I just finished sanding and removing the finish and stain from this wonderful old arch top guitar. Don’t even know what kind of guitar it is, as it had no name anywhere. The wood is beautiful and I am anxious to start staining and painting this old beauty. This will be an “art only” piece to hang on your wall. It will not be a playable guitar as it has been through a lot of structural damage in the neck area through the years. Making it playable would be a very expensive task. Strong enough to string up and look great on the wall though.
As I was hand sanding the wood down to a smooth canvas the guitar told me what it wanted to be. A tribute to Elvis Presley, my hero since I was eight years old. He was the reason I picked up a guitar and wanted to be a rock n roller. He just always made it look so fun and you know, the girls love a guitar player…haha!
More to come as I move along with this magic I call guitar art!
Here is my latest hi-speed time-lapse video of “Space Dreamer” commissioned by Spencer Kaiser. This artwork took about 5 days, but the entire process of customizing and refinishing a guitar takes a few weeks- depending on the project.
OMG. There are no words to express my gratitude. She just arrived, and I am over the moon thrilled, with what you created for me…Thank you again from the bottom of my heart….I am honored to have such a beautiful piece of your work to treasure for always. ❤️❤️❤️ Cynthia
Had I ever done a zebra wood finish? Could I? No, and absolutely Yes!
After seeing some of my art guitars online, Cynthia contacted me, and we talked about customizing her Ibanez Artwood acoustic guitar. She wasn’t playing it like she used to, and she wanted to display it more like a piece of art, but didn’t like the generic factory finish.
She shipped the guitar to me, and in no time, all hardware was off, I stripped the top down to bare wood, and then started this hi-speed time lapse video while I created the faux zebra wood art. With mostly tape, guitar stain, and denatured alcohol, and a few finger smudges here and there, you can see in under 3 minutes what took me several hours to create.
Faux Zebra Wood Art on an Ibanez Artwood Guitar
Top of Faux Zebra Wood Art on an Ibanez Artwood Guitar
Close-up of Wood Grain on Faux Zebra Wood Art on an Ibanez Artwood Guitar
MT Robison With Zebra Wood Custom Art on an Ibanez Guitar
Before & After- Zebra Wood Art Commission
Cynthia with her MT Robison Art Guitar
After the art was done, I finished the top with several coats of Tru-oil, replaced all the hardware, strung it up, and viola! Here’s a video of me playing the guitar before giving it a kiss goodbye and sending it home with love and hopes, that it will inspire Cynthia to pick it up and play…thank you darlin, it was such a pleasure! MT
So I had this crazy idea… kinda like a musical muse peeking out at the world from inside a guitar.
To get a better idea of how that might look and how I would want the lighting and shadows, an artist friend suggested I set the shot up with a model.
We made a cardboard cutout of the body of the guitar, and I asked my daughter, Echo, to pose for the shot. I never really intended for the finished portrait to look so much like Echo, but it did, so everyone around me just called it The Echo Guitar.
Truthfully, and much to my surprise, before it was even completely finished and re-strung, a woman saw it, loved it, and said “If that guitar plays well after it’s all set-up, I’ll buy it.” And she did.
And I am truly grateful for that sale, because it’s one thing doing art guitars for friends and family, but when a virtual stranger validates our art as having real world value, it’s so encouraging and inspiring to me as an artist. I’ve heard many artists of all kinds express that sentiment; Visual artists, musicians, photographers, etc.
It’s not that it’s about the money, but I think most of us have an ingrained measuring stick, and no matter how much we do our art out of love, being able to pay our bills with our art is truly a blessing. So many great artists never make a dime. I know this all too well from my forty years in the music business. That being said, the Universe blessing me drives my creative engine…bahrrroooom! MT
This sweet little Gibson Nighthawk guitar belongs to my daughter, Piper Robison. She plays bass for Gene Jr & The Family, but wanted me to customize one of her electric guitars.
She wanted this guitar very understated in the artwork, three phases of the moon with just a little color magic. Hard for her Dad to do because I wanted to make it super colorful. She also wanted the beautiful wood grain to show through an amber cast.
Sometimes less is more, and for her this was it. Simple but beautiful. Blessings MT
Seemingly simple and primitive, the art on this bass is profoundly symbolic of an artist’s journey juxtaposed with that of the man.
The desire to refinish a beloved instrument, revealing the beautiful layers of wood that gives us it’s tone and resonance- without losing, discarding the wear ‘n tear, scars, memories, and lessons of the past…
And the desire to grow, reinvent, rediscover one’s self as a man who is an artist, through an introspective process like peeling back the layers of an onion, and nurturing, cultivating the tender new shoots within~ without losing one’s roots, history, family, fans in the winds of change…
Gene Evaro Jr, of Gene Jr & The Family, wrote “Life Is A Journey” around this same time. The art created here represents his whole journey- his rich past and his bright clean future, which is ever unfolding before our very eyes… Love ‘n Light, MT
Before & After- Look at the transformation from “seen better days” to Art Guitar!
Gene’s bass before
Front view of Gene’s finished bass
Head stock on refinished bass guitar
Sometimes, the best art is just the way a light staining brings out the natural wood grain.
After making music with me for more than ten years, this beautiful blue Compass series Yamaha acoustic guitar was heading for the ancient burial grounds of musical instruments. After years of being dropped by inebriated band mates including myself, the dry desert air, and abuse had made cracks and holes all over the top this sweet Yamaha! She had seen better days.
Talking to a luthier I quickly realized I could not afford a new top so instead of tossing the guitar in the trash, I thought why not get creative with this guitar, customize it, stain it and make it a piece of art. Then pray it still makes music. A little meeting of the minds with my nuts and bolts partner in crime Steve Shrader, and we were off!
Resurrection by MT Robison close up
I painted the edges of the holes to look “peeled back” but the holes are real
Resurrection by Mt Robison Art Guitars
Cutting holes, shoring up the cracks with popsicle sticks and making sure we had a steady guitar top to make some guitar art magic. I said “Let’s make it look like a grenade was dropped inside a metal guitar.” Steve laughed at me, smiled and said “Yea!!” After days of work, staining, inking and layers of Tru-Oil for a glossy finish, we achieved our goal… “Resurrection” The real miracle is that she plays and sounds sweeter than ever! Love and Light… Mt
After seeing my artwork on her uncle Mark’s guitar and her Dad’s bass, my Goddaughter Starlin asked me to make her half-size child’s guitar pretty. It doesn’t play well but she thought it would look good on display in her room.
As you can see my business just started with family and friends wanting their guitars refinished and painted. This gave me many chances to learn and grow without the stress of a commission.
I thought an underwater scene in my style with a starfish would be cool. I let the stain and denatured alcohol do most of the work on this one. The magic seemed to happen by itself, and Star was thrilled. Her smile when I was finished was priceless.
Ever since I can remember the pirates of old have fascinated me. I have always viewed the musicians, poets, writers, painters, and scientists as a different kind of pirate. Questioning the status quo, fighting to be free and believing in the treasure chest filled with art and answers.
This Yamaha is my go to guitar I play all the time. So I thought why not reflect my sentiment for the pirate, the artisans and the thinkers with this guitar. The scene is dark, under the water, the flag is torn…success historically has had a way of eluding many great minds. So…it’s a pirates life for me baby and how about you? MT
This really old nylon I bought for my friend L Shrader at Schafer and Sons more than 30 years ago. It still plays like a dream. Sweet tone, great action, what a great little magic guitar.
I was honored to do something special artistically on this guitar for my oldest dear friend Linda, who is an amazing artist herself. Actually it was my easiest project to date. The guitar sanded down smooth as glass.
Knowing Linda’s love for her garden, I had an idea for a floral effect so I used torn tape to make my shapes. Using a very limited color palette I laid down the stain, and removed the tape. As it was one of my early projects I was amazed at how the guitar stains had blended and mixed in the voids. Art making itself I call it.
I use denatured alcohol to really make the guitar stains move around. A drop here, a drop there, and magic happens. I finished it with ten coats of Tru-Oil and a few years later it still looks shiny and beautiful. Thank you Linda, this guitar is still one of my favorites:-)
My second attempt at staining and refinishing was my bass player, Steve Shrader’s Ibanez SDGR bass guitar. I had no clue as to what he wanted so I thought about him always being there for me as a friend and a band mate.
Like a warrior he always rose to any challenge so I thought I would paint him a Jungle war bass. Animal colors and stripes, a little blood for the battle, and black. Maybe I learned too much about power sanders on this one!
After some tender loving care and hand sanding at the end, I was pleased with the feel of the wood. I stained the colors, striped it with tape, stained the black, removed the tape and voilà! It still looks and plays fantastic, and it’s had some real gig time. Tru-Oil does hold up if you are reasonable when you handle your guitar.
The birth of MT Robison Art Guitars was unintentional and organic, although perhaps a bit random and definitely risky. When MT Robison was asked by his former lead-guitar player and MD for MT Robison & The Messengers, Mark Shrader, to refinish his factory red Les Paul and add a big “22,” neither MT nor Mark knew what had just happened. But it was big.
And who knows what possessed Shrader, typically logical and cautious, to ask MT to do that in the first place? Insanity or inspiration? It wasn’t a case of mistaken career identity. Shrader knew MT had never refinished a guitar in his life, and yet, he handed over a brand new Gibson Les Paul to an eager but inexperienced MT, and went home and slept like a baby. It may forever remain one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of the 21st century, baffling psychiatrists and late night talk show hosts the world over.
Now, the story of a man pursuing his dreams and his original music for over 40 years without reasonable financial validation is for another post, but let’s just say it’s been a very long journey… one that can leave a man finding himself tired, uninspired, and a bit lost in the woods.
Few people knew what other artistic talents MT possessed besides singing, song writing, and playing a mean slide-guitar. MT himself had almost forgot how much he loved creating visual arts.
His father, E.W. Robison was a Ret. Army Major, and a civil engineer by trade, but he was also a life-long artist, doing everything from hand-drawn portraits of movie-stars for old movie theater marquees, to block printing, painting, quilt making, and so on. Visual art is in MT’s blood as much as his Kentucky roots and music from his mother’s side of the family.
When MT’s hands got to working on the wood of that first guitar, he felt a stir of familiarity… and watched with wonder, as his hands sanded away the factory paint and the beautiful wood grain was revealed. (Look, he’s actually smiling.)
Shrader was so happy with the results of “22,” that he then asked MT to refinish his Takamine with any artwork MT wanted. MT created a rich, colorful, water-color style, layered effect with quality wood stains and a Tru-oil finish that really brought out the gorgeous wood grain.
And somewhere in the rich soil of the artistic process, seeds were planted that grew like wildfire beneath a cold and crusty earth, and a cold and crusty heart. Tender shoots of child-like excitement sprang up inside MT, sparking his imagination, awakening something he hadn’t felt for a long time.
And he couldn’t wait to get his hands on another guitar…