In-Sync with… Darrell Roberts (interview)


This post continues my series “In-Sync with…” aimed to get a closer look at contemporary artists and art professionals from Chicago and abroad. Read it, enjoy it, share it, and get in-sync with artist Darrell Roberts. Do not miss his personal recommendations at the end of the interview.

I can’t wait to see Darrell’s luscious and heavily painted surface works coming to the Zhou B Art Center this March. Darrell will be one of three Chicago artists showing a selection of individual works during “About Paint”.  We scheduled this exhibition a year ago and it is finally just around the corner. Darrell’s works can’t just be viewed online, they have to be personally experienced as they embrace the embodiment and physicality of paint. Enjoy this interview and save the date for March 15 at the Zhou B Art Center.

Sergio: Where did you go to school (college/university) and what degree did you receive?

Darrell: I attended the University of Northern Iowa where I took, drawing and painting classes and got a BA in Art History.  I completed my BFA after that at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and also my MFA.
Do you feel art school prepared you for the art career you have now?

While in art school, I focused heavily on painting and developing my artwork as a painter.  Art school helps you develop personally as an artist, you find your own path and career afterwards.

Sergio: What is one thing you wish you had learned at art school?

Darrell: I wish I would have learned how to sculpt in clay, stone carving and casting in bronze.

Sergio: What is your website?

My personal website is and my page with Thomas McCormick Gallery, Chicago is


Sergio: What are you working on and what inspires you right now?

Darrell: I have been working on hundreds of works on paper.  I use watercolor crayons, graphite, pastel, and gouache a lot in my works on paper. My inspiration comes from my environment, the urban and nature.

Sergio: How does a typical day in your studio/creative space looks like?

Darrell: My studio is like an installation with every spot on the wall, ceiling and floor filled with  paintings, drawings and objects I have found. I have to be completely surrounded by visual stimulation and try to fill every space around me to find comfort.  I often sit for hours or days just looking at my artwork.  Other times I  draw in a manic frenzy. I work for hours and am the most creative late at night.   I have a spot I paint in, a couple of places to work on paper and a couple more to build or cast 3D works. But it becomes one room full of inspiration and artwork. No definite beginning or end.

Sergio: Describe your creative process.

Darrell: My work is based on my habitats.  I work in many different cities and places.  I need constant stimulation from my environments in order to create.  I go for several hour long walks and photograph everything that influences me.  This process, of walking, thinking, clearing my mind and the click of the photograph builds up my creative energy and allows me to make art.  In the last year I have created in different studios in Chicago, NY, Delhi, Austin and San Antonio.   I need change and stimulation. I need to be around urban environments and nature.  I like the similarities and great differences of each city.  Each city and season affects me subconsciously and changes my color palette.  Mark making is very important to me.  I have to make hundreds of works on paper, to have inspiration for my paintings. These all come from my stimulating walks.

Sergio: Do you find social media to be a distraction or an asset for you as an artist and how do you deal with it?

Darrell: For me it has been great. I can keep track of everyone and what they are doing.  I know what is going on in museums all over the world and what my friends are doing from Vietnam, India, New York, Chicago, Texas, LA, or anywhere.

Sergio: What is your biggest challenge as a contemporary artist?

Darrell: I don’t fit in as a contemporary artist.  I love the physical act of painting.

Sergio: How much does the art market influence your art production/output?

Darrell: I produce about 120 paintings and over 2,000 works on paper a year, so it has very little affect.  I create artwork because I have a physical need to maintain my balance and work in my studio.

Sergio: What’s next for you?

Darrell: “Being Paint” with Duk Ju L. Kim and John Salhus is the next exhibition I am in at the Zhou B Art Center in March. I constantly apply for opportunities and do not know my future.  I desperately want to go back to India. I have been wintering in Texas and will be back in Chicago, going to Brooklyn and the countryside in Iowa soon.



Sergio: What excites you about your local art scene?

I enjoy the museums, the  cultural center, art centers and galleries. I believe being able to visit all these places in person to view works of arts and performances is stimulating to my art making.

Sergio: What is your opinion about contemporary art fairs?

Darrell: I think it is good for galleries as they have a major amount of their sells for the year at art fairs and it is nice for art enthusiast as everyone can see artwork from galleries from all over the country and world in one place.

Sergio: Do you believe gallery representation today is as important as it has been in the past?

Many artists survive without galleries.  There are more artists than it is possible to represent.  Because of the various types of artists and alternative exhibition spaces, galleries are not the only viable option for an exhibiting artist.   I personally do believe it is important though.

Sergio: How do you envision the art world would be different ten years from now?

I see the art world as more about ephemeral installations, video and technological based artwork.  Paintings and sculptures will always have a place.


Book… Tao Te Cheng by Lao-tzu, The Paintings of Joan Mitchell by Jane Livingston

Art movie or documentary… Herb and Dorothy, Painters Painting, Exit Through The Gift Shop, Waste Land, Gerhard Richter Painting

Art museum… MOMA and MET in NY, National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. and the Art Institute and Modern Wing in Chicago

Contemporary artist (other than yourself)… Peter Doig, Luc Tuymans, Marc Bradford

Place to be inspired by… The Lake

One sentence advice for an art student… Get to know everyone you can and network.

Chicago cafe/restaurant… Intelligentsia coffee, The Bagel, Joy’s Noodle

YouTube video…

Did you know

Om Shanti


  1. The interview responses read with the ferocious intensity of Darryl’s work ethic! I think we like each other because we are both somewhat obsessive! I love the photos. I have been in his studio, but now I have a permanent record! Thanks.

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