Monday, January 16, 2012


by Anne Conway

Each morning I pass a certain piece of street art that makes me smile. Among the boarded windows and brick-laden buildings, this art, unexpected and seemingly out-of-place, gives way to a smile on my face. Some months after I began noticing this piece, I met the artist, Rob Clifton. I won’t say any more about this particular piece because, as it’s street art, he could potentially get in trouble for it. Still, I thank Clifton for this moment of cheer in my morning, and now I know it’s not the only color he brings to our city’s canvas.

Clifton’s hope is that his art brings something positive to our city. Clifton inspires his audience to look outside of their normal domain. “If you begin to pay attention to the little details in life, such as fire escapes and waterfalls, the untouched areas of life begin to emerge,” says Clifton.

His work portrays a myriad of subjects inspired by all aspects of life. “I always try to see the beauty and fun in life, because if you reject the time to recognize these opportunities, then you end up clouding what is really important.” Clifton renders naturalistic images to create simplified shapes and iconographic designs that weave into his “fine, post-psychedelic, illustration.”

One could say surrealism transcends reality in Clifton’s art. If you ask him to paint a portrait, you might get a picture of “someone in cupcake purgatory.” His work is often inspired by his dreams, a “personal connection” to his soul. Clifton’s sensitivity to dreams allow for his subconscious to become reality with pictures of altered dimensions.

A love of music also inspires Clifton’s creative process. Playing the saxophone since grade school, Clifton has always been a performer. Fusing performance and painting, Clifton displays his talents on stage at Bluprint Birmingham. A collaborative performance merging DJs and artists, Bluprint provides Clifton an opportunity to paint live. The audience’s vibe helps shape the painting and the music determines his next stroke on canvas.

His innovation and careful attention to details helped form Artopia, an art show that features emerging artists from our Magic City. Created by Clifton, Andres Sanchez and several other UAB art students, Artopia is an art show that “challenges the conventionalism of the traditional art gallery by merging different styles with live music and performances.” The show’s September debut offered a collage of media and expression. These youthful artists bring their talents to the public with a mix of cultural, societal and religious ideas. The next show will do the same, giving Birmingham a reason to love the culture that art and music bring to our city.

Clifton uses his talents to help Birmingham’s youth as well. At Space One Eleven, a nonprofit visual arts gallery, Clifton teaches children who may not otherwise have access to art classes. With his own classwork sometimes growing stagnant, Rob is able to enjoy the fun and creative side of art. Clifton enjoys watching the children grow and is inspired by their capability.

Look in a different place on your way to work and you may spot Clifton’s art. An unexpected piece of street art, an innovative art show, a live painting-Clifton creates art for our city. Art that gives the ability to “take a break from the goings on in society.”

Cheers to you, Rob Clifton.

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