Passions inspire artist

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Lucinda Breeding/DRC
Robert Hamilton, a Carrollton artist and a University of North Texas graduate, stands in front of one of his new creations, “Blue flower and sugar skull,” at Wine2 on Thursday in Denton. Hamilton’s style — bright colors and loose lines inspired by tattoos and by Dia De Los Muertos folk art — established the aesthetic of Denton’s Day of the Dead Festival. The exhibit at the local wine shop is the official beginning of Denton’s Day of the Dead for the artist.
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Art under his skin Folk art, tattoos influence artist, street fest

Artist Robert Hamilton started his local celebration of Dia de los Muertos — the Day of the Dead — with a small show of his recent work Thursday night at Wine2. In the last five years, Hamilton’s art has created the look of Denton’s Day of the Dead Festival, which begins this morning downtown.

All of the art was inspired by the artist’s love of tattoos, and the images of the Day of the Dead. From Halloween through Nov. 2, in Mexico (and all over the world), Mexican people remember loved ones who have died.

Families and friends build private altars to honor their late loved ones. Those altars often include favorite foods and drinks of the deceased, marigolds and sugar skulls and possessions left behind.

Parades and processionals bring communities together in a celebration of the lives and memories of those who have died, and some families and friends visit gravesides to pray.

Bright colors, loose lines and the faces of saints and the Virgin Mary are repeated in Hamilton’s exhibit.

Those who attend the free street festival today will see Hamilton’s bloody reds, bright blues and inky blacks throughout the event.

Hamilton answered a few questions about his work, and how he established the Denton Day of the Dead aesthetic.

Q: Where did you study art?

A: I graduated from the University of North Texas in 1996 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in drawing and painting.

Q: What do you consider your primary medium?

A: It changes from year to year, but lately, papier-mache and paint.

Q: When did you become interested in Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) traditions?

A: About four to five years ago, I became interested in the lucha libre wrestling mask traditions (of Mexico) and made the natural leap over to muertos’ sugar skulls. Both have bright colors and bright imagery.

Q: When did you begin incorporating Day of the Dead images into your work, and why does it speak to you?

A: I think elements of the imagery were always evident as I look back on my past work, but I never had a name for it until I really became involved in the Day of the Dead.

I think a lot of the elements that pop up over and over again are very similar to tattoo imagery.

Tattooing interests me, as well, so combining, mixing and including all of these pieces make for some fun work — for me, personally. I am tattooed and surround myself with art, so there is a constant conversation I have with the ink and paint.

Q: How did you get involved in the Denton festival?

A: (Founder) David Pierce and I collaborated on his Cirque Du Horror shows, and when he moved into organizing the Denton Day of the Dead, he asked me again to join him in producing some of the decor.

Q: The festival has your stamp all over it, from parade puppets to the large faces peering over the top of the Industrial Street building. What’s it like for you to see work animated in this way?

A: It’s really satisfying. One of the things Dave and I always daydreamed of was looking down the street and just seeing color and oversized decor everywhere.

Slowly, the event is becoming just that.

LUCINDA BREEDING can be reached by calling 940-566-6877, or by sending an e-mail to


What: A family Halloween street festival

When: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday

Where: Hickory and Industrial streets in downtown Denton

What to do: children’s pumpkin patch, live music, coffin races, salsa cook-off, trunk-or-treat, twilight costume parade. Halloween musical Cirque du Horror at 4:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. today and 5 p.m. Sunday at Dan's Silverleaf, 103 Industrial. Cost is $15 for adults, $7 for ages 6 to 12. Screening of all short horror films from “48 Hours of Hell” video race starts after final Cirque show today at Dan’s Silverleaf.

How much: Free. About 40 vendors will sell concessions, fall, Halloween and Day of the Dead art and more.

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