Artist Robert Deyber plays on words

At the drop of a hat, artist Robert Deyber was inspired.

The contemporary painter approaches each canvas with a sense of humor, playing on words in the English language and common phrases uttered on the streets. Often described as a storyteller with a paintbrush, Deyber's painting are distinctly contemporary intertwined with his visual interpretation of cliches, euphemisms and idioms.

“There are so many peculiar and quirky phrases which have been calling out to be put into visual form,” Deyber explained. “In many cases I can be motivated by a single word.”

Deyber recently stopped by Martin Lawrence Galleries in Bellevue as part of his National Tour 2009. The one-man exhibition of his work introduced his latest hand-signed prints and newly published 131-page book, A Language All His Own, featuring a compilation of his original paintings and limited edition lithographs.

From an early age, Deyber became lost in the creativity of art. Inspired by his mother who was a well-known portrait painter, Deyber longed to go to art school but instead pursued a career in the airlines. Still, he continued to explore his artistic drive, enrolling in the occasional art course but mainly learning through practice and patience.

“I hesitated to learn to paint under the direction of someone else because I always feared I would adapt their style and lose the very thing that defined who I was as an artist,” he explained.

Deyber finally gave up his full time career for a paintbrush and blank canvas.

“I wanted to find a new concept. So many artists do stilllife and landscapes. I wanted to do something completely original,” Deyber explained. “In the art world they call it narritive. Basically, the basis of my art is based on phrases and cliches.”

Deyber uses whimsical imagery combined with a more serious undertone often identified with the Hudson River School of the 19th century to create his work. His signature style is evident in paintings such as “Bad Hare Day” which depicts a rabbit with a match in its mouth, a book of matches by its paw, and a house on fire in the background.

Deyber gathers his inspiration of visual themes and story lines from real life experiences and draws on his own struggles to fuel the fire for his artwork.

“I have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder,” he said. “Instead of limiting me, the disorder has benefited me in regard to my art and the development of my paintings. I paint in acrylic because it's a very fast-paced medium. I have managed to take something that some might considering limiting and instead, turned it into a positive force in my life,” Deyber added.

Recently, Deyber was commissioned by musician Tom Petty to create the imagery for Petty's newest album, Highway Companion. Deyber's artwork has attracted many in the entertainment industry including Sheryl Crow and Alicia Keys.

“People like to interact with the artist of the work they fell in love with. It's important to find out what drives the creativity that is the artist,” he said. “A lot of times they will have phrases I haven't even thought of.”

Deyber resides in Connecticut and is exclusively represented by Martin Lawrence Galleries.

For a complete look at his paintings, visit www.robertdeyber.com.

Lindsay Larin can be reached at 425.453.4602.