Robert DeLaus ’16 Brings Passion for Drawing to Light

Surrounded by pastels, pencils and sketchpads in his art studio, Robert DeLaus ’16 reaches for white charcoal and a sheet of black paper to start working on a portrait of Walter White from the popular television show “Breaking Bad.” Once finished, the drawing will be added to his collection of celebrity portraits, which already includes rapper Macklemore.

“I spent a long time deciding the right image of Macklemore to draw,” said DeLaus. “I chose this one because I knew I could capture it really well. It was challenging drawing all the details on his neck and arms but, in the end, I made it work really well. The negative space in the background and on his shirt made the image very three dimensional, which was what I was looking for.”

DeLaus was introduced to drawing through graphic design, which he began to pursue when he studied the basics of Adobe Photoshop during lessons with his middle school art teacher. To further develop his skills in graphic design, DeLaus decided to start drawing, which is now his main artistic interest.

Though his focus has shifted to drawing, DeLaus continues to work in graphic design, creating a logo for Advanced Placement Sports, a new athletic complex in Wilmington, Mass. After several weeks and 30 hand-drawn sketches, DeLaus completed the logo, his first commissioned design.

“Graphic design has limitations that come with it, whereas in drawing, you are free to create your own thing,” said DeLaus. “With drawing, you can put your mind on the paper. You design things for others, but you draw for yourself.”

Though graphic design is not DeLaus’s primary pursuit, his experience with it continues to influence his drawing.

“I began using programs like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop to design logos. [Now,] if I’m drawing something, I always touch up my picture with Photoshop to get my values the way I want them,” said DeLaus.

DeLaus first realized he was talented at drawing in elementary school, but he did not start seriously pursuing it until after he learned graphic design in middle school.

“I wanted to get more involved in drawing and learn different techniques and different types of materials used to make sketches,” said DeLaus. “My parents supported my pursuits and [my desire to take] any classes I wanted to take.”

DeLaus spent three summers taking drawing classes at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where he learned different means of sketching using pencils and pastels. He initially began by drawing still-life works but has begun to include portraits as well.

“Even though setting up still-lifes is difficult, they are my favorite to draw,” said DeLaus. “People don’t realize [how much] goes into the setup of the still-life. I look at [my scene] and see how [it] will come together on paper. Then I have to get the lighting perfect.”

DeLaus prefers using charcoal when drawing, because it allows him to blend and highlight the black and white focal points of a subject. He sees an elegance in drawings that are in their simplest black and white states and took private lessons every week during seventh and eighth grade to practice this technique.

“Everyone is used to drawing the lowlights and going from light to dark areas, but I thought it was better to flip [one’s] perception of things and start with the darks and bring out the highlights. In real life, the highlights are what pop out to [people], so why not draw them with emphasis?” said DeLaus.

DeLaus describes a still-life of a frame, light bulb, rope and mirror in which he incorporates the use of highlights and lowlights, as well as the idea of texture.

“I liked the contrast of the different surfaces I was drawing,” said DeLaus. “There were objects that were reflective, like the mirror and the light bulb, and very textured objects, like the rope and the frame. All the lines came together to form different angles, which made the composition really interesting. In my process, I first coated the entire paper in black charcoal. The actual image and objects were erased out from the charcoal. It was a slow process to bring out all the highlights with eraser.”

As a day student, DeLaus’s main space for creating art is his older brother’s bedroom, which he converted into a studio after his brother left for college this year.

“That is where you can find all my art supplies. I have this really nice wooden drafting table I use for drawings. I have all types of pens and pencils, sticks of charcoal, erasers, ink wash, sharpeners, special lights used for my still-lifes… really everything I need is in [there],” said DeLaus.

DeLaus has already taken a variety of art courses at Andover, and he hopes to take several more, as well as pursue an independent project in an upcoming term. DeLaus is also currently working on creating the logo for the Parents of Students of Phillips Andover (PSPA).

“Drawing is the best way to capture your perception of the things around you. It is my way to translate the world into something that makes sense to me, and I hope to share my unique perceptions with others,” said DeLaus.