When I first saw Peggi Kroll-Roberts’ paintings, I was intrigued by the seeming simplicity of the work. Here was a great painter who had achieved what most of us want: a simple way to show the subject.
Her work is based on a complete understanding of her subject, knowing important values, and using only what is necessary to convey the image to the viewer. Her beach scenes, for example, are truly amazing as she breaks down complex multiple values into the bare minimum and yet the viewer sees the finished painting as complete. She uses a rather extensive palette and uses the colors effectively, again to convey what is there by showing only what is necessary. I hope you enjoy this interview with this talented artist. You can look at Peggi’s paintings at krollroberts.com.
Randy Rasmussen (RR): Peggi, where were you born and raised?
Peggi Kroll-Roberts (PKR): I was born in Canton, Ohio. We left Ohio when I was eight and I was raised in a small town west of Phoenix called Litchfield Park. It was a great place to grow up.
RR: Do you remember how old you were when you began to draw and use crayons?
PKR: I remember always drawing but I think in third grade my love of art kicked in. My drawing of a cowboy won first prize as the class selected me the winner of a contest. I won a pack of M&M’s.
RR: Did your parents support your creativity and was there a teacher that helped you along in your artistic pursuits?
PKR: My parents were very supportive. My mother was in demand as a fashion illustrator in both Wisconsin and Ohio and my father was also supportive of her career. My mother, understanding the importance of creativity, enrolled my siblings and me in painting classes and always supported my artistic endeavors. I can remember several teachers in high school that helped me along the way.
RR: After college you worked as a fashion illustrator and a design illustrator. Did that affect your career as a fine artist?
PKR: My commercial career was fantastic. I had amazing staff artist jobs that showed me the great variety of steps that went into a completed project. I had top to bottom positions but it was all still creating, still art. Thinking back I know the work then influenced my art by enhancing and keeping my drawing skills strong. I learned how to meet deadlines, I learned how to get along with fellow workers, and understanding there was a business side to the work.
RR: Give me the names of two artists that you think influenced the way you paint today.
PKR: Only two? I could go on and on but John Singer Sargent is the first artist that comes to mind. My first professor at Arizona State University thought I should look at [Diego] Velázquez. Joaquín Sorolla will always be a favorite along with David Park. Park has tremendous paint application and use of space and Sorolla has tremendous drawing skills and capturing the effect of light.
RR: Are your paintings today markedly different from your paintings from the beginning of your career?
PKR: I don’t think there is a big change from my early work to my mid-career work. My subject matter has always been influenced by my lifestyle. When my kids were home I would use them with their friends for subjects. The figure has always been my favorite subject. Landscapes? Not so much. I am still searching for the segue into the landscapes so I can feel the excitement.
RR: A well-known art critic said of your work, “She prefers to suggest reality rather than render it.” Would you agree with this statement?
PKR: I think the critic was correct. I do not have the temperament to render, though I have the highest regard for this skill. I do prefer to suggest reality. This, I think, allows me to be more artistic and expressive with the contour. It allows viewer participation, which always happens in my favorite works. I have always tried to be expressive in my handling of the paint and paint without fear.
RR: Your husband Ray is an outstanding artist. Do you and your husband critique each other’s work?
PKR: Ray and I do help each other, critiquing each other’s work but we try to keep it to a minimum and always be kind. I think one has to be their own strongest critic! It is good to have that second pair of eyes but ultimately we should strive to control that child ego. Our parents would say, “Isn’t that wonderful!” whether it was or not. I am pretty hard on myself.
RR: In plein air competitions, it would seem your distinctive work would stand out. I know you do well in competitions and I just saw your work in PleinAir Magazine. When you are assessing a subject, do you think you see it differently than other artists?
PKR: That is a good question. I can only see the subject the way I see it. I, a long time ago, let go of painting in somebody else’s format. I listen to my “voice.” I recognize when I get excited about a subject. I try to do the best possible design and then get into the zone. I have trusted this format ever since a college drawing professor said to me, “Kroll, I don’t know. Your aesthetic senses seem to be beating to a different drum so I am going to give you a B instead of an A.” Thank you Mr. Breckenridge! I really do only one plein air event a year. It is the Laguna Beach event. I am not really keen on them. The whole “on your mark, get set, go!” I am grateful for the experiences though.
RR: Our final question. What is a Peggi Kroll-Roberts workshop like?
PKR: So many times students come away with formulas for creating the perfect painting. They have someone else’s formula. We will never be able to say it like someone else! I try to teach students the fundamentals, the vocabulary, the language. I encourage them to take the basics and make them their own. Added with a ton of application mileage (brush miles), their own voice will emerge. I stress a lot on value and its power. One may take a subject and simply by value arrangement achieve many different results such as a lighter key or darker key. I like to say, “Become well grounded in the fundamentals and understand the individual power of each.” As I said earlier, it is important to be able to do a self-critique. By the end of the workshop I want the students to know there is room for everyone.
RR: Thank you.