The artist’s life is a quiet life. We work most of our time alone, in silence. So, every now and then, when the world reaches in and grabs us, we reach back!
I was recently interviewed by the magazine Shoutout Colorado in their “Meet the Artist” section. They wanted to know how I began my career as a pet portrait artist and what it’s like to be a painter on the Western Slope of Colorado. I told them my story and all about my life in the lovely North Fork Valley of Colorado. Here’s the article!
We had the good fortune of connecting with Robin Arthur and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Robin, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
My thought process behind starting my custom pet portrait business was simple . . . S-U-R-V-I-V-A-L. Haha! Due to a move, I was in between marketing specialist jobs and needed an income. I combined my BFA in drawing and painting, a talent for portraiture, mad color theory skills and humanity’s love of their fur babies to create my pet portrait business, RobiniArt. Ten years later, I’ve painted hundreds and hundreds of pets for people around the globe, and have expanded my business to include an Etsy store, abstracts, landscapes and new this summer, weekly in-person showings at Horse Cow 57 gallery in Paonia, Colorado.
Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
The thing that sets me apart and makes me the most proud is that I’m have have built my art business by myself with no external support, partner or employees. I’ve chosen a very difficult professional path as a woman on her own, working as an independent artist. While there are many stressful moments, there are also many times where I proudly pat myself on the back for doing so well! Again, I want to emphasize that I believe that the drive and focus necessary for this type of work came from my time as a single mother working hard to raise a good human, work many jobs, put myself through college, and so on. But, could I have done all those things without lessons learned from my parents, grandparents and other familial influencers? No way. So, here’s an extra shout out to all those folks, too.
As far as my style goes, what sets me apart from lots of other animal portraitists is that my work is bright. It’s contemporary. It’s bold. It’s happy! Traditional pet portraits tend to be realistic, muted and fairly quiet, but mine are LOUD. When I began my business, I was living in San Antonio, TX and heavily influenced by all the beautiful Mexican-style art and murals around me. I was also influenced by the Dia de los Muertos holiday, which is so popular there. Do a Google search for “RobiniArt Sugar Skull Dog” to see many examples of this early work of mine. Since moving to Colorado, I have shifted my portraits to be a bit more realistic, but the wild colors are still there, as bright as ever!
Something else that sets me apart is my flexibility. I’m not an artist who paints the same thing for years on end, hoping to brand myself solidly for a particular demographic or collector base. I grow. I change. I learn. I’m diverse. For example, I started painting landscapes and Mid-Century Modern inspired abstracts a few years back and now sell just as many of those as my animal portraits. And, just recently, I purchased an iPad and am using the Procreate app to create a whole new line of digitally-created artwork for my Etsy store (see the Mod Blobs and Mandala shop sections at www. RobiniArt.etsy.com).
What do I want the world to know about my brand? I want them to know that I provide thoughtful, supportive, sensitive and kind interaction with my collectors, both current and future. I want the world to know that I’m attentive, efficient, hard working and utterly driven beyond belief to create for them a beautiful work of art that they will cherish for a lifetime, or that they can gift to a loved one.
I want interior stylists and designers to know that I will 100% support them and their clients to provide landscapes, abstracts or animal portraits that enhance their living and working spaces, weaving their colors and ideas into my work on their behalf. Collaboration makes everything better! I’m timely and responsive, and I adhere to deadlines with professionalism and courtesy.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Can we talk about wine? Lol! I live and work in Colorado’s North Fork Valley on the western slope of the Rockies and am literally SURROUNDED by wineries. I can walk to three of them from where I live high on a mesa above town. Typically the first thing on the list when people arrive is to sort out which wineries to visit. Browse https://westelksava.com/about/ to learn all about all our choices. There are many, and they’re all good!
Sister towns of Glenwood Springs, Telluride, Aspen and Crested Butte are just a short drive away, and everything in between is absolutely gorgeous. So, always on the to-do list is to drive the highways and byways towards these pretty mountain towns to shop, eat, drink and take in the views.
Big B’s Delicious Orchards just outside of Paonia (https://www.bigbs.com/) is a great place for visitors to camp, eat, drink hard cider, see live music and watch the kids (and adults – not gonna lie) play on the on huge tree swings that hang high from tall trees adjacent to the the outdoor and dog friendly dining area.
I also highly recommend Root and Vine Market/Qutori winery and vineyard for delicious coffee and brunch. They have a precious gift shop, too (that features my work on postcards, notecards and prints). The valley view from their patio is stunning! Learn more about Root and Vine here: https://rootandvinemarket.com/
For dinner, I like to take visitors to The Flying Fork, one of Paonia’s only restaurants open for evening meals. Hours are limited, but the mushroom ravioli is to DIE FOR, so I try to bring visitors there every time. Learn about this cozy little restaurant and bar here: https://flyingforkcafe.com/
And, of course, I always bring visitors to Horse Cow 57, the warehouse gallery of my partner in art crimes, Sean Guerrero, where I also have work on display. Sean has been creating art in Colorado and beyond for 40 years and is a bonafide Colorado treasure. His large-scale chrome sculptures are dotted across Colorado in public spaces and private collections. You may have seen his gigantic chrome knight and dragon sparring on the lawn near the Center for the Arts in Crested Butte (https://crestedbuttearts.org/) or his huge chrome Pepsi Horse across the street. Learn all about Sean and his work at www.chromesean.com. From his website, you can also take a video tour of our gallery space featuring his iconic Time Machine, among many other sculptures and found object assemblages.
My favorite place in Paonia, hands down, is my back deck with a view of the entire North Fork Valley. That’s where you’ll most likely find my guests! I obsessively post photos of the view on my socials, namely www.instagram.com/robiniart (pet portraits) and www.instagram.com/robinarthurart (abstracts and landscapes).
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My daughter Elisa, 100%, deserves so much credit for where I am in life as an artist. I raised her alone as a single mom, and that experience truly gifted me the organization, drive and work ethic needed to make it as a professional artist today. She was such a sweet, smart and funny little girl, and such an easy child to raise. Her happy nature inspired me to be the best working single mom I could be for her, which meant that I needed to sharpen my skills and creative hustle in order to earn the income necessary to take care of us for so many years. Now that she’s an adult and living a successful and fulfilled life in Denver, she influences me in a different way: Instead of dictating my actions by being my dependent, she now dictates my actions by being a kick ass adult whom I want to emulate. I feel like she and I sort of have a “push and pull” with each other to propel each other forward in life, in an interesting and positive way. I now go to her for professional and many times personal advice. How the heck did that happen? Haha!