, and dogs, such as retrievers and pointers.  He prefers not to include people in his works, but if he does populate his canvases with folks, they are not the major focus of the image.  He loves painting Mother Nature’s handiwork.  

On a personal level, Robert loves the outdoors and hunting.  In the summer of 2005, Dr. John O. Smith commissioned him to paint a mural on the north outside wall of his optometristoffice south of Hennessey.  The subject was Dr. Smith, his daughter, and his bird dogs on a quail hunting excursion.  This mural commands the attention of drivers heading south on Highway 81 or traveling on the east-west Conoco Road.  He’s never attempted a piece that large since.  Even though he’s been approached to do other murals, he doesn’t relish climbing on ladders or clinging to scaffolding nowadays.

Bryan now paints for himself and for others, too.  He enjoys working on commissioned artwork as he wishes to please the person who has requested a particular subject and to be honest, he likes the money that a well-done commissioned project will bring.  He has found that the art that he produces to please himself perhaps is not what the general public likes:  the irony of the art business.  Of course, he appreciates those who commission his pieces,as he shines best when he has a specific art target in mind. 

Mr. Bryan is a perfectly happy painting to please patrons, family, friends, and himself.  He learns something with each piece that he produces and is proud that his paintings excite others about the fine arts.  Artists like Robert interpret the world for others to see and appreciate. Pablo Picasso once said, “The meaning of life is to find your gift.  The purpose of life is to give it away.”  That is what artists like Robert do; they give of themselves so that others may be inspired to examine more closely the world around them and to celebrate the excitement, color, movement, and glory of life.