Robert Steiner


In 1967, as a senior in high school, I entered a portfolio in a National Scholastic competition open to all high school seniors in America.  I won one of two scholarships to the Rhode Island School of Design.  I majored in painting at RISD and graduated in 1971.  I then hitchhiked to Sydney, Nebraska where I hopped a freight train.  After a number of near-death experiences on the trains, I arrived at Sacramento and then hitchhiked to San Francisco.

In 1974 I entered the MA program at San Francisco State University.  That year I also won the Childe Hassam Purchase Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.  I graduated in 1976 with an MA degree in printmaking from San Francisco State. 

Upon graduation I began to teach various art courses at colleges around the Bay Area including the University of California, College of Marin, Ohlone College, West Valley College and City College of San Francisco.  I also did freelance illustration.

In 1981 I won the California Duck stamp competition, the first of my 82 state duck stamps.  In 1998 and 2013 I won the Federal Duck Stamp Art contest.  Over 100,000 of my waterfowl prints have been collected over the years.  I have enthusiastically supported wetlands conservation – the purpose of the duck stamps.  The sale of my artwork has raised over $3,000,000 for wetlands preservation.

My artwork has appeared in numerous magazines and books including the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, U.S. Art, Wildlife Art, Midwest Art, American Art Collector, Fine Art Connoisseur and I have appeared on local and national television.

My works are in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution, Duke University Art Museum, the Peabody Museum, the California State Museum and a number of other public collections.  Additionally, my artwork is in thousands of private collections.

In 2014 I began painting landscapes and some autobiographical pieces.  Having primarily painted marshes for the previous thirty-five years, I am very much enjoying painting Yosemite National Park, Glacier National Park, Zion National Park, Point Lobos State Reserve and some of my other favorite locations.  I am looking forward to painting more landscapes from my travels in California, the United States and all the continents.  In my paintings I try to communicate my sense of wonder and awe at our existence on this incredibly beautiful globe.  I marvel at the amazing minute details and the infinite expanses of the universe.

My Technique:

In high school I received a rudimentary training in the techniques of the old masters.  I especially was introduced to the idea of underpainting.  Many observers believe that the paint they see on the surface is all there is to the painting.  That is probably the case with non-objective and other contemporary art.  However, the old masters often did a compete monochrome underpainting to establish the forms and values before any colors are applied.  A beautiful example of this is an unfinished painting of the Virgin Mary by Leonardo Da Vinci in the Uffizzi in Florence.

To start the underpainting, I first do a drawing in pencil on the canvas or panel.  In the case of my current landscape this might require a few hours.  For my wildlife pieces this could take a week or two.  Then I apply purplish black paint to create the structure of darks and lights.  Over this I apply flat washes of color to complete the underpainting.  Underpainting allows me to concentrate on the details of texture and color in the final more opaque layer of painting.

I have travelled to Europe many times, including eight trips to Italy to study the techniques of the old masters.  This has greatly reinforced the early exposure I had to these skills.

Over my fifty years of painting, my technique has gradually become more sophisticated and detailed.  However, I still feel I am just a beginner.  Fortunately, there is no limit to the subtlety that an artist can achieve.

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