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Columbus artist animated about his 'alter ego'

 

Artist Robert Williams of Columbus hopes to eventually see his original character, Rob Brush, in commercial use.

Artist Robert Williams of Columbus hopes to eventually see his original character, Rob Brush, in commercial use.
Photo by: Sarah Wilson

 

Williams’ drawings show his animated paintbrush character, Rob Brush.

Williams’ drawings show his animated paintbrush character, Rob Brush.
Photo by: Sarah Wilson

 

In this “family portrait,” Williams depicts family members as animals packed with personality.

In this “family portrait,” Williams depicts family members as animals packed with personality.
Photo by: Sarah Wilson

 

 

Jan Swoope

 

Even as a youngster growing up in Columbus, Robert Williams was "a doodler," drawing whatever appealed to his fertile imagination. Art remained a haven, even as he served in the Navy Seals, graduated from the University of the District of Columbia, and pursued a career as a ship-building engineer, residing last in Vancouver, British Columbia, in Canada. 

 

Now 53 and the survivor of two heart attacks, in 2004 and 2008, Williams has retired and returned to his roots and family in Columbus. Focused on art, he spends much of his time infusing life into an original character he created -- a colorful paintbrush by the name of Rob Brush. It''s a character the artist hopes to see in animated cartoons someday, much like Sponge Bob or Scooby Doo. 

 

The inspiration for a walking, talking paintbrush first came to Williams about five years ago, in what he describes as "like a magical moment." 

 

"I was working on a project and needed a smaller paintbrush, and out of all the ones I had in the house, I couldn''t find this particular one," he said, sitting at his drawing board. "I was getting ready to go out to the store to buy the brush I needed, and lo and behold, I reached in my pocket and felt what I thought was a pencil. When I pulled it out it was exactly the small paintbrush I was looking for. The idea began in my mind ... and Rob Brush was born." 

 

With a slow, spreading smile and a gleam in his eye, Williams said, "Rob Brush has magical abilities. He can speak, he can interact, he paints a picture for everything." In a series of drawings, Rob is depicted playing tennis and baseball, skiing, walking dogs and holding babies. Some of Williams'' canvases are as large as 3-by-4 feet. Each is skillfully, meticulously drawn. 

 

"He''s my alter ego, so basically when I''m walking down the street, I capture the moment of everyday situations," said the artist. "Then when I''m at home by myself, I just express it in my drawings." 

 

 

 

Animal farm 

 

Rob Brush, of course, isn''t the only subject in the artistic arsenal. Williams is also talented at landscapes and seascapes. And a whimsical large-scale "family portrait" on fabric depicts each family member as an animal, with himself in the center as a horse. Whether in the guise of a sassy kangaroo or a stalwart badger, each character exudes personality and is affectionately drawn. 

 

Williams gives credit to a recently-deceased aunt, Madelyn Williams, for keeping him on his creative toes in years past. 

 

"She used to teach at Mitchell and Franklin schools, and I''d be home on vacation, going back and forth, and she''d always make sure she had me do some work, for her class and the bulletin boards, seasonal things for the hallways," he remembered with fondness. 

 

Williams'' biggest hope is to see Rob Brush animated and airing on outlets like the Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon. He''d also like to one day be able to do demonstrations for classrooms or youth groups, to encourage children to "get interested in art." No one knows better that the doodlers of today may just turn out to be the artists of tomorrow.  

 

If Rob Brush can find a measure of commercial success, and can help inspire even one aspiring young artist, Williams will be pleased. 

 

"It''s kind of like leaving a legacy," he said, "for family and for history."

 

Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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