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Get to Know Our Featured Artist

Robert Thoren

Winter Shadows by Robert Thoren
WINTER SHADOWS - 20 x 24 - oil (cover image)

My artistic journey actually began while an engineering student at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Surrounded by natural beauty, I bought a camera and became very interested in capturing the local landscape. Shortly after graduation, a friend suggested I try oil painting.


Several years later after a few horrible oil paintings, I had the good fortune of being introduced to a local artist and teacher Eunice Martchenko, a former student of the Russian master Sergei Bongart.  Eunice took me under her wing and I studied with her for a number of years. Her Tuesday evening class was quite a departure from my daytime job as an aeronautical engineer at a nearby Lockheed Aircraft facility. She started me with simple still life setups painted in black and white and gradually introduced color and more complex setups. After Eunice’s unfortunate passing, I studied with Sunny Apinchapong, another very gifted artist/teacher who had also studied with Sergei Bongart. 


In 1993, a job transfer brought me to Northern Virginia where I really first became interested in plein air painting. I have enjoyed the seasonal changes which I never experienced living in Los Angeles. I really enjoy walking into the nearby woods and painting down by the creek, particularly after a snow storm.

Robert Thoren

“A job transfer brought me to Northern Virginia where I really first became interested in plein air painting."

Robert Thoren

Following my retirement from Raytheon in 2008, I got quite active in the plein air movement, and participated in a number of nationally recognized competitive events. These included Plein Air Easton, Mountain Maryland, Wayne, (PA), Estes Park (CO), Sedona (AZ), and San Luis Obispo, to name the most significant.  Awards included: 


  • Top Award - Most Creative Plein-Air Painting, 8th Annual San Luis Obispo Plein-Air competition

  • 1st Place - Quick Draw,  8th Annual Estes Park Plein-Air competition

  • Best of Show - 7th Annual Estes Park Plein-Air competition


In more recent years I have been adding some international travel to my plein air experience, including several painting trips to Tuscany and my new favorite location, San Miguel de Allende in Mexico.


Royal Model 10 by Robert Thoren
ROYAL MODEL 10 - 24 x 24 - oil

I may be best known for my expressive still lifes, which I have been painting for many years and for which I owe a debt to the Bongart method which placed a strong emphasis on this genre. I have gathered quite a collection of objects at swap meets and junk stores through the years (all different sizes, shapes, colors, textures, etc.) and really enjoy the challenge of coming up with interesting compositions to paint.

Pound of Potatoes by Robert Thoren
POUND OF POTATOES - 16 x 20 - oil
Looking Up Cornhill Street by Robert Thoren

I am also drawn to architectural subject matter (no doubt influenced by my engineering background), and really enjoy painting street scenes. Favorite local spots include old town Annapolis, Washington DC, Waterford, VA, to name a few. I can also be found every summer painting in and around Provincetown, Cape Cod. Of course, I love the Northern Virginia landscape and really enjoy tromping through near-by woods to paint the four seasons.



Afternoon Shadows by Robert Thoren
AFTERNOON SHADOWS - 24 x 20 - oil

My home studio occupies a significant portion of our finished basement and provides me with ample space for setting up still life compositions and for storage of all my art related supplies. I also use it on occasion for teaching. The only draw back is the lighting which is all artificial. This necessitates bringing paintings upstairs throughout the painting process to make sure colors are accurate. I will sometimes set up a still life composition on my kitchen table to take advantage of the natural north light. My dream is to someday have a studio with ample north light.

Entering Delaplane by Robert Thoren
ENTERING DELAPLANE - 24 x 30 - oil
Plein air painting - Robert Thoren

I love being out in the environment painting plein-air, whether it be on the beach, in the mountains, or on a street corner in San Miguel de Allende. For me it is a much more rewarding experience than being back in the studio working from a photograph. More challenging, definitely, due to all the variables, wind, heat, bugs, changing light, moving shadows, etc. which one is not confronted with in the studio. If possible, I like to scope out a location in advance so I can become familiar with lighting conditions throughout the day (would it make a better morning, afternoon, or early evening painting?). Perhaps the biggest challenge for me is being able to complete a plein air painting within the two hours typically available before changing lighting makes it time to move on. If unable to complete a painting in one session, I’ll try to go back another day when lighting conditions are similar.

LEFT: Robert paints on location in all kinds of weather.
BOTTOM LEFT: Start of the painting INTO THE WOODS
Painting in process - Robert Thoren
Into The Woods by Robert Thoren

“I like to paint in a sensual, impressionistic style emphasizing vivid color and the employ of dramatic brushstrokes."

Robert Thoren

Pearl Street Shadows by Robert Thoren
PEARL STREET SHADOWS - 20 x 24 - oil
Heading Downtown by Robert Thoren
HEADING DOWNTOWN - 24 x 24 - oil

I have been teaching oil painting for approximately five years, having taken over an adult education art class at Chantilly High School. I am currently represented by the following galleries: Berkley Gallery (Warrenton, VA), Chasen Gallery (Richmond, VA), and Kiley Court Gallery (Provincetown, MA).

Lone Sycamore by Robert Thoren
Painting Stuff by Robert Thoren
LEFT: LONE SYCAMORE - 16 x 12 - oil
ABOVE: PAINTING STUFF - 24 x 30 - oil
Sky Meadows Encampment by Robert Thoren


Self Portrait by Robert Thoren

Robert Thoren


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*All painting images Copyright 2017 Robert Thoren


See our previous UP-CLOSE featured artists.

August 2016 - Jill Banks

September 2016 - Linda Hendrickson

October 2016 - Laurie Fields

November 2016 - Mary Champion

January 2017 - Robert Thoren

February 2017 - Susan La Mont

March 2017 - Web Bryant

December 2016 - Chica Brunsvold

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