A little bit of alcohol can go a long way. And if you’re artist Donald Robertson, it can lead to an intoxicating new book and series of drawings. Known for both his cartoon-like, Pop Art-esque illustrations that populate his Instagram feed (@drawbertson) and his significant influence collaborating in the fashion world, Robertson’s oeuvre is full of commonplace references. His genius lies in his tendency to transform the familiar into the electrifying, which is why it comes as no surprise that his latest endeavor turns to wine and spirits for inspiration.
A move in 2020 from L.A. to Dallas with his family is a touchstone for new references in his book Alcohol A Love Story, a look at Robertson’s cherished experiences with liquor — memories prompted by the letters of the alphabet. The letter R stands for Ranch Water (the tequila-based Texas staple that recently made its way into Robertson’s orbit); J evokes a conversation with his son about John Daly (a spiked Arnold Palmer); and Q transports us to the exuberant time when New York City offices would mark the workday’s end (“Quitting time”) by rolling around a booze-filled bar cart. “Everyone was tipsy the minute the clock struck 5,” he scrawls on the page.
Like most of Robertson’s paintings, there is nothing enigmatic about the book; its straightforward wit is what makes it effervescent. His prose has a tossed-off, fleeting, thought-of-the-moment quality, treating both himself and his subjects like playful caricatures — never perfect, but always in on the joke. When brainstorming examples for the letter U, he turned to his loyal Instagram followers: U represents 10 films “you have to watch” if only for their iconic alcohol-induced scenes. This penchant for bringing the outside world in is part of what makes his work so endearing.
A bit of a wag both on and off the page, Robertson takes over Dallas’ Cerulean Gallery for his book launch, hosted by gallery owner Caroline Crockett Kneese, on Saturday, January 22, which means an evening of heavy pours and roguish humor. An accompanying exhibition of his new artworks runs through February 24, with a portion of proceeds benefiting Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center.