We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Rebecca Robb a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Rebecca, appreciate you joining us today. Do you wish you had started sooner?
My journey to becoming a fine artist is rather unusual. I thought I had to jump through certain hoops before I could be a professional artist. Knowing everything I know now, I see how I could have launched my career as an artist much sooner than I did. Let me start at the beginning.
I always knew I was an artist as early as I can remember because my family would be very impressed and praise me for each art piece I created. However, because my parents were missionaries, they did not have the means to invest in their blossoming artist. My artistic talents were never nurtured or developed academically.
When I was fifteen, a friend who appreciated the pencil portraits I sketched of anyone who would sit for me gifted me a beautiful wooden box filled with oil paints, mixing mediums, paintbrushes, and a glorious canvas that would become my first painting. I painted a cottage with overgrowing bushes and trees in luscious, earthy colors. In gratitude for this generous and priceless gift, I present this friend with the painting. So they bought me another canvas, and I painted a bird’s head with bold and bright patterns, blending into its background in an abstract style. I didn’t know about abstract art or impressionism. I didn’t know about the evolution of art styles or anything about art history, including influential artists who helped shape future generations. I knew that I loved the colors before me and couldn’t get enough of dipping my paintbrush into blobs of color and turning an empty flat canvas into art.
I painted as a creative outlet for many years. Still, I always had this “understanding” that art, as a career, was a less “responsible” career choice. I had talent, but the artist life wasn’t attainable for me. It might have been my parents’ influence on me, their strong desire for me to follow in their religious footsteps.
When I turned 18, I had the opportunity to volunteer in Africa. I lived in multiple counties around the continent, working with a small foundation specializing in rehabilitation in war-torn countries. I traveled by land between South Africa to the north, east, and central Africa. I deeply connected with each county’s natural landscape and wildlife. These experiences continue to inspire my artwork today.
Fast forward three children later, when my youngest was nearing school age, I started to think about what I wanted to do with myself. After being a full-time mom for almost a decade, this was the first time I truly felt independent enough to start a career. I still had those preconceived notions about art not being a realistic option for me. I decided to study interior design. That appeared to be a more defined, tangible career, Less arbitrary than being an artist, yet still in line with my artistic talents. Besides, I always loved home decor. I was one of those kids who moved my room around every few months for a fresh new take on the endless possibilities of a bed and side table arrangement.
During my time at college, I still had to take many of the same art classes to major in interior design as in studio arts. The first art class I signed up for was painting I, then painting II. I loved it. A floodgate of creativity that I had been suppressing opened. My understanding of art and the fluidity in which I applied my techniques evolved and expanded so quickly that after only two semesters, I was creating painting after painting, each one better than the last. As I continued practicing my newly developed processes, art began piling up in my home. Once I filled my walls with art, I realized I had a collection. I had never seen so many collective works I created in one space. So I thought, what is the harm in opening an Etsy shop to display my art? Again, I wasn’t thinking about pursuing art as a profession yet. I assumed that I had to have studied art and have an art degree to be an artist, and indeed there were other criteria. I didn’t know being self-taught was a thing. I started selling my horses and elephants to friends, family, neighbors, and through Etsy. Next, out of curiosity, I visited some local galleries. I was rejected by some and invited by others to live paint at their gallery events.
At this point, I finally got the message. I AM AN ARTIST! Everyone who saw my work admired my talent and would tell me I should seriously pursue art. I was used to hearing how talented I was since a small child, but I still didn’t believe in myself. Yes, I’m good, but not good enough because I don’t have an official stamp of validation, was my reasoning. However, my confidence grew with each new milestone I reached, the first painting I sold, my first gallery collaboration, and my first customer commission.
In hindsight, I was the only thing holding myself back from starting sooner. I view my success in broader terms than simply whether I could have started my art career earlier. When I was negotiating with myself about my future, I learned more about who I am and grew emotionally through my experiences. I am less intimidated by stepping out of my comfort zone now since I had put myself out there when I didn’t feel qualified to be an artist.
I no longer mind that I am self-taught. Like any artist, I am still learning with each new painting and expanding my abilities, only now, with confidence that I have something beautiful to offer others.
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers
My go-to medium is Oil paints. I appreciate how flexible oils are for differing techniques and how durable they are when it comes to the longevity of the painting. My style is impressionism. Impressionism is the process of applying color so that, when up close, you can appreciate color in its brushstroke, yet when you step back, these textural strokes blend in the mind’s eye to create the impression of an object.
My process gives me a lot of freedom to play with color and texture. Occasionally I like to dance on either side of the impressionism line. Sometimes I want to lean toward realism and incorporate more detail between my loose brushwork, as seen in my animal portraits. Other times, I marry impressionism with abstract by adding more loosely applied texture than usual. Adding some abstract texture to seascapes creates interesting waves and seafoam.
Mastering color is my life-long pursuit. With endless variations, each influencing the other significantly or subtly, color relationship and harmony are essential factors in painting. It is why we tend to be drawn to a particular art piece. More often than not, the emotion I feel from the colors applied attracts me to a painting, regardless of the subject.
Recently, I have been emphasizing color temperature in my paintings. It is not enough to have dark and light colors. There need to be cool and warm colors working in contrast, just like in nature, to create the sensation of warmth experienced together with light. Again, the relationship between colors gives the painting the illusion of temperature or heat.
My favorite subjects to paint are scapes and animals. I have an appreciation for nature and wildlife. It always inspires and calms me. I paint subjects I feel are nostalgic to me, and I appreciate that most people share the same affinity with nature. I love to hear people talking about my paintings and sharing memories and personal experiences of a place they are transported to in memory through my art. The best part for me is that the memory that inspired a particular painting is from a completely different part of the world from the person reminiscing in their memory. That is the beauty of nature; we all share in fondness and nostalgia for similar sceneries even though they are miles apart. Nature connects us.
Looking back, are there any resources you wish you knew about earlier in your creative journey?
Something I think is fundamental for an artist to do, which I wish I had done sooner, is participating in local community-led ArtWalks. Engagement is critical for exposure, and so your community can get to know you and your art. It is difficult and unrealistic to expect a community will discover local artists only through social media and a website. As artists, we need to be present in our community events, meet people, and collaborate with local businesses to gain the necessary exposure for growth.
I participated in my first ArtWalk a few weeks ago. I was wonderfully overwhelmed by the support and positive feedback on my art from locals. I sold more art, gained more followers on social media, and handed out more business cards to interested parties in two days at this show than in any other month as an artist. I made many great connections and walked away with more focus and direction for my career.
Since I have signed up for seven more local art shows this year.
What can society do to ensure an environment that’s helpful to artists and creatives?
It’s the unknown and upcoming artists that need the most support. These artists are just getting started and reaching out to connect with their community and looking for opportunities to grow. The best thing you can do to support your local artists is to attend community events for art, like ArtWalks, art shows, and gallery receptions. Usually, new artists’ work is priced reasonably and is an excellent opportunity to shop for art.
Another significant way to support your local artists is to connect on social media and discover their work on their website when you first meet. Though simple, connecting with artists via social media helps increase their traffic on these platforms and boosts them to make new connections and grow their potential for future collaborations and opportunities.
Support your local artists! Yay!
- Website: www.rebeccarobbfineart.com
- Instagram: @rebeccarobbfineart
- Facebook: @rebeccarobbfineart
- Linkedin: Rebecca Robb Fine Art
- Twitter: @RebeccaRobbArt
I have the rights to all photos.