Many readers have asked: How did Robena get started?, and like all artists (it seems), the journey was an interesting one made up of twists, turns, catalysts, inspirations, epiphanies, and discoveries.
It seems to have all begun as a child, when Robena was being watched by her Aunt Jo, while her mother was at work. Robena was four years old, and as is typical with this age, she was underfoot as Aunt Jo was trying to accomplish some household duties. Jo pulled out some old paints her children had used; the kind that were in white plastic trays, featuring an assortment of colors, where you would just add water, and set Robena up in a children’s desk located in the kitchen. With a little instruction, Robena set out to paint a picture. Four hours later, with Jo’s own children home from school and her husband from work, the family was ready to sit down for dinner, and Robena refused to move from her task at hand. Just as dinner was moving toward dessert, Robena stood up and proudly displayed her painting of a bird. It was so beautiful and intricate Aunt Jo submitted it into an art contest at the local library and it won first prize! She was the youngest artist in the competition, and her painting was chosen over all the high school students who entered. She was hooked, and so was the family, doing whatever they could to encourage this budding talent.
Robena was born and raised in Texas, and because of her dad’s career, they moved quite often. Wherever they landed, Robena immersed herself in the local art world/scene, which came to define her path in life – though accomplished in many areas, she proudly proclaimed herself as an artist. In the early years she was a strict representational artist, but when she entered high school, she began gravitating toward abstraction, which she followed and nourished throughout high school career and into college. After college, with her final year as a commissioned muralist for the University of Texas/Edinburgh, she got married and settled with her husband in the Dallas area. Art was still her passion, specifically abstractionism, but when her paints ran out and their newlywed budget could not afford more paint, she stopped creating. Not a good thing –
All she had left in her art supplies was black paint (she only uses acrylic because of the toxicity of using oils and the chemicals necessary to paint and clean) and some scraps of raw canvas. After a couple of weeks of inactivity, she decided that that wasn’t going to stop her and soon began on a journey that has brought her to where she is today. After dumpster-diving for discarded wood, she built some stretchers out of 2×4’s topped with 1/2″ quarter-round moulding, and stretched her canvases. She decided at that point that the only work suitable for raw canvas and just the color black was to do black and white portraits by diluting her paint (stretching out this valuable commodity) with water, and doing washes on the raw canvas with a watercolor technique. The resulting paintings were awesome and can be seen on her website.
Years later, as income increased and new paints could be purchased, Robena still employs the same technique and approach to her paintings. First, she uses only four colors to create her palette; cyan, magenta, yellow and white, keeping her budget for supplies in check because she refuses to purchase the seventy-six greens and eighty-three blues, etc, that are available on the market. Besides the expense, she has found that she is able to achieve a purity of color by using the primaries to create her palette that is unachievable with ready-made colors; the mixing of these paints, because of their varying chemical formulations, often yields poor results. Next, she starts with raw canvas, not gessoed or primed, and after a little dry brushing to determine outline, she uses diluted (with water) paint and does a series of washes to have the image slowly emerge from the canvas. This process allows for the slow building of acrylic so it doesn’t take on the plastic look and feel often associated with this medium, which is very important, especially when painting artwork of scale where the impact of the surface texture is more critical to the overall look and feel of the painting.
The other component of her artwork that has been critical to her success is the blending of her work as an abstractionist and that as a portraitist. Up close, her paintings are created with abstract elements, but as you step away they take on the disciplined look of a portrait artist. Today, each and every subject matter in her paintings are a portrait of the subject – the rose she paints is not merely comprised of the components of that particular rose, it is an exact rendering of that specific rose – a portrait of that rose, as exacting as if it were a portrait of your child where all the nuances of their visage must be painted exactly as it is, and only as a mother would know. The abstract components in her painting are used to achieve that portrait look – to beautiful effect.
So that is how Robena’s journey unfolded, and how she arrived at where she is today; an very accomplished artist bringing beauty, life, light, and color into existence, for all of us to admire and enjoy.
Hope that helps!