For Robyn Brown, applying her artistic talent to daily life is as simple—and as complex—as building a stone wall. She’s shown here with just such a wall, which she built recently. “There’s a creative aspect to everything,” she said.
She should know. Robyn has designed at least a dozen homes on graph paper and, together with her husband, Chris, carried the design process through to completion for most of those homes. The two make a team that handles nearly every aspect of construction. For the stone wall, Robyn said, “We brought four or five loads of stone, hand-picked from Hoadley Quarries, and Chris tumbled the rock, built the scaffolding, mixed the mortar, and hauled it all while I laid the mortar bed and set the stones.”
Robyn is self-taught in nearly everything she does—with the exception of one drawing class and, beginning a year ago, the Partners in Painting class at the Owen County Art Guild. Most often, she finds her own answers intuitively or at the public library, building an artistic life from a series of thoughtful, self-reliant solutions to questions as diverse as home schooling her children to laying that mortar bed. Her resourceful nature, in fact, reflects the pioneer spirit of her forebears, the historic Spring Mill State Park Hamer family.
As a child, she learned to love art by watching her older sisters, who exceled in painting. For Robyn, it was ceramics that caught her interest first, and painting later. Then, for decades, crafts of all sorts, projects with her children, and building construction kept her easel idle. Last year, when she began painting again, her experiences in real life paid dividends; her skills transferred easily from “cutting in” the color of a home’s walls to refining her brush strokes on canvasses.
Her acrylic on canvas, Frog Pond, was created by combining photos of lily pads, fish, and a frog, for use as subjects. “I love doing the preliminary backgrounds first,” she said, “because it’s fun and freeing to ease into the details of the painting. If it doesn’t work, to me, it’s like a wall with an archway that’s too small, or a stone set in place wrong. You just re-do it. You need to step back and look at a painting, just as you need to step back and look at a wall.”
The Wave is another example of her acrylic on canvas works. It was inspired by a double-page photograph by David Miller, in a book titled Oceans. “I loved it, and I had to own it—it was the moodiest wave I’d ever seen,” she said. “A friend tried to contact the photographer to purchase a copy of the photograph for my birthday, but she never got a response. So, I had to buy the book. I thought it was so perfect! I didn’t add anything of myself, except my name, when I painted it. It’s as close as I could come to an artistic representation of the original, and the largest painting I’ve ever done—two feet by four feet—so it was daring, but not difficult.”
Her work on an earlier painting with a fog element, and on Frog Pond, had taught Robyn the technique of using a natural “sea” sponge to create effects, and it helped to build foam on The Wave. However, when she tried the natural sponge on the walls of the home she and Chris are currently constructing, she was not impressed by its effect. So, she stepped back, and started over. Using a synthetic tiling sponge instead, watering down the paint, wringing out the sponge and rubbing it on the walls, she achieved a beautiful muted, old-world effect.
“Art, in my opinion,” Robyn said, “is fluent. It runs through the fiber of who you are.”
Robyn Brown occasionally shows her artwork at the Owen County Art Guild; the guild is located at 199 West Cooper Street, Spencer, IN. Her paintings, as well as those of all the artists featured in this series, can be seen in color online at http://www.lauraleffers.wordpress.com. The guild’s phone number is 812-829-1877.