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A lucky man, a fine artist

Seattle statues are latest work of Lake Oswego's Robert Foster
by:  SUBMITED PHOTO / COURTESY OF ROBERT H. FOSTER WEB SITE, 
A new steel sculpture reminicent of boat sails that was created by Robert H. Foster was recently installed at the site of the Mirabella retirement community in Seattle, Wash. The sculpture, which stands roughly 20 feet in height, is designed to withstand strong winds in spite of its large flat surfaces.

Maybe no one leads an absolutely ideal life.

But Lake Oswego artist Robert H. Foster seems to come as close as possible.

His career has thrived now for over three decades, even without him promoting his skills as a painter and sculptor. It's nice work if you can get it.

'I've not even done any marketing,' Foster said. 'Customers just walk in the door and I get referrals.'

The latest examples of Foster's art are the two statues he has designed and supervised for Pacific Retirement Services' new $149 million project in Seattle.

The project takes up a whole city block, but people won't have any trouble spotting Foster's statues, one 17 feet high and the other 22 feet high. Both have Seattle themes - one is sails, the other umbrellas.

But they are both so colorful and innovative they might possibly be taken for something else. For example, the umbrellas strike a viewer as being very much like a carousel.

'I've never done anything like them before,' Foster said. 'I drew them both in 3D and they had to be absolutely precise. The sails were cut by a lazer cutter on a flat bed, and we just welded them all together. The second one was even harder because it was such a festive piece.

'Doing them was great fun. They had a specific agenda because the City of Seattle had to give approval. They wanted something on the hill that was reminiscent of docks, sailing and water.'

A native of Woodstock, NY, Foster has been an artist his entire life, and he must have inherited his talent, because his father was a sculptor and portrait painter. Foster has also been to places where all good artists should go: France (where he did 100 paintings in a couple years), five years in New Orleans, and six years in London.

But he has found he likes no place better than Lake Oswego, where he has lived since 1988. Foster helped start the Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts and was also a member of the Downtown Art Committee.

'I had to give it up because it was too much work,' Foster said.

But before he did, Foster had helped push Lake Oswego toward being what it is so well known for - an outdoor art museum that everyone can enjoy.

With all he has going for himself, Foster is also a landscape architect.

'I ap-proach it as a medium of art,' he said. 'I've always had a 3D ability in envisioning things.'

Foster doesn't mind being lucky, but he also wants to help young artists coming up, and that is why he has been active in the lunch group at the Benson Hotel in Portland for the past 11 years. Each year he has self-published a sketch book entitled Art in the Coffee Shop.

'I give them great encouragement,' Foster said.

Since these are tough economic times, Foster says he will finally do some marketing. However, it is hard to see when he will find the time because of all the projects he has going:

n The entrance monument to Historic Downtown Newberg, which he is designing right now.

n Designing the condiminium in West Linn for the shopping center on Highway 43.

n Doing the master plan for McMinnville Granary Village.

Oh yes, he is also making a holiday trip up to Seattle for the unveiling of his statues.

'I've reached a point where I can do things I really love doing,' Foster said. 'I have a helluva lot of fun and I have some great clients.

'It's all good!'

To read more about Robert H. Foster, his work, and his current exhibitions go to his Web site at www.roberthfoster.com .