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Robbie is determined to live out her dream of being an artist and we get a front row seat as she takes us on her journey.

Robbie Best photo taken by Morgan Wesley.jpg

Photograph by Morgan Wesley

AOTCE: How did you come into the arts?

Robbie Best: My creative impulses were placed on the back burner for over 50 years until I retired from my day job as a Social Worker/Manager for the State of Michigan. In 2005, I returned to Wayne State University to begin working on my second bachelor's degree. I graduated in 2008 with a BFA in Painting.  Currently I am a full-time artist, finally a dream fulfilled.

AOTCE: How long have you been in the arts?

Robbie Best: I like to think that I do both.  I started out doing figurative, however early on I embraced abstraction. My foray into abstraction evolved out of my figurative images when I decided to deconstruct and simplify the forms and at the same time maintain the rhythm and dynamic character of my narrative.  The figures morphed into ethereal shapes, forms and lines and I found that abstraction represented freedom and empowerment for me both as an individual as an artist.


AOTCE: What is the motivation for your art?

Robbie Best: I do not have a single focus or subject matter, the work that I do is dictated by my instincts and what’s going on with me internally at the time that I am creating.  As an intuitive painter I approach the blank canvas with no preconceived ideas and allow the painting and the process to guide me.  I listen to my inner voice which directs me to a line, shape or color.  In some instances, I have a general idea of what I want to do but I do not do studies or sketches ahead of time.  I refer to my work as figurative abstraction because figures emerge on the canvas and in most instances, they are women.  I like to think of them as my guardian angels, led by my grandma.


AOTCE: What is your medium of choice and how would you describe your work? 

Robbie Best: I enjoy working with oil paint best of all because it’s very forgiving and I can rework it over time. This suits my practice because I worked on several pieces at the same time and because oil takes so long to dry, I do not find this to be an issue.  I also love the fluidity and versatility of oil. I have explored the technique of staining the canvas with layers of diluted paint and experimenting with the color application. I love the effect of the manipulated shapes and tones. I incorporate all mediums in my practice including watercolor, acrylic, ink, encaustic and of course drawing.   I also very much love working with clay and sculpture.  My style has been described as painterly since my images are very fluid and organic.


AOTCE: Are you a full-time artist?

Robbie Best: I try to create something every day and go to my studio at least three or four times a week sometimes more depending on what else is going on in my life.  I am self-motivated.  I just love doing all things related to art including reading about art and other artists, doing research for art projects, giving lectures on art, working with art clubs and groups, jurors of art, discussing art, etc. I also like the idea that I’m creating something that’s going to exist long after I am gone.  I am compelled to be an artist and I do not consider it work at all.  Being in the studio is very relaxing and therapeutic for me and I can go into a zone and can just work for hours and hours without a break.  I pretty much fell in love with all my work and my favorite piece is always the one I’m currently working on it.   Selling my art is just the icing on the cake, I paint for me.


AOTCE: Did you have a mentor and/or do you mentor?


ROBBIE BEST: No, unfortunately I did not have a mentor however I give credit to Jeanne Bieri, an art teacher, at a junior college who advised me to stop auditing classes and enroll as a full student and get my degree in art.  She is a wonderful teacher, artist and person; it was because of her encouragement that I am an artist today.  Secondly, I heard Kerry James Marshal speak on two occasions and it was because of his message that I saw art as a viable path for me.  Lastly, a friend introduced me to the National Conference Artists, Michigan Chapter (NCA) and I’ve been active with them ever since.  We are a group of artists who nurture and support one another and are mentored by the renowned artist Shirley Woodson-Reid.

I mentored a young lady while she was in high school for a couple of years.   She’s now away at college and she is not an art major, but she did have a strong interest in art at one time.  I am in contact with her on an irregular basis.  I consult with an Artist/Friend on a regular basis, and he considers me his mentor although we have no formal arrangement. There is another Artist who asked me to be her mentor and I attempt to provide direction as needed.  Lastly, my granddaughter is very talented, and I encourage her at every opportunity.  I routinely introduce myself to new artists whenever I meet them, give them my card and invite them to join the NCA.  I have plans to increase my role as a mentor in the near future.


AOTCE: Where can your work be seen?

ROBBIE BEST: I am currently in two shows running simultaneously at the National Conference of Arts Gallery.  One is the Annual Holiday Show and the other is an exhibit featuring NCA’s portfolio “Standard Time”.  Both of these exhibits will run until Jan 2023.   I have just finished a round of group shows and need to take care of some work on the business side of art.  Dealing with both the creative and business side of art is very challenging.  At this time, I need to take care of some paperwork, consider reestablishing my web page, make contact with some collectors, consider some collaboration, organize my studio, handles some research for future shows and analyze what worked and didn’t work in 2022.

       I recently inherited a house and I have big plans for utilizing all the space for various art projects.   This year was very productive for me because having the new studio space had a very positive influence on my work ethic and my production.  I have big plans for my studio.  I envision the space as an art incubator, a place where women of all ages can gather have fun, bond with each other, have workshops, classes and take their art practice to another level.  The groups will be kept small to allow for greater interaction.

I plan to invite successful artists to give lectures, give workshops and mentor aspiring artists of every age.  The term emerging artist has a connotation of a young artist or someone relatively young.  However, there are many artists like me who are late comers to the field and need a connection.

I plan to specifically focus on female artist and to act as a mentor to them.  The space is large enough to allow me to have various projects going on simultaneously.  I am currently rehabbing the house and the programs will be introduced in stages.  However, I do plan to begin workshops in 2023.

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