Colorado artist’s tiny murals inside Altoids boxes get huge following | Culture & Leisure


He doesn’t know why, but there was something strange about the father-son trip to Aruba.

What a coincidence, thought Remington Robinson, that his father suggested the vacation. It was also by chance that Robinson brought an outdoor, or outdoor, paint kit that he had picked up on a whim from a store in Salida. The Boulder resident wanted to try this type of art again, so why not do it in Aruba?

Looking back, Robinson recalls her dad looking “off.”

“I wonder if he knew he was going down,” he said. “Maybe he knew it secretly.”

Six months after the trip, Robinson left Boulder for his hometown, Chagrin Falls, Ohio. He wanted to be with his family while his father remained in the hospital. They were told that her father would stay there for two weeks.

Then they were told something worse. His sixty-something had hours to live. He died of organ failure on July 2, 2017.

“I was in a bit of a shock,” said Robinson, who is now 35. “Everything was a blur.”

Two days later, all he knew was that he wanted to paint. Because no matter where he is, Ohio, Colorado or Europe, happy or sad, he wants to paint.

For some reason, this was the first day Robinson created art in the way he is now known for.

He got a container of Altoids and emptied the mints inside, replacing them with a small piece of paper and some paint. He saw the popcorn store, the only other landmark in Chagrin Falls other than the waterfall, and sketched the view. He positioned the box upright as if it were a laptop computer, using the top as an easel.

Robinson isn’t sure by how much, but his father’s death had something to do with why he was doing this.

“You don’t have forever to live,” he thought at the time. “I wanted to try.”

He and his father could talk for hours about philosophy. They could joke a lot. Robinson could tell that his father wanted him to continue painting.

“My dad was the biggest supporter of my artwork,” he said. “He was always like, ‘Go ahead.'”

He was trying to go. He wanted to be an artist. There were signs along the way. As a little boy, those paintings of his great-grandfather lying around caught his eye.

A high school art teacher also left an impression. Then Robinson left Ohio somehow to get out of Ohio. In 2002, he declared an art major at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and six years later graduated from Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design.

Jobs in a cafe and art stores followed. Robinson teamed up with friends to do murals that brought them money.

Soon, painting commercials for beer or football matches didn’t feel right to me. Robinson liked neither.

He loved artists he followed on social media, especially one living in Denver named Heidi Annalize. She painted mini-landscapes in tin cans.

“It’s unique because it’s so small and so cute,” Robinson said. “Not what you would normally see.”

In 2016, the two met to talk about art. Robinson questioned his method.

“I just asked her,” he said. “How did you get in there?” »

She said she saw someone else do it. So they agreed that it was fair for Robinson to get into the mini-full aerial painting game. It would be months before he did.

The pair join a game few have played for decades.

Robinson’s former high school teacher told him about something called the Whiskey Painters of America, described online as “the most unique and exclusive miniature painting company in the world.”

The Ohio-based group began in the 1950s by an itinerant businessman and painter who fashioned a palette from an aspirin can. It was small enough to fit in his shirt pocket. At the end of his working day, he would go to a local bar and paint, dipping his brush in a glass of alcohol instead of water. This tradition continues today with the Whiskey Painters of America, which is capped at 150 members whose pieces must not exceed 4 inches by 5 inches.

Robinson and Annaise, who now live in Crested Butte, would fit in with their 2-by-3-inch pieces. So would Matthew Betancourt, a California native who lives in Norway and cleverly calls his designs “Mintins.”

Other artists in this field are not easy to find.

Robinson’s work is primarily of scenes in Boulder, such as the Flatirons, his neighborhood and a bookstore. His pieces show sites closer to Colorado, such as the Garden of the Gods. They show distant places like palm trees in Hawaii, Rockefeller Center at Christmas in New York or the streets of Greece.

He’s painted so much in miniature since that trip to Ohio in 2017. Robinson has over 600 pieces to date. He sells out all of them easily and there is usually a waiting list. He can consider himself a full-time painter. He also has over 400,000 social media followers.

There was a moment before all of this, however, that Robinson must count. A gift from a loss.

“Every artist has a story of how they are able to make a living from their art,” Robinson said.

His story comes from the death of his father. Robinson was making money back then, but not with the kind of art he believed in.

“I didn’t expect to get any money from my dad, but I did,” Robinson said.

There was money from the estate. He made a decision: “I’m just going to use the money as a cushion to venture into the art that I want to do,” Robinson said. “I think that’s what he would have wanted me to do, anyway.”

So that’s one of the reasons he’s where he is. One of the reasons he does his.

There are others. When he paints, he must sit quietly and divert his mind.

“You look at the world around you and how it’s put together,” he said. “All of this is a form of meditation. It’s cathartic. »

He found healing by painting this way before. Maybe that’s why he never stopped.

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