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Take one look at Donald Robertson’s fantastical artwork, and you can tell the 58-year-old illustrator leads a colorful life. Considered the Andy Warhol of Instagram (@drawbertson, if you’re so inclined), he has quickly risen to become fashion’s favorite artist, as Vanity Fair dubbed him. If you aren’t already a member of his fan club, you soon will be, alongside the likes of such celebrities as Beyoncé, Kanye West and Iris Apfel as well as brands like Bergdorf Goodman and Estée Lauder, where he’s been a creative director since 2007. His cheeky, cheerful creations might seem like mere eye candy, but they are also bursting with joy and optimism — commodities that seem to be in short supply these days.

Photography by Brad Lansill

The Canadian turned Californian took both the art and fashion worlds by storm, largely thanks to social media. “At 50, I decided to start an art/family Instagram just as my hair was going from gray to white — Old Man on the ’Gram,” he says with a laugh. “In a world that is digital this and high-tech that, I’m proud to be a successful painter. I have very little education, I have zero trust funds and I can’t make a PowerPoint presentation. But I happily paint barefoot by my pool in Montecito. I’ve done the opposite of what everyone told me I had to do — not spitefully, but more out of necessity. I can’t wait to see what I do next. My mantra? Be a warrior, not a worrier.”

Indeed, we might all be wise to take a page out of Robertson’s playbook, learning to let go, to find joy in the everyday and to paint outside the lines. Here, he shares a glimpse inside his colorful world.

Photography provided by Donald Robertson

“Rainbow Lips”


This is what happens the week after you move to California from black-and-white New York — you go all color crazy. It’s from eating too many avocados.



The Chanel brand and I have been flirting on Instagram since Instagram started. We go way back. They let me get away with murder.

“Women of Color”


My daughter had just gotten her first apartment. She has always loved my wall of women paintings, and she wanted it big. This was her birthday present.

“Magical Thinking”


I started buying bad paintings with good frames. I would paint over the bad painting in my prison gray; everything in my studio is painted prison yard gray. Then the magic happened. The voices in my head get full credit.

“History of Fashion”


Pretend your white wall is a canvas. How the hell are you supposed to fill it up? With what? I’m trying to support five kids selling art so think! I started with a crazy base color then painted Jackie O in the bottom left corner. The rest is history — of fashion.

“Hamish Bowl”


You can’t even get Campbell’s Soup in bougie grocery stores now. I have to go to Vons to find it. So I’m trying to make it chic again. 

Read this article as it appears in the magazine.

Learn more about Donald Robertson’s inspiration sources, proudest accomplishments and favorite subjects in our exclusive Q+A.

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