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Robert McKellar What Makes a Masterpiece?

April 18, 2011  |  AdVentures Business Videos, Clients

Robert McKellar has been a successful painter for over 35 years, selling his work internationally, yet he’s still asking himself the same question – what makes a masterpiece? Inspired by everything, from the simplicity of the lemons in the local market and the intense colours of the Spanish landscape, to the drama and emotion of a bullfight, we follow him from his studio in a remote cortijo on the Costa Tropical, as he relentlessly tries to answer this elusive question.

Planned as part of a series of documentaries on art and artists on the new Living in Spain Channel, we created this teaser for Robert who really wanted to get across the ongoing struggle as he saw it for artists to create great work, rather than just good work. The tone of the piece reflects the darker energies that Robert wanted to convey. A simple one-day shoot, with a tight shooting schedule to keep it efficient, but allow a variety and breadth of material to be captured on location.

Robert died shortly after this film was made – he loved it and it makes me smile whenever I watch it because, in the midst of his battle with his illness, he was just so excited about him and his artwork being on film and being watched…

Robert McKellar – Artist (1945-2009)


  1. Just LOVED this vignette of Robert! It captures him so well – and I should know as I am his sister!

    • Hi Katherine!

      So glad you like it – it was great fun filming him and it was lovely re-watching it today after reading your comment.

      We filmed another little experiment with him too, which always makes me laugh remembering it – in fact, it was the first time I met him properly, filming this. I thought I’d ask the same 10 questions to 10 different artists and imagined I’d end up with 10 very different interesting short films.

      When we filmed a test with Robert, I asked him the first question, which was simply ‘What’s your favourite colour?” and we had a hilarious conversation about the colour red, full of double-entendres and funny anecdotes with that mischievous sparkle in his eyes the whole time… 20 minutes later, we got onto question 2 in fits of laughter. And that was it, we were instant friends!

      Still miss him loads and think of him often, especially when I’m in my own studio painting…

      Thanks for commenting – it’s lovely to know people are watching it.

    • Jill Hickey nee Cox

      I was a friend of Robert’s back in the early 60’s. I came across the vignette of him by accident and was so sorry to read that he had died. I remember you as a very small child. Happy Days!!!

      • Hi Jill, Robert created fond memories with people wherever he went, didn’t he! I’m so glad you found the vignette – the outakes are full of giggles and jokes and we are hoping to edit these soon into another little film. I’ll mail you when it’s done… warmly, Michelle

  2. I am sitting in my studio suddenly feeling really sad having just read that Robert died. A minute ago I was really happy about what I was painting which caused me to google Robert. I have just blended the parts of the vessel, which I am painting, which should be blended with the background & picked out two particularly successful parts of the vessel to accentuate with light. Robert was the best teacher I ever had for technical painterly advice, all the tutors at Art college & on post grad added together did not teach me as much as Robert did about life drawing & still life painting. I just wanted to try & get in touch with him again & see what he was painting.
    Robert was such a wonderful person & I really enjoyed seeing the way you have captured him so well in your little movie. I loved the many Sunday group life drawing sessions in his studio in Kent in the 90s, the leisurely lunches & chats in the local pub…. Often think of Robert……

    • Hi Wendy,
      thanks so much for your comments and for sharing your memories of Robert here – I’m so sorry that this post was the source of sad news for you. Robert was painting lots right up to when he had to leave for London for special treatment for his illness. I’m happy to say he was painting his beloved abstracts – his own pure expression – as well as his beautiful nudes and meticulous still lifes. I have some photos of some of them if you’d like to see them.
      I miss him loads too – we were neighbours for several years in Spain and a group of us used to do life drawing in his studio, plus he was great with our two young boys – they loved his sense of humour (and he & Phaedra bought them a psp one Christmas, which they’ve never forgotten!).
      And I think of him lots when I’m in my studio – I have a few bits and pieces Phaedra was kind enough to give me, including some of the outrageous music he used to play – so that keeps me smiling every time I play it.
      My own fondest memories of Robert are all laughing, especially the time when he turned up to our favourite local restaurant on the beach dressed in a white suit and bow tie to play his newly-finished hand built guitar and kept us all entertained and in fits of laughter all evening… he really is a special soul…

  3. miss you loads, and look at your pantings every day, see you on the other side, Ian

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