Robin Olsen - is 'World Famous on ArterNet Art' - - is our Featured Guest Artist

Spring Fling, acrylic, 36x48”

Robin Olsen

It was great to come across Robin Olsen and her work. I felt like I'd discovered a woman after my own heart, a kindred spirit, so to speak. 
An artist who has virtues I admire and who is an inspiration to all who follow her. She has a deep understanding of her art and the ability to articulate what she feels about it.
Coming from Portland, Oregon, Robin seeks to find an equilibrium between chaos and control, structure and freedom. Sometimes one dominates, sometimes the other.
When she paints loose, free-flowing abstracts, she looks to find some structure underneath— a composition to move your eye through or areas of breathing space. 
As Robin says 'If I work in a grid or repeating pattern, I always want to find ways of breaking free of it.
Nothing delights me more than the surprises that pop up in my work. A random gesture that flowed out, an oddball color that peeks through from a previous layer. I love those uncontrolled elements that wake us up and make us take notice.
 Because of my locality, I'm equally inspired by our lush forests and vibrant city'

ArterNet Art: The culture of our company - ArterNet Art - is to put a human face to all our members and featured guest artists. We feel it's very important for artist members of ArterNet Art (ANA) to meet established and inspiring artists, in order to learn more about how they became the artist we see today. What were their challenges, their ideals, their twists and turns, etc. This is why we love these interview chats and why they are proving to be so popular.
So without further ado: Robin, can you give our readers an idea of your route to becoming an artist.

I started off in a commercial art program and got a strong foundation in drawing and design, but as the program moved more towards the commercial side of art, I decided it wasn’t for me. Years later I started painting by following an intuitive painting book, Life, Paint, and Passion by Michelle Cassou and Stuart Cubley. 
It was wonderful for getting me to turn inward and paint freely, but I missed using those design skills I earlier acquired. This moved me to take traditional representational painting at colleges and art centers, but then I missed the free expression that came from working intuitively. 
It took years of searching before I finally found abstract painting which allowed me to join both sides of my brain.

ArterNet Art: Have you had to overcome any difficulties or major hurdles on your journey to becoming the successful, established artist we see today?

My biggest hurdles have been psychological. It’s taken me quite a few years to feel comfortable about showing up fully and sharing my work. As an introvert, I’d much rather stay in the background. I grew up hearing the adage "don’t toot your own horn," so it’s taken a long time to share victories without feeling like I was being boastful, or be vulnerable enough to share the struggles. But I now know it’s the only way to embrace my own voice and to fully connect with others.

Raspberry Trifle, acrylic and collage, 24x18”

ArterNet Art: What or who were your early influences?

When I was 7, I saw a tiny picture of Starry Night in a magazine. I cut it out and carried it around until it fell apart.

ArterNet Art: Tell us about the medium you have chosen to work with and what was it that attracted you to use it?

I work primarily in acrylic because I like to work in layers and let the painting change and evolve as I go. Its fast drying nature is perfect for this. I also like to work in collage and like to make my own papers to use for a unique stamp.

ArterNet Art: Do you have a daily routine? Has it always been this way and can you tell our readers how your day looks?

I like a leisurely start to my day which unfortunately involves too much social media and coffee. I do write morning pages everyday (2-3 pages of free flowing writing based on Julia Cameron's Artist Way book). I then head to the studio and start my session with a meditative drawing exercise to get centered. I tend to work for 2-3 hours, then take a break for a walk and lunch. 
I dip in and out of the studio in the afternoon and evening, but my most productive time is during my morning session.

'Slow News Day', recycled junk mail collage acrylic, 24x24”

ArterNet Art: It's always interesting to see how other artist's work. Can you share some insights into your process from conception to creation.

That’s a little tricky since I work on different series that have different processes, usually depending on how much collage material I’m using. In one series I build up layers of collage, sanding and painting and then work with geometrical patterns on top.

For an all painting process, I respond to what appears on the canvas and let that guide me. I don’t start with a preconceived plan, but may have a general direction to explore such as how do burnt umber and turquoise work together as a palette? Or how do I capture that first green glow of spring?
I almost always start with lots of mark making as a way of loosening up. My early stages are free and spontaneous with no critical thoughts allowed. After a build up of layers, I step back and go into analytical mode, asking what the painting needs to convey what I’m feeling more clearly. 
I’ll start thinking about things like value, composition, color harmony…. 
The rest of the painting is a dance back and forth between spontaneous marks and gestures and analysis until I’m satisfied I got the balance right. 
Sometimes that can take weeks.

Step 1–making lots of marks.
For this series I started with 
blind contour drawings of hydrangeas.

Step 2– I apply layers of paint.
In this case I taped the 4 pieces together first
and treated them as one large piece.

Step 3–pieces are separated and 
I work them individually.
Lots of editing and adding fresh marks back in.

Final "The Last of the Hydrangeas" acrylic, 12 x 12”

ArterNet Art: How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?

I’ve moved increasingly to non-representational work over the years and am pretty firmly planted there now, although occasionally a still life or landscape will sneak in. My colors have become much more subdued in later work. 
I used to love full blasts of color, now I want to make a few colors really sing by subduing everything around them. 
And I’ve become increasingly interested in creating structures or patterns and then finding ways of breaking free of them.

ArterNet Art: Mission accomplished, I'd say.
Is there anything in particular that inspires you to create art?

I love to walk and I live 10 minutes to a fern forest in one direction, and 10 minutes to the heart of the city in the other. Walking in both places provides endless sources of inspiration whether it’s the texture of bark or a rusted pipe, the colors of moss or graffiti, the patterns of leaves or architecture. 
Just slowing down and looking closely always gives me something to spark a direction.

'And the Livin' Is Easy, acrylic, 36x36”

ArterNet Art: What has been your favourite or most memorable art sale?

I had a commission to do a piece for the Mayo Clinic. I was thrilled to have a piece in such a prestigious institution, but more touched by a comment I received afterwards. An Instagram follower said that she had to spend a lot of time in the Mayo Clinic at one period of her life, and walking around viewing the art there was a great solace to her in a difficult time. I felt so happy that my artwork might have the power to offer some beauty and relief to someone in a situation like that.

ArterNet Art: Well done. How have you and your art business been impacted by Covid-19? Has much changed since that time?

We have been very fortunate not to be impacted health wise or financially by Covid, so it has ended up being a beneficial period for me. While there are things I now miss in my life, I am very grateful that Covid made me slow down and take stock of what is truly important to me. 
I eliminated much of the busyness that was filling my days and found myself spending more time and going much deeper into my work.

ArterNet Art: Going back to when you first started out and knowing what you know now, what would you do differently and what advice would you give to an aspiring new artist?

I now know how important art is to my mental well being. I pursued a PhD and then was a college professor for years, and while I don’t regret that career choice, I do regret those periods when I stopped making art for myself.
I would tell anyone starting off to give yourself plenty of time to learn, experiment, practice and develop. Few artists would look at a highly realistic portrait painting and think they’re going to do one like it in a week. Yet many seem to think that abstract painting will be easy, and then feel disappointed and give up when they don't get the results they want right away. 
It takes time and perseverance.

'When the Circus Came to Town'
recycled junk mail collage and acrylic, 24x24”

ArterNet Art: 
That's great advice, Robin.
Also for our new artists, can you share some tips on how you marketed yourself, when you first started out. What are one or two things you tried that worked amazingly well?

Robin: Oh boy, marketing has never been my forté. I’ve always adhered to the Golden Rule in marketing. If something irks me, I don’t do it to others. I rarely look at Instagram stories anymore because too many use them as filler. 
I don’t like to have my time wasted or waste the time of others. If I post, blog, or send a newsletter, I want it to have relevance or information others will enjoy. I also hate too frequent sales pitches or marketing where you have to read 8 pages of material to get to the price. 
These are my own crotchety marketing thoughts, and I doubt anyone will get rich following my advice. 
On a positive note, I have found that posting regularly on Instagram has opened many doors for me and been an excellent marketing tool.

'Deep Breath'  Mixed media on Paper 
mounted on cradled panel   24 x 18 x 1.5

ArterNet Art:  What plans and goals do you have for the future, both creatively and personally? Then ultimately, if all the stars aligned, what do you see as your end game? ( I know, most people get taken aback when they are confronted with this question, but I believe it's one we should all think about at some stage)

  I heard an artist say something that really stuck with me. He said, "What I lack in ambition, I make up for in commitment." While I love shows, sales, and recognition, they are minor compared to my urge to become the best painter that I can be. 
My great desire is to end up like Wayne Thiebaud—painting every day until he was 101 and still feeling like he had so much to learn.

ArterNet Art: Tell us about any hobbies you may have, sports or interests other than art?

I’m a great lover of learning, so enjoy taking classes or reading about artists and art history. I love to write and keep a daily journal and frequently blog. 
I enjoy walking everyday, and in pre-Covid times was passionate about my Nia dance class, a form of freestyle dance/ exercise. And I am quite addicted to baking show competitions and make a mean chocolate chip cookie.

ArterNet Art: Do you have any quotes you live by or practice daily?

Robin:  I love this quote from Neil Gaiman that helps me in times when I feel like giving up:

"You only have two choices – you keep making art, or you stop. And if you keep creating art, you may make magic, you may make things that other people need. You may make the things that you need to get through the darkness."

ArterNet Art: Well, Robin it's been such a pleasure to learn about you and your art practice. Thank you so much - I know our artist members and other artists will be inspired and will take your words of wisdom into their daily art practice also.

You can find out more about Robin, her work and 
follow her here:

Fragments, small hand-stitched collages, 5x4”


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'World Famous on ArterNet Art' :

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