Rob Finn

Raised in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, he moved to California for 22 years and has recently returned East to Philadelphia where he is focusing on watercolor explorations of trees.

Rob’s art is an investigation into the character of trees and shows how climate, geology and human society affect the morphology of each species. His tree portraits are gestural images of the subjects and how they affect the surroundings and the viewer. Inspired by Andrew Wyeth and John Singer Sargent, Finn is creating a vibrant vision of nature with a bright palette and a fluid sense of space. He is bringing a modern sensibility to landscape painting by focusing on individual arboreal models rather than the grandiose or expansive perspectives which have dominated the genre for centuries.

Finn attended Parsons School of Design in New York City and earned a BA in Human Ecology from College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, ME. He is currently a member of the Philadelphia Sketch Club.

Tree Portraits 

Portraits are usually of people. How do we identify with people? Through empathy we see ourselves in them. Can a tree portrait discover arboreal character?

How are we relating to the trees in the images? Some feel huge and monolithic, inspiring awe. Some seem animated, eliciting wonder and humor. Most of the subjects are solitary. This is how the vignette of “portrait” is achieved. Trees are most often part of a forest. This is how they thrive. Most of these are on the edges of meadows (few are on the sides of roads). These are subjects that stand apart and so we can identify with them singularly. Subjects are selected for the clarity and complexity of their structure and sense of gesture. Be careful not to think of them as people! That’s the arrogance of ego and narcissism. This investigation is dangerously close to anthropomorphism. 

How alive is a tree? They are reacting to their environment without our types of muscular or nervous systems. Their distribution of chemicals, nutrients and water operates similarly to our vascular system. Do they think and feel? How do they communicate? We are learning more about the lives of trees every day.

All of these trees are cultivated by and protected from humanity. They are located in parks and private property; some are pruned meticulously. This is a view into nature but these trees are not purely wild. We have affected every bit of land on Earth and these trees are reacting to us.

 Dendrologists may be able to determine genus and species of the subjects. A typology emerges as regional studies aggregate members. Although not encyclopedic, each series shows how climate, geology and (human) society affect the morphology of specimens. Some species are in multiple regions but rarely do they grow in similar ways.

 The centrality of these images establishes a focus on the subject analogous to the way we see and perceive objects in life. Sometimes focus is prolonged but most often it is cursory. We process information received through the optic nerve as form and then space. As we practice representational art, we translate information into line and field. Quick and fluid mark making is employed. This is an attempt to imbue a sense of action in time. Verisimilitude is not the goal. Blooms of pigment and airy washes describe transitions through space and areas affected by vapors and wind. 

Plein Air painting sessions provide excellent first-hand details. Some pieces are completed entirely onsite over the course of two days (the transition of shadow limits sessions to 2 or 3 hours). Photography is almost always integral to the finished piece. Finishing touches are frequently informed by photos in studio. Often images are transposed onto paper with the use of a digital projector and then taken to the site where final painting is executed. This technique maximizes structural detail coupled with thinness of application and accuracy of marks. The goal is a vivid depiction of the subject which communicates its massive construction, ethereal bouyancy and intricate anatomy.


Philadelphia Sketch Club Urban Plein Air Exhibit - PSC - July 2019

Artemis Gallery - Northeast Harbor, ME - Summer 2019

Drawn From Nature - John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove, PA - April 2019

Annual Domenic DiStefano Memorial Works on Paper Exhibition, PSC - January 2019

Philadelphia Sketch Club New Members Exhibit - November 2018

Tree Portraits - Solo Show- College of the Atlantic Blum Gallery - October 2018

Philadelphia Sketch Club Urban Plein Air Exhibit - PSC - July 2018

Artist of the Philadelphia Sketch Club at the Old City Jewish Arts Center - June 2018

Japanese Westerns - Solo Show - Laszlo Gallery, San Francisco - May 2009

Recent Work - Solo Show - Laszlo Gallery, San Francisco - September 2007

Mission Arts Group Show - 535 Gallery, San Francisco - June 1996

Mural Commissions

Planet Sportswear - Cambridge, MA - 900 sq' - May 1995

College of the Atlantic - Bar Harbor, ME - Gates Community Center - 72 sq' - January 1995

Sunset Grill and Tap - Cambridge, MA - 160 sq' - December 1994

Cool-as-a-Moose - Bar Harbor, ME - 500 sq' - December 1991