Robin Walker Shares the Raw Energy of Being Alive Through His Art


Courtesy of Robin Walker

When people think of California and creativity they image the bright lights and glamour of Hollywood. But about 45 minutes away lies Topanga Canyon, which has been a rustic breeding ground for musicians and artists for decades. So it’s no surprise that growing up in this hot bed of inspiration might seep into native Angeleno Robin Walker’s psyche while he was a local kid.

As he recounted in a recent interview, “I grew up in Topanga Canyon. My parents moved there in the 1950s because they couldn’t stand the crowdedness in Los Angeles, and Topanga was a world away. It was full of creative types. It seemed normal to see people like Neil Young in the market or members of Fleetwood Mac or Supertramp. I hadn’t recognized my creativity yet, though, so I didn’t get that I was among greatness. All I knew was that my friends from the Valley were really jealous. I was the odd man out in my family. My brother and sister still live there happily, and my mom stayed there until her death at 90. Despite the beauty of Topanga, and the bohemian lifestyle, I never liked the isolation and ruggedness. I was always a people person who wanted neighbors and places to meet.”

His first exposure to art was through a family friend who was an artist. “He spent his days sitting at the creek, painting the exquisite color changes in the underwater rocks,” recounted Walker. “His house, which was his studio, too, had a hole in the roof with a tree growing through it. At a young age, I dreamed of a life like that but I denied my creative urges through high school and most of the way through college.”

Instead, Walker decided to go a more traditional route and become a psychotherapist. “Like many who study psychology, I was looking for a solution to my unhappiness. As a teenager, I had grown quite depressed. For some reason, I never honored my creativity and just plugged away, trying hard to be an obedient kid. What a mistake.”

But Walker couldn’t deny the need to explore his artistic impulses. “In graduate school, I suddenly became aware of my creative urges and my need to express myself. ‘Why didn’t I go to art school?’ I asked myself. I knew I really needed to explore my expressive side, but also knew it was a dumb idea to abandon my studies, so I vowed to teach myself to paint.”

He also realized that it would make him better at his job. Walker conceded, “I thought, 'What kind of therapist encourages others to find their true selves but can’t find their own? If I’m going to be a good therapist, I’m going to have to be an artist, too.’ So while I was busy writing my academic thesis, I was also busy teaching myself to paint.”

He chose that particular art form, because “it’s immediate and can be big and bold and, mostly, full of color. I love color. People often ask me ‘what’s your favorite color?’ which is way too limiting. I’ll answer ‘Green, when it’s next to purple’ or ‘I love it when a really yellowish green gets together with teal and a tiny little bit of orange.’ It’s the combinations that drive me wild. An explosion of color is something all my paintings have in common.”

Courtesy of Robin Walker

He spoke of his process, saying, “I also love expressive brushwork. I’m not meticulous about getting paint on canvas. I love the way paint makes a record what the artist did in the last moment. Every person on earth has a different way of making a mark, and the paint records it. I use those really cheap brushes that you get at Home Depot for a dollar. I load them up with two or three colors and then hit the canvas with it. I love acrylic paints for their vivid colors an