by Krystle Cole
I recently met Randal Roberts at Arise Festival in Loveland, Colorado, as he prepared to begin live painting with Morgan Mandala. I’ve also been following Randal’s work on Facebook for a while now. I enjoy the creative use of patterns and symbolic imagery within his paintings. So I reached out to him for an interview to share his artwork and thoughts on the psychedelic experience with the NeuroSoup community.
KC: Hey Randal, to begin, can you please tell me about yourself (where you are from, educational background regarding art, etc.)?
RR: Hey Krystle! 🙂
I grew up in the Hudson Valley in New York, near New York City but closer to nature. That area, the smell of the woods in the fall, the old streets, the summer sunsets over the river, are all a big part of my heart. I’ve also lived in the SF bay, and currently live in Colorado.
Drawing has been a fundamental part of life as long as I can remember. I was lucky to have some great art teachers in public school, and parents who valued and encouraged making art. There was a single semester of art classes before dropping out of the local community college. Besides that, I’m self-taught.
KC: What inspires you to make artwork?
RR: Art is the best response I’ve found to life itself. Upon seeing the whole big, beautiful, mixed up thing: stars, planets, oceans, trees, animals, bugs, people, cities, wars, history, god, love, relationships, consciousness, etc… my best response to all of it was to make art. What else can you do? For the life of me I can’t really think of anything else. When I see moss and ferns growing on the base of a tree, splendid and intricate, I’m like, “I wanna do that!”
At the end of the day, art is at least a peaceful practice that does as little harm as possible. That’s a good reason too.
These days though, what mostly keeps the brush moving is that it’s become my whole life… just wake up every day and go. It took some years and hard work to get it going, but now it is self-maintaining… make more art to make more art to make more art! 🙂 I have absolutely the coolest job in the world and love doing it, so I want to make stuff to keep that going, to do a good job as a profession and continue learning. I also want to show up for the people who have believed in me along the way, and to meet and share with new people, hopefully inspiring them too.
KC: What differentiates your paintings from other work in the visionary art genre?
RR: Hmm.. I’m not entirely sure. More and more I’m just thinking that I just make “art” as opposed to “visionary art”… though for convenience I still use that label to describe my stuff sometimes. We humans sure do love our labels, don’t we? 🙂
That being said, when I first started painting, I met and hung out with some great artists like Alex Grey and Oliver Vernon, and I remember for a while there I had to try and actively not make art that looked like a bad copy of theirs… while addressing similar subject matter. I had to find my own voice, and worked on that quite a bit, pulling imagery from different obscure places and mixing them up in a kind of secret recipe. That’s what makes paintings stand out the most I suppose, is the discovery and culmination of the artist’s voice. Everything has been done, but with practice we can still magically find our unique voice and work to refine it. Getting there hopefully!
KC: Have you used psychedelics? If so, which plant or substance is your favorite and why?
RR: Yep! It’s a challenge to name favorites… it would be a bit like saying which friends were your favorite. Different ones have been more important (and on a more regular rotation) at different times. Friends are like that too, I guess. They are close for a while and then even if they move away they are always beloved and close to our heart.
My first psychedelic experience was with lsd, and there will always be a positive relationship there. In the last few years if I’ve taken it, it’s usually been in micro-doses. Like a quarter of a hit, around there. There are many creative benefits with that level of ingestion. It leaves one fully capable of carrying out complex physical tasks (such as painting) while keeping one eye on the sparkle-realm. Micro-dosing is quite nice for staying up late (live-painting often goes into the night) without resorting to a let-down like cocaine. MDMA and it’s various siblings are always warm and connecting and profound and lovely. If it weren’t unhealthy (or if it kept working) I might take those all the time, hehehe… I feel genuinely saddened that some people don’t get to have MDMA experiences with their loved ones, because their conditioning or hang-ups won’t allow them to try it. It has such opportunity for healing, and just downright enjoyment. DMT has had probably the most substantial effect on me, such as the way I view things like reality, death, etc, but I haven’t felt the desire to use it since my one breakthrough event in 2006.
KC: Have you ever had any difficult psychedelic experiences? If so, how did you navigate your most difficult trip?
RR: Yes, but only a couple of times. When things get difficult, it’s the same as when we aren’t tripping, right? 🙂 Breathe deeply, remember your training (you got this). List some things you’re grateful for. Look around. Breathe, sit, calm down… just wait a little while. Onward. The best is yet to come.
KC: Where can NeuroSoup readers view more of your artwork? Are you participating in any current or upcoming exhibitions?
RR: My work can be seen at allofthisisforyou.com.
We also hold workshops and perform at music festivals regularly – stay tuned, and hopefully we’ll see you guys out there! 🙂
Thank you so much for the interview Krystle. <3 Lots of love!