Robert Hardgrave is both a visual artist and a City Superhero
Our biweekly City Superheroes column highlights the powerful figures walking among us — with the help of a (usually local) illustrator. This week’s pairing: painter Robert Hardgrave and visual artist Poster Bot.
Given Name: Robert Hardgrave
Other Aliases: Farmer Bob
Superpowers: Can manipulate paint from his paint can into any shape, form or substance on the planet.
First Appearance: Hardgrave started showing his work at Seattle’s Bemis Building in 2004. There, he shared paintings, drawings and his “transplant dolls” —he’d recently had a kidney transplant and saved some of the pants he wore in the hospital during that ordeal. He took toys from thrift stores and cut the pants apart and sewed them onto the toy forms to make the transplant dolls.
Local Haunts: The Varsity Inn on N. 34th and Wallingford.
Archenemies: “I think there should be a place for homeless people to get cleaned up.”
Even Heroes Have Heroes: Jeffry Mitchell, Fernand Léger, Sally Smart
What Small Object Holds Great Meaning: “My sketchbook. I take it with me everywhere I go so I can draw if I need to. It keeps me occupied. I got my first one years and years and years ago. I usually buy the ones that have the grid paper – composition books.”
Origin Story: Born in Oxnard, Calif., where he lived until he was 10 years old, Hardgrave and his family later moved to Arizona, where he spent most of his teenage years. In 1992, he “sold everything” and rode a motorcycle to Seattle, where he worked odd jobs, including busing tables, and drew “a lot.” Hardgrave’s art developed as he spent time on his own hanging out in his room and “working at it.”
Hardgrave says he always is having breakthroughs. One such breakthrough came when he combined paints to form a particular mixture that he quickly learned he could mold, shape, transform and manipulate into any color, size, shape or object on earth. The recipe for the paint’s magical composition is stored safely in his mind. He uses this paint concoction to fight against evil. These days, though, it is a particularly good time to be an artist in Seattle, Hardgrave says, adding that the city’s art scene “seems to be really thriving.”
His Philosophy: “Make the best work you can. But, at the same time, you never make the best work you can because you’re always thinking of something you can do better and then you make the next piece and the next piece. You make the best work you can at that time but you can always do better.”
What’s Next: Hardgrave will be showing some new work (including pieces made from cardboard) at the “Good Neighbor Gallery” on Capitol Hill, Aug. 22nd.
About the Illustrator: Poster Bot is a Seattle-based writer and illustrator. He may be quoted as saying, "The best thing anyone can give to the world is their own view of it." His point of view, he says, “is often intense, at times insane ... possibly even wrong, but nonetheless valid.”