Artist Spotlight: Robbin Rawlings
Creating art that inspires
Artist Robbin Rawlings credits growing up in the Southern United States, where the warmth of both the people and surroundings nurtured her artistic talent, for the inspiration to create and share her upbeat and exuberant style of art she creates.
Whimsical is the label most often used to describe what I do,” Rawlings said. “I just like to express myself in a joyful way when capturing the essence of interesting subject matter, such as a field of flowers or a can opener. Using graphite pencil, watercolor and acrylic paints, sculpture, textile construction and a unique use of color, I think the expressiveness I bring out of my subject matter is what really connects with people.”
Her products are now licensed with various companies, and her product designs are now sold around the globe in gift boutiques, garden shops, specialty stores, large retailers and even hardware stores.
“It’s gratifying to see how such a broad range of the public relate to my art,” Rawlings said. “I have found that making art is a great way to express myself. Sometimes it’s even better than words. I hope that my art conveys my optimism and general joy of being alive.”
Rawlings always has been into art and said it was one of the few things she was really good at so, in a way, she was lucky to know that art was always going to be her career path.
She has a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in communication design from Parsons School of Design and also attended the Ringling School of Art and Design, in Sarasota, Fla. After graduating, she opened a graphic design business in Jacksonville, Fla. and three years later she had the opportunity to do product development in the gift industry, which she still does. Along with creating greeting cards, she is also getting into wall art, flooring, fabric design, bedding, tabletop, home décor, outdoor décor and a variety of other gift markets.
“I like to incorporate different, even disparate elements into creating cards,” Rawlings said. “For example, I love to go outside and sketch things in nature, like flowers or birds or whatever catches my eye. These drawings may have little to do with the next card I’m working on, but I love to bring them in anyway and create something unexpected. That’s how I break away from painting some expected like Santa Claus on a Christmas card.
“I think some people want something new and different,” she continued. “Giving a unique greeting card is a form of self-expression. It says to the world, “I’m different, and this greeting card captures it perfectly!”
Her creative process includes experimenting with different perspectives and positions.
When she begins a project, doing sketches, she’s not too particular and will just grab a decent pencil and paper and have at it. When she gets to the painting phase, she said she’s very picky — especially with watercolors.
“I have to have the right paper and the right brushes, or I’ll never be able to get the look I’m going for,” she said.
Once set, she paints patterns and backgrounds in unusual color combinations. Next all the best drawings and patterns are scanned and pulled together in Photoshop. This is where Rawlings said her art starts to get “magical,” as watercolors always seem to have a life of their own and once things are scanned.
“The art really begins to take on a unique look partly because of my need to express joy and partly because of my technique and style,” Rawlings said. “I enjoy the handcrafted element of art and like to get into the unexpected and delicate details that help to express my subject’s unique character. A lot of art these days is less ‘human,’ but I think all the funky details in my work set me apart.”
After a decade of working as a graphic designer doing art for other people, Rawlings decided to branch out and do art for herself. While working for other people was great, there are always compromises, and she wanted to do her art exactly as she saw fit and see how people would respond. Rawlings has since found that licensing allows her to use her “authentic voice” to earn a living.
“I had heard about Leanin’ Tree a while back, but at the time I was more focused on product development in the gift business so we never made a connection,” she said. “In the last few years, I have focused more on greeting cards, and when we got in touch with Leanin’ Tree we were astounded to find that we’re only about a 15-minute drive from their offices.
“Being so close made it possible to meet in person with the great people there, and we really hit it off,” she continued. “We have a magical connection with them, which sounds corny, but it’s crazy how well we work together. They always choose the art that I like the best.”
Although her current focus is on expanding their line of fabric design, bedding and housewares, greeting cards and gifts will continue to be a big part of what Rawlings does. The art world is always changing due to the creative process, and she’s noticed a trend towards handmade products.
“If something looks like it was made by human hands, there is more perceived value,” Rawlings said. “I also think ‘Made in America’ is important — both from a quality control point of view, as well as an economic perspective. People are looking to support quality products made right here in the US. Fortunately for me, it seems to suit my art.”
Rawlings now lives with her husband and daughter in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains overlooking Boulder, Colo. She works from her home studio, where she has a full view of the mountains, her garden, her cats and the wildlife that visits her daily. She said she sees this world as a beautiful place and likes to remind people of that.
“I like to think of myself as a positive and friendly person, and I have some very loving, rewarding friendships that are a huge part of my lifestyle,” Rawlings said. “I hope that my work reflects the appreciation of the love and beauty that surrounds me, through the grandiose to the simplest of subjects.”
By Abby Heugel