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Artist influenced by SoCal lifestyle

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Tom Anderson
Assistant Editor

On Tuesday, Nov. 9, painter Robert Caban returned to the University of La Verne to give a lecture on how he goes about creating his work.

The Hawthorne native had previously visited the University on Oct. 19 to celebrate the opening of his exhibit on the Arts & Communications Building’s Tall Wall Space. The exhibit will run through Feb. 15.

It was during his sophomore year at UC Santa Cruz that Caban realized he wanted to seriously pursue painting. However, he also studied music before earning his bachelor’s degree from UCSC, and subsequently earned his master’s degree from Claremont Graduate University.

Now, at age 30, Caban has a wife who works as a Hollywood costume designer and a “regular” job in the medical field to help support his painting career.

He said he doesn’t know very many other painters who make their living exclusively off their work.

Caban started the lecture with a series of slides focusing on his earlier works, many of which were painted on canvases no larger than the average postcard.

He then showed a second slide show that concentrated on his larger works.

During the slide shows he fielded questions from the audience, and provided commentary and insight toward the paintings and his particular style.

Caban spoke about how he draws heavy influences from cultural elements synonymous with a Southern California lifestyle, such as automobiles and surfing.

He said that he has been doing the latter for the past 16 years.

Caban also talked about how much he enjoys going to museums and galleries. He said such visits can provide him with both enjoyment and inspiration.

However, he was quick to point out that he doesn’t like drawing heavily from the work of others; rather, he prefers using the work of others to point him toward new directions for his own style.

One significant change in direction occurred while he was still in college.

Caban had grown weary of oil painting, and decided to make the switch to acrylic, the medium that he still uses today.

“It [oil painting] wasn’t leading me right, process wise,” he said.

As for how he turns those materials into his art, Caban was more than happy to go into great detail.

He explained how he likes to alternate between methodical painting and improvisational painting.

Sometimes he starts with a specific idea or vision in mind.

Other times he just lets the direction of the picture change with each brushstroke.

“His approach is not only disciplined but also brave and inventive,” said Dion Johnson, the University’s art department manager and one of the key players in bringing Caban and his work to ULV.

Regardless of which process Caban uses, there is one issue that not only he, but also all people should keep in mind.

“You make mistakes,” he said. “Sometimes they’re happy ones, other times they’re not.”

Something that is definitely not a mistake in Caban’s exhibit is the dominance of flowers.

Caban pointed out how flowers seem to be used in almost every major life event or ceremony, such as weddings, birthdays and funerals in just about every known culture.

Those who attended the lecture seemed to enjoy having Caban himself explain his creative process.

Janice Sullivan, administrative assistant in the communications department, said she had a better understanding of his use of color after his presentation.

Johnson, on the other hand, was quite taken by one of Caban’s observations.

“I really enjoyed the comparison to music and painting,” he said. “Specifically how he views the intuitive approach to jazz structures relating to his experimental processes in abstract painting.”

Tom Anderson can be reached at tanderson1@ulv.edu.

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