Owls, rabbits, the rare white buffalo, and whales are stand-ins for humans in Roberts's paintings; the tension and collaboration between man and nature is a repeated trope throughout Roberts's career--a trope that is mirrored in the photochemical process that is used to procure the paintings. The elaborate process, known as the cyanotype, depends on sunlight's reaction (nature) with chemicals, such as baking soda, peroxide, and bleach, (man) to create vibrant shades of cyan blue.
Robert's way of creating a painting is precarious: the process is akin to printmaking, using chemicals and light opposed to carving. The paintings are built up of layers; Roberts stencils off portions and exposes the paper to light, repeating this process until the painting is complete. He often finishes the paintings with elements of watercolour or collage, and leaves evidence of the process--an integral part of the work--with the holes used to pin the paper to the wall framing the exterior. A wrong move late in the process renders the work void and Roberts is forced to start over. The high stakes of the creative process imbue the paintings with a tension that is opposite to the balanced calm of the composition, creating work ripe with complexity.
In Roberts's most recent work there are elements of abstraction and self-referential nods scattered throughout the realism. Patterns are found on tabletops, trees, and vases (with a red dot underneath, indicating they'e sold) resulting in unexpected texture and humour. Turn off the lights and the comet flying over the rare white buffalo glows in the dark. The markings of the whale's tail--unique like a snowflake--correspond to a real whale out in the wild. The care and detail Roberts places in his fantastical tableaus seem to have no bounds, allowing the viewer to fall inside and live in his unique world.