DECLO • In an old bean warehouse, next to the train tracks that cut through Declo, is an artist’s paradise.
It is here that natural light floods the room, illuminating paintings of all sizes hanging on the high ceiling walls. In just about every room and corner of the 10,000-square-foot building, you will find paintings, frames and art supplies.
Artist Robert Moore opened the studio six years ago in downtown Declo, a town with population of less than 400. It is here that Moore has not only built a reputation as an oil painter, but as a teacher and mentor as well.
People come from all around the world to Declo to take Moore’s two workshops held in the spring and fall.
Moore said the workshops cost $600 for five days of instruction. Students bring their own paint and brushes and he provides the rest.
Moore has also been taking in apprentices for more than six years. He currently has two.
“I knew what it was like to have a passion for art, but not have direction,” Moore said. “God gifted me with being a teacher.”
Moore grew up on a farm between Paul and Hazelton. He has been an artist since 1980.
He said he first realized he wanted to be an artist after a couple of years of studying pre-law in college.
“I loved being outdoors and being in the mountains. I loved physical work and didn’t like being inside. If I was an artist, I could do that,” he said.
Moore earned a bachelor’s of science in art from Eastern Oregon State College and fine arts degree from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif. His work can be found in galleries in Jackson Hole, Wyo., Sun Valley, Santa Fe, N.M. and Maui, Hawaii. He has also been featured in art magazines such as Southwest Art Magazine.
Even with years of experience working as a professional artist and teacher, Moore still continues to hone his craft.
One room is filled with hundreds of paintings that did not work out, but Moore keeps them anyways.
“These are things meant for my education. They are not for sale,” Moore said.
Trey McCarley, 25, moved from Little Rock, Ark. to Declo in 2011 to become Moore’s apprentice. Though McCarley has a degree in in landscape architecture, he said he has learned more from Moore than he ever did in school.
“He’s definitely quickened the whole process and opened my eyes to painting and the business side of things,” McCarley said.
When he first arrived in Declo, McCarley said it was a bit of culture shock for him.
“I thought I was in the middle of nowhere,” he said.
But he soon found that the small town of Declo was actually the best place for a budding artist to live.
“It was peaceful. I actually had a place to have sound mind and concentrate on painting,” he said.
Now McCarley can’t ever imagine leaving. He married a local woman and now has goals to open an art studio in Elba.
He said one of the most valuable lessons Moore has taught him is to never give up.
“That’s the easiest thing in this profession. You can’t get discouraged,” McCarley said.
Over the years, Moore said he’s had more than a dozen apprentices come work for him.
“I take in men who have a heart and passion for art,” Moore said.
Silas Thompson, 24, has been an apprentice for two years. Before coming to work for Moore, he earned a living working in an auto parts warehouse.
Silas learned about Moore though his art teacher at Twin Falls High School, who was Moore’s former apprentice.
“I married when I was 19. I loved art and painting but didn’t have the foresight to think art would provide for a family,” Thompson said.
On Wednesday, Thompson helped Moore paint a picture of Aspen trees. Moore said he is most known for his Aspen tree paintings.
“I chose the Aspen to provide an income and feed my family,” he said.
Moore also likes to paint Aspen trees because he is colorblind. While others may see a rainbow, Moore said he only sees yellow and blue.
“I’ve had to simplify in my mind and define the elements to get control of color. As long as I have a relationship and harmony in the color, it is going to feel natural,” Moore said. “The aspen trunk is white, but depending on the light reflecting on it, it can be any color.”
Thompson helped Moore by prepping the colors he would use to create the aspen tree scene. Moore described his palette as a Monopoly board, he knows exactly where each color is after Thompson arranges them. The greens are always in one certain spots, as are the purples, reds and whites.
Paint from caulking guns was drizzled on the canvas, looking more like a Jackson Pollock painting, until Moore started to mix and spread the colors with his fingers. It’s a technique that Moore said most artists don’t use. After the colors were mixed to his liking, Moore then started to add the trunks of the aspen trees with a blade.
“I know I’ve learn so much from just helping Robert paint,” Thompson said.
This year, Thompson placed fifth in the Art & Soul of Magic Valley competition. Last year, he placed fourth. He also has artwork in galleries in Twin Falls and Missoula, Mont.
“Ultimately, he taught me the willingness to be diligent and to do a 1,000 paintings only if three work,” Thompson said.