To his 200,000+ adoring Instagram followers, Donald Robertson is a fun-loving but mythical figure known simply as @Drawbertson. He’s often seen wielding his paintbrush or a spool of gaffer tape, repurposing garbage into topical works that poke fun at everyone from Coco Chanel to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Over the years, Robertson has collaborated with the likes of Colette and Warby Parker while gaining recognition from high-profile figures such as Beyoncé, and his latest undertaking is a new studio/gallery space in Santa Monica, California, where his patrons can meet the man himself. Read on to learn about the in-demand artist's early career, his unique parenting strategies, and the surprising reason he says he's always been a "sell-out."
Tell us about your past life, pre-painting.
If I was a board game, the first square would be the suburbs of Canada, then I was an art college drop out, then I moved to Paris as a starving artist, then I became the MAC Cosmetics staff artist, then I was a New Yorker wannabe until I had my magazine heyday as a creative director of Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan, then I moved to Estée Lauder as an executive.
When did you decide to pick up a brush? Did you instantly see dollar signs?
I painted rocks as a kid, and sold them to people on the beach, so I was a sell-out from the start.
You have worked with numerous brands-do you ever say no to a collaboration?
I mostly do collabs with friends like Linda Fargo, Graydon Carter, Sarah Handelman, and Stacey Eisner. The brands come after. It’s usually because I like the people [involved]. Barbie was a very close friend, for example. Cough—money!—cough.
“Buy Them Nothing” is your mantra with your kids.
I have five kids, so I know they are only ever interested in the box. Other spoiled children come to our house and ask where our toy-stuffed playroom is and I point outside.
Your boys skate. Have you ever been on a skateboard?
Why did you move to Los Angeles from New York?
I watched The Beverly Hillbillies as a kid growing up in freezing Canada. Does anyone on the planet not want to move to California?
Have you ever gotten into trouble with a piece of art?
Good question. Yes, I did a cheeky painting of a Karl [Lagerfeld] funeral as a theme for a Chanel show. It was very chic but cutting. I was asked to be more sensitive by higher-ups in Paris, so I archived it.
You’ve been called the "Warhol of Instagram." How are you like Andy?
I’m very pale and balding, but I can draw.
How does your family feel about your digital high profile?
My kids are very happy about TikTok. It's 100% dad free.
How much sleep do you get per night?
I hate sleeping. I would take "don’t sleep" sleeping pills if I could find them.
What is a day in the life of Donald like?
If my day was a board game, it would be: First square coffee at 4 am, then paint-paint-post-paint-post-post-paint, then drop kids at school, followed by more coffee-paint-post. Then eat bad things until it’s time for wine, followed by skatepark and night-night.