If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then it is never more so than when it comes to abstract art. Ocklawaha-based artist Pamela Roberson is on a journey into that most subjective of all art forms and is helping other artists along the way.
The first impression of Pamela Roberson’s home studio is that of an artist hard at work. Dozens of bright, bold acrylic abstract art pieces deco-rate the room: on a counter, on small and big easels, on the wall, framed and unframed, stacked and leaning against the wall. All the tools of the trade are here, too. Paint brushes, various-sized jars of paints, sandpaper, different bits of colored charcoal, sheets of collage paper and pallet knives signal that this is the studio of a busy, goal-oriented artist.
But that is not the case at all.
The truth of this studio and of Roberson herself resides in a big bright orange and yellow canvas that is 24 by 36 inches, mounted on an even larger piece of plywood. Above the painting on the plywood is written “Play” in script in bright red paint.
“This is what I call my year-long piece, actually my second one. I give myself a year to finish these pieces, giving it time to develop and show me what it wants to be,” explains Roberson, 54, who has had home studios since grade school. “When I took art classes in high school and in college, everything was about producing so much artwork in a specific amount of time. The more I did that, the more unhappy I was. But now, I have yearlong pieces and, in addition, I usually work on as many as a dozen pieces at once.”
To that point, Roberson grabs a stack of painted canvases that are 12 by 12 inches.
“Right now, I’m obsessed with this smaller size. It gives you a chance to play more; to experiment and explore more since you have a lot less square footage to cover,” shares Roberson. “I think an experiment-and-explore mind-set is very important to creativity. Unfortunately, it takes most of us a long time to come to under-stand this. But when you do, you come to value the creative process more than the outcome. And that, to me, is what art really is.”
For many people, it can take years, sometimes decades, to find their true calling in life. Thanks to a little lamb, Roberson knew hers in kindergarten.
“I remember painting a fluffy lamb on green grass under a sunny blue sky. The teacher asked me to put the painting on the classroom wall for everyone to enjoy, which was quite an honor. But I told her that the painting was for my mom,” recalls Roberson. “So, my teacher told me to go ahead and paint another lamb to put on the classroom wall. I got to stay in the art room while the rest of the class moved on to another non-art activity. That’s when I knew I wanted to be an artist when I grew up.”
Originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma, Roberson moved with her family to Houston, when she was 13. Aft er that kindergarten epiphany, she continued to create, mainly pen-and-ink abstract drawings, through high school. The next logical step was to pursue a fine arts degree at the University of Houston, where she first began working with oil.
“Very quickly, I came to realize that the college experience was not what I had envisioned,” says Roberson. “The only reason I was in college was because of art, but I had to take all these other classes, like algebra, that had nothing to do with art. It drove me crazy.”
And then there were the art classes themselves.
“I found the structure of the classes and the art professors to be more focused on production than process,” recalls Roberson. “We were expected to produce three paintings a week and that’s all that seemed to matter. Forget growing as an artist.”
As her dissatisfaction grew, Roberson decided she “didn’t need an art degree since I wasn’t planning to be an art teacher.” She left college and began working as a waitress and bartender to pay the bills while she evolved as an artist.
“Working in restaurants and bars is hard work. But it gave me the flexible free time I needed for my art,” says Roberson, who also became a self-described hobo, moving from Texas to Wisconsin, Washington, Nevada, Michigan and eventually to Florida. “But, of course, we all need money, so then I moved into the corporate world as an executive assistant. And soon I was spending less and less time on my art. I thought my artistic phase was over.”
Callings tend to persist and just when Roberson thought her artistic passion was gone, a simple act restored it.
“One day I picked up a dip pen, ink and paper and just started drawing,” shares Roberson, who was living in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, at the time. “And in that moment, I knew it wasn’t my artistic phase that was over, but rather that my working regular jobs phase was going to end. I commit-ted myself to my art 100 percent and haven’t looked back.”
While living in Eau Claire, Roberson continued to focus on abstract pen-and-ink and watercolor, earning an honorable mention for a piece in the 2014 Confluence of Art. She sold that piece, which would lead to a 42-piece solo exhibition the following year at the Riverwood Gallery in Eau Claire. Almost all those pieces sold. Roberson then exhibited in the 2018 ArtPrize 10 juried art festival in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and was again well-received.
“I was very prolific during this period and really enjoying my art again,” offers Roberson. “I also sold many pieces to private collectors. I thought my artistic path was set. But then, to my surprise, it changed.”
While Roberson had always done abstract art in pen and ink and watercolor, the element of acrylics suddenly seemed to be her new direction.
“I felt strongly that working in acrylics was what I needed to do with my art,” explains Roberson, who moved to Ocklawaha in 2019, about the same time as she had her second epiphany. “It was a very difficult transition, and it was almost like I had to relearn how to paint. I knew I needed help, so I turned to the internet and began to do some research.”
Roberson’s internet search led her to David Limrite, a California-based artist and art coach.
“Right from the beginning, David was just what I needed. He was what I thought my college art professors should have been,” says Roberson. “Thanks to David, other online teachers and support groups, I knew that acrylic abstract art was indeed my path.”
Limrite concurs, saying, “Pamela is an intelligent painter who has great instincts, strong intuition and wise insights. She uses a combination of play, experimentation and risk-taking to build momentum and improve her craft beautifully.”
For Roberson, the creative process, not production, is of the utmost importance.
“These last three years, I have become more and more detached from the outcome, from the end result with my art,” she admits. “The amazing bonus of this mindset is that it shuts down your inner critic and allows you to be truly creative. I come into my studio with no set goals. I just want to paint.”
Abstract art is oft en described as focusing on inner landscapes rather than the outer landscapes of realism art. And Roberson couldn’t agree more.
“My art explores the inner emotional landscapes that we all have. I pay attention to that quiet voice for inspiration,” she notes. “I start with a blank canvas and then go from there with color, shape and texture. Do I go with orange here? Paste in some collage paper? How about some gold leaf? And if a painting stops connecting with me, I just move on to another. I don’t paint with intent and only title the pieces after they’re finished.”
Her newfound creative process has led Roberson to enjoy her art and be more prolific than she ever has in her life. And she gives credit where credit is due.
“There is no doubt that the biggest impact on my art flourishing these last few years has been thanks to me making those online connections with coaches, mentors and other artists,” she offers. “And because of that, in 2020, I founded Strong Artist Life, an on-line coaching community to help other artists like I was helped. I left college partially because I didn’t want to be an art teacher and yet, to my surprise, through Strong Artist Life, I have become exactly that. And it has been very gratifying.”
Texas-based abstract artist Sherri Harris has been a member of Strong Artist Life from the beginning and can attest to its impact.
“What has made Strong Artist Life so great is that Pamela brings all the same energy and authenticity that is in her art to her coaching,” says Harris. “She is a champion for other artists and their work. She has a passion for empowering artists to be bold, authentic and believe in yourself. I highly recommend her work-shops and coaching to any artist looking for someone to be on their side.”
Roberson is now open to the next phase of her art career.
“I suppose I should begin to market my artwork again; do some shows, get into some galleries,” she muses. “But for now, I’m just loving my abstract life and sharing it with others.” OS
To learn more, go to pamelarobersonart.com,strongartistlife. com or Facebook/Stronger Artist Stronger Art