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The Journal Gazette

  • Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette Robb Owen of Albion hopes to one day see his artwork hanging in galleries. “My ultimate goal is to have museum-worthy art. That is the long-term goal,” he says.

  • From his studio, Owen paints his models and their background before photographing them.

  • Owen’s pieces are printed on PVC using ultraviolet-stabilized ink.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018 1:00 am

Art taken to next level

Albion man blends science, creativity for unique pieces

Kathi Weiss | For The Journal Gazette

On display

The following galleries and businesses have Robb Owen's artwork on display:

Noble Art Gallery in Albion

Seas the Day in Port Isabel, Texas

D'Arte Centre in Harlingen, Texas

Welcome Aboard in Port Isabel, Texas

Days Inn & Suites, Springfield, Mo.

In addition, his art has been displayed at The Apple Pie Boutique in Columbia City, Laguna Madre Art Gallery in South Padre Island, Texas, the Kingfisher Gallery in South Padre Island and Hunter Gallery in South Padre Island.

His work has also appeared at the Fort Wayne International Airport.

On the Web To see a video of Robb Owen talking about his work, go to www.journalgazette.net/videos

Robb Owen's Albion studio, which is also his home, overlooks a serene lake. Inside, the studio is a hodgepodge of color with smudges of paint on chairs, lamp fixtures and his camera.

“I get paint all over my camera,” Owen says. “If you look around the house you will see paint on things ... the hanging light in the kitchen. The models walk around and get paint on things. You'll find paint everywhere. This table and chair have paint on them.”

That's because Owen, owner of Decus Naturalis, paints everything he photographs – curtains, flower vases, even the models. Owen works to give a modern twist to impressionism by photographing models in sets he paints. His oil painting technique is reminiscent of late-19th-century masters.

It is his passion for design that has allowed Owen to blend science and art in his creative approach.

With a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University, Owen has a creative passion for naturally beautiful product designs that are both utilitarian and aesthetically pleasing. He holds 11 patents in the automotive, consumer product and commercial product industries.

He has been interested in photography since 2013. His travels, both for work and for pleasure, have taken him to cities around the country. He has always been drawn to art galleries while in those cities.

“I had been taking pictures for a while,” he says. “I traveled a lot with my job. And, also, when I went on trips not tied into work, I would go to art galleries. I love art.”

His earliest shots were photos of nature. In 2015 he discovered a new way to showcase those photos.

Because of his background in engineering and a specialization in plastics, he wondered if he could merge art and science. His friend, Mark Espich of Espich Printing in Columbia City suggested he try printing on PVC. Most people, when thinking of PVC, think of plumbing.

Owen understood other properties of PVC. He uses 4-foot-by-8-foot sheets of PVC and Espich prints Owen's photos using ultraviolet-stabilized ink. The process gives Owen's photos a texture.

The printing process on PVC with UV-stabilized ink is a unique blend of 3-D and 2-D portraiture.

“Besides pure photography, I've utilized a new technique of having my photographs printed on a water-resistant material, using ultraviolet light stabilized ink that allows me to use acrylic paint to enhance the look and feel of my original photography,” Owen says. “I've expanded this new technique, being the only artist in the world to include painting 3-D art, printing on this medium and painting on the surface of that image.”

About a year ago he came across work by Alexa Meade, who paints people, literally. She paints directly on the human body and then photographs the subject.

“I started with nature photography ... I started painting on my nature photos,” he says. “Then I saw Alexa's work and my work grew from there.”

Owen decided “to take my art to the next level.” Using Meade's technique, he began painting directly on the models and their backgrounds and then photographing them. A current photo shoot involves not only painting on the models but on the drapes and furniture in his studio.

He is part of a Facebook page for traveling models and photographers. He works with models in his studio as well as going out to fashion shows. His work has been published in the online magazine Deitra and in print in Midwest Model magazine. He plans to go to Europe in August or September for the French fashion show.

“My ultimate goal is to have museum-worthy art. That is a long-term goal,” he says.

Owen continues to work 50 hours a week at Da-Lite in Warsaw, as well as working 50 hours a week as an artist. “Right now the engineering is funding the art,” Owen says. “There is a parallel path at this time. At some point the art will take over.”