Printmaker Robert Corsair loves the color yellow. His unapologetic passion for the sunny hue once got him involved in a war. A color war, that is, with a 10 year old boy who thought blue was the best. They went back and forth, splashing their respective colors on paper and waving them in each other’s faces, extolling loudly the virtues of their favorite shades. In a coup de grâce, the boy ran through the house, collecting everything he could find that was blue — shoes, books, a toy sword, a sweater, a dozen other odds and ends — and dumped it all in Robert’s lap. The horror!

When I ask Robert what he loves about the color yellow, he says, “yellow is like an arrow that aims at you. It’s the color of the sun, bright, warm, solid. It’s strong, not like blue which can just float away.” But, he concedes, orange is growing on him, thanks to an artist friend. It’s not every day that you meet people with such strong opinions about color. My curiosity piqued, I sat down with Robert to learn more about his story and how he got into printmaking. 

In the beginning, it was involuntary. “Hiroki dragged me into printmaking kicking and screaming,” says Robert. It was the year 2000 and Hiroki Morinoue (one of the Mill’s founding members and renowned printmaker) was teaching a Mokuhanga (woodblock printing) class at the Mill. He had a few extra spots in the class, and decided Robert should participate. Maybe, he had a sixth sense for the talent hidden up Robert’s sleeves. Up until that point, Robert had attended a few artist talks up at the Mill, but hadn’t gotten his hands dirty. He spent his days submerged in a very different kind of print — books — as the owner of Middle Earth book store in Kona for over thirty years. 

After some initial resistance, Robert entered the class and created his first print — a black and white espresso cup. He was instantly hooked. Robert quickly became Hiroki’s assistant, helping him with whatever he was doing. “I learned everything from Hiroki,” says Robert, “he was the first person to call me an artist.” Reminiscing, he quotes one of his teacher’s favorite adages: “You listen, you forget, you see, you remember, you do, you learn.” Robert’s work soon began to bloom, inspired by stories and self-portraiture and as well as the playful freedom of cubism, papier colle, and abstract expressionism.

When he began studying and working at Atelier Bo Halbirk in Paris, France. the studio manager offered to give him etching lessons for a hefty fee. “I’ve always been very frugal,” says Robert, so, naturally, I refused.” In response, the manager pulled two elephantine volumes off the shelf and plunked them down on the counter. “¡lisez-les!” He barked. “Ils ont tout ce que vous devez savoir sur la gravure et la gravure.” (Read these! They have everything you need to know about etching and printmaking.) The only problem was, the books were in French. Robert painstakingly combed through them, translating as he went. It was here in the Paris studio that Robert created one of his all time favorite prints – a pair of pears and an onion. 

This trip to Paris became an annual pilgrimage for him, where he goes for a month to study and create. As it often happens organically, he picked up odds and ends from other artists working in the shared space. One day, a woman caught him scrubbing the ink from his plates and became distressed. “Non, non, non, c’est une caresse!” she said, moving her hands with a delicate finesse. He’s been gently caressing his plates ever since. 

Robert is a prolific printmaker, amassing a huge portfolio of work over the last twenty plus years. He works at the speed of light and doesn’t get bogged down with detail. “I try to just keep experimenting, discovering,” says Robert of his process. “I don’t cling to the thing I make, I enjoy the experience of creating more than the finished product.” His work has been exhibited in the Honolulu Print Show, at the Donkey Mill Art Center, and at Studio 7 Gallery in Holualoa, where you can purchase his prints. He will take part in the upcoming Bo Halbirk Studio Memorial Show in Luxembourg later this year, details TBA. 

As for what Robert loves most about printmaking, that’s easy. “It makes me feel alive,” he says. “When I concentrate on printmaking, it eliminates all other distractions that weigh me down. The act of creating lifts me up, recenters me, brings me to a place where I can see myself, directly in the mirror. 

Learn more and view images of Robert Corsair’s work at To purchase work from him directly, contact him at

About the Author 

Emily Gleason is a writer and ceramic artist who contributes a monthly article feature to the Donkey Mill Art Center’s Blog. Learn more at and follow her @emilysouthpaw.