Robert J. “Bob” Mask, artist, photographer, SBCC teacher, and noted wellspring of humor, passed away April 28th in Santa Barbara, California, due to complications related to Parkinson’s Disease. He was 72. Born October 28, 1947, in Wisconsin Rapids to Norman and Helen Mask, Bob was the oldest of six siblings. He grew up working the family A&W Drive-In business in Platteville, Wisconsin, earned a Mathematics degree from the University of Wisconsin, and he always maintained his identity as a lifelong Green Bay Packers fan. Later in life he toured Europe, worked as a news photographer in Darlington, Wisconsin, then as a medical photographer/photo lab manager in Ames, Iowa. In the mid-1980s, Bob drove to California where he happened to make an over-night stop in Santa Barbara – and stayed. There, while selling computers at K-Mart and Circuit City by day, Bob studied art and print-making by night. In 2008, he became Adjunct Professor at Santa Barbara City College Center for Lifelong Learning where he taught what he called “Expressive Figure Drawing,” a class in which he carried on (in Room 23) many of the figure drawing teaching methods of his friend and predecessor, Jorgen Hansen.
Bob was beloved by many Santa Barbara artists and patrons, not only for his artwork, but for his cleverly-shaped, always-generous sense of humor, and he melded both into a unique mode of visual self-expression. There was usually a bright, colorful twist to every art technique he mastered, and his drawings and paintings usually contained an expressive, whimsical depiction of the human form. In 2007 Bob was one of four artists in the “True Metier” exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Forum (CAF) — work chosen from more than 1,000 images submitted. That CAF show contained images of what Bob would call his Family Portrait series, begun around 2004, and inspired from photographs of his growing-up years. In Bob’s expressive way, he showed revelatory familial images of intimacy and joyful times of an era past wherein we all could find ourselves.
In 2016, at the Community Arts Workshop (CAW), Bob hosted his largest, most successful show ever with enough framed works to fill the walls of two CAW buildings. Later at CAW, in 2018, Bob hosted another show from his wheelchair, where friends and patrons scrambled for unframed copies of his popular prints.
Bob is survived by brothers Michael Mask of Las Vegas, Nevada, William Mask (Anne) of Saint Paul, Minnesota, sisters Kathie McPhail (Doug) of Platteville, Wisconsin, and Jane Fowler (Bob) of Platteville, Wisconsin. He was preceded in death by his youngest sister, Rita Mae Mask.
Memorial plans will be announced after current COVID-19 social distancing restrictions are relaxed. In lieu of flowers, Bob’s family suggests donations in Bob’s name to either The Santa Barbara Parkinson’s Association, The Santa Barbara Community Arts Workshop, The Santa Barbara City College Center for Lifelong Learning, The Santa Barbara Art Association, The Santa Barbara Arts Fund, or a charity of your choice. Memorial to be held when we are past the current conditions due to the corona virus