More about Robert Carston Arneson

  • All
  • Info
  • Shop

Sr. Contributor

From newspaper cartoonist to college football hopeful to wunderkind ceramist.

As a kid, Robert Arneson would sketch and draw for hours at a stretch. The practice developed into a paid gig drawing cartoons for the sports section of his hometown newspaper, the Benicia Herald, while Arneson was still in high school. Graduation brought him across the Bay to Kentfield to attend College of Marin, where he studied art and made a go out of playing on the school's football team. The moment most often noted from his time in Kentfield was a "D" grade he earned for his first ceramics class.

His first big career move was teaching art to high school students. The position required a foundational understanding of ceramics, so Arneson started boning up on the medium. Local pottery classes and nights spent perusing ceramics magazines evolved into taking courses at San Jose State College, then California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, and then Mills College. Clay spoke to Arneson, and he felt a compulsion to explore his budding creative vision despite the popular understanding in the contemporary art scene that clay was for amateurs and hobbyists.

These ceramic ambitions received something akin to official sanction when Arneson was picked up by the University of California, Davis to teach ceramics in the school's brand-spankin'-new MFA program alongside such renowned artists as Wayne Thiebaud and William T. Wiley. Arneson described the experience by saying, “For me, being picked up by the University of California at Davis was, in a way, like the Medicis deciding that they were going to sponsor me as an artist.”

Grants from the state of California and the National Endowment for the Arts took Arneson and his ilk around the world: Off to New York, then the Midwest, then Europe. Eventually, in the mid-'70s, he moved back to his hometown of Benicia. There, he bought an old saloon, set up a studio, and subsequently added another studio next door. The original studio now houses a restaurant and the space next door houses his workshop, as well as the Arneson Archive, run by his wife Sandra Shannonhouse and his son Kirk Arneson.

Arneson fought cancer for a number of years, until the disease took his life in 1992. Purportedly, Arneson had wrote some time before his passing that he “wanted his body glazed, fired up to 2000 degrees, and when it's cool, roll me over and shake out my ashes...Make a glaze and color it bright.” The town of Benicia honored its beloved son by dedicating a park along the Carquinez Strait in his memory.

Featured Content

Here is what Wikipedia says about Robert Arneson

Robert Carston Arneson (September 4, 1930 – November 2, 1992) was an American sculptor and professor of ceramics in the Art department at University of California, Davis for nearly three decades.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Robert Arneson