Robert Pace Kidd is that kind of artist. Skilled in the more traditional forms of painting and sculpture, Robert Kidd has taken an age-old medium - leather - into the realm of fine art with a technique of carving and coloration that has caused art critics and collectors alike to do a double take.
Kidd's relief's are Rembrandt-esque in lighting and coloration, a result of his early interest in art history. His subject matter, intimate portraits and allegorical scenes of the Old West, all exhibit a universal quality, reflecting his travels and experience.
Born in Southern California in 1945, he spent much of his youth hunting and fishing in the wilderness areas of the southwest with his father and older brother. It was there at he became friends with many of the ranchers and Indians and gained an appreciation for their history and lifestyle. His father, George Dunlap Kidd was an accomplished saddler and gunsmith well known for his exquisite work. Fascinated by his father's creations, Robert spent many hours learning at his father's side.
His formal art education focused on art history, which he studied at Orange Coast College and San Diego State University. It was there that his love for portraiture developed as he studied the works of the old masters like Gauguin, Raphael and Rembrandt.
After college and a tour of duty in the Navy during the Vietnam conflict, Kidd traveled extensively throughout Indonesia, New Zealand and Australia.
He sought out remote areas, learning the language and traditions of the pioneers and primitive people like the Negritos in the Philippines, the Maoris of New Zealand and the Australian ranchers and Koori Tribes. Living among them he recognized many similarities in their lifestyles and those of the native Americans and ranchers of the West.
During this time he began sketching and experimenting with his first portraits in leather, using the native subjects.
"In Australia," explains Kidd, "I took several portraits in to be framed and the owner of the gallery bought them on the spot and asked me to do more."
In 1975 after several years abroad, he returned to Southern California. Encouraged by friends who were already successful artists, and funded by an art dealer from Chicago, he began in earnest to develop his new art form.
Searching for the solitude that he had become accustomed to, he soon headed for northern Baja California, settling near Rosarito Beach in Mexico.
Baja is a unique environment, where traditional ranches reminiscent of old California are nestled quietly beside the Pacific Ocean. Here Kidd finds a wealth of subject matter in the ranchers and hometown rodeos.
Kidd's early lifestyle and his continuing search to find and depict what he calls "the people of the earth" fashioned a sometimes difficult odyssey, which is reflected in the creation of his unique art.
Twelve years of research went into the development of his unorthodox technique of sculpting and perfecting a formula and media for the coloration of leather, which remains a well-kept secret.
Roughly half of the year is devoted to commissions, especially portraits. Collectors are quick to identify the heightened dimension and character of his work with the strength and uniqueness of someone from their own lives.
Portraits of famed Western artist, Charley Russell, commissioned by the Russell family, and actor Jim Davis, commissioned by Mr. and Mrs. Larry Hagmen, are typical of the characters he enjoys depicting.
Kidd is also an accomplished artist in other media including pen and ink, oil and watercolor. Always ready for a challenge, he has accepted such commissions as an 80-foot mural in oils depicting the history of Mexico on the domed ceiling of a world-class spa in Mexico, as well as a large historical depiction in leather for the Lockheed Corporation.
Today he keeps two studios, one in San
Diego, the other at his home in Mexico where he lives with
his son, Joseph.