It all starts with a dot.
Brandon Rollin places one drop of acrylic paint somewhere, anywhere, on a blank background. With that, his next piece of art is on its way.
The dots keep coming. Dozens or hundreds of them later, his canvas is covered in colorful and funky formations. There’s the big (and bright) picture — a geometric design or maybe a life-size sea turtle — of what all those individual dots become. Each dot matters on its own, too.
“It’s been 17 years of painting just dots essentially,” Rollin, who is 35 and lives in Colorado Springs, said. “I think I’ll be painting dots my whole life.”
That goes back to an art class during Rollin’s senior year at Littleton High School. The teacher taught about Vance Kirkland, the prolific 20th-century Colorado abstract painter and educator. Kirkland invented a method of using wooden dowels to apply dots of oil paint, “mostly placed over the oil paint and water manipulations,” according to his biography as told by the Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Art in Denver.
Rollin had never painted before that class. He had also never heard of Kirkland or dot painting before.
“I loved the bright colors and the way dots could form different patterns,” Rollin said. “There were infinite possibilities with dots. You change one dot and it’s a whole different piece.”
That inspired him to study art at the University of Colorado at Boulder. To take art classes there, you had to declare art as a major. So Rollin became an art major.
After college, he kept painting. He also needed to pay the bills, so he got a job at Half Fast Subs On The Hill. Soon, he was the night manager at the Boulder sandwich shop and not making as much art.
“I was dragging my feet a little bit,” he said. “I kept all my paintings in my house and didn’t show them to anyone.”
Around the time he turned 30, he was ready for a change.
“Let’s actually try this,” Rollin remembers thinking. “Let’s give this a go as a career.”
He started painting every day and showing his work at events, like the Pikes Peak Art Fest in Colorado Springs, the Arise Music Festival in Loveland and the traveling Pancakes and Booze Art Show when it came to Denver.
For the last two years, Rollin has been a full-time artist working out of his home studio, which is now in Colorado Springs. He and his wife moved here from Boulder in April.
Rollin’s dot paintings are time-intensive, especially the larger ones. After he plans out his patterns, though, the artist can sort of zone out with his art.
“You get into a meditative state repeatedly putting dots on the canvas,” he said. “It’s very therapeutic sitting here and meticulously painting dots. And you get to see the progress you’ve made.”
Unlike anyone else, though, “I’m there for every single dot.”
The dots turn into circles with symbols resembling a mandala or the face of a tiger or a game of Pac-Man. Rollin also cuts his own wood to create different canvas shapes.
Rollin shares his process with his nearly 100,000 followers on Instagram via time-lapse videos. The posts trickle down hours of work to show the journey from the first to the final dot.
“People have asked, ‘Have you ever gotten sick of dots?’” Rollin said. “I really haven’t. They offer so much.”