contemporary collage paintings
the process
Leslie Avon Miller

My life flows when I'm in my art.

Jean De Muzio

Monday, November 16, 2009

Atelier Robyn Gordon!

Robyn Gordon is a wood carving artist and enthusiastic creative explorer who creates totems and panels and writes the blog Art Propelled. Robyn’s blog is rich and diverse. She features her own carvings reflecting her love of nature and the land of South Africa where she lives. Robyn also blogs about the creative process and her influences. As well, she introduces her readers to art work of other artists she discovers. Robyn’s blog is like a fabulous university course in art appreciation focused on contemporary art in many mediums. Robyn graciously agreed to be interviewed for this post of Textures Shapes and Color.

When and how did you first know you were an artist?

My earliest memory is of my mom teaching me to make a crazy patchwork "quilt" with her dressmaking scraps. I was almost 3 and the woman next door was expecting a baby and this was to be my gift to the new baby. It was the most wondrous feeling handing over this rudimentary piece of patchwork which I had stitched from the scraps on the sewing room floor.

What sustains your artistic practice? What activity renews you and your art practice so you return to your work with renewed enthusiasm?

At the top of my list, being out in nature renews me for everything in life. Spending 3 or 4 days near the ocean or walking in the mountains, exploring forests and streams will replenish me for months on end. Even sitting in my garden listening to the sighing of the stream will energize me. Books, especially art books have always inspired me and renewed my enthusiasm and now the internet is boosting my enthusiasm too.... though I really do have to find the balance. Too much time spent on the internet can drain one of every ounce of energy.

What is it about your medium of wood that calls your name?

I often think of this and can't quite put my finger on it. As a child on the farm I loved the outdoors. I loved to touch and feel nature in my hands. The smoothness of acorns and pebbles, the roughness of bark, the hollowness of a birds nest, the graininess of river sand.....anything tactile under my hands. When I was allowed to use my mom’s carving chisels at a young age I found that I could create many tactile qualities in the wood myself. Magic!

And what is this about your Mom carving? What did she make?

Nothing! Poor Mom hated carving. Tried it once and put the chisels aside ... and there they were winking at me.

Robyn, did you go to art school, or are you self taught?

I'm self taught.... a process of trial and error.

If you could visit and learn at the studio of one artist, past or present, who would it be and why?

Cecil Skotnes, because he was the first sculptor I admired. He is one of the reasons my wood carving turned into a passion.

Is there one art book you would recommend to other artists?

At the risk of repeating myself over and over, I always recommend 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women by Gail McMeekin.

What story are you telling with your art?

I suppose I am telling the story of my life in South Africa. The niche carvings hold objects that are of the land (pebbles, bones, cowries, driftwood etc.), symbols of Africa (beadwork, arrowheads, tiny stone carvings), symbols of my British ancestry (silver teaspoons, Minton china shards). The totems "speak" of the legends that have been passed down from one generation to the next. The patterns, objects, symbols are all of this land. No matter what tribe we belong to we who were born in this country belong here and make South Africa what it is.

How has blogging helped you grow as an artist?

Blogging has been like an epiphany! It feeds my art and my art feeds my blogging. It has opened my world and suddenly I know that hundreds, thousands.... millions of artists go through all the emotions that I do. The anxieties, insecurities, challenges, transitions, blocks, issues, moodlings ...... and the euphoria. It's comforting to know that I'm normal ....relatively speaking.

Thank you Robyn! If you would like to see more of Robyn’s work, images are at her photo stream here on Flicker. And if you enjoy the art work she “curates” for her blog, you might enjoy her Flicker Favorites here.


  1. Leslie, thank you so much for your interview of Robyn. Her blog is one of my favorites and it is so nice to read more about her and see more of her wonderful works. And her flickr series is beautiful eye candy-- aarrrrghhhh-- in a good way!

  2. Thanks for introducing us to Robyn. This is a good interview about a very interesting woman. I'll return to her blog again and again, as I do to yours which I consider to be a thinking woman's journal.
    Now I'm off to try to paint the grays around me today.

  3. like donna, i thank you..robyn's is also one of my favorite sites, always interesting, the art she does, the artists she shares, and her far away country she highlights for us. great article. n

  4. What a great interview. Robyn's work is so rich and wondrous, her detail
    is amazing...

    As is your non-objective art, love the new piece from 11/14.


  5. This is a perfect way to start off the week...two of my favorite blog friends! Leslie, your interview questions are so insightful and always this post is stunning! Robyn, your answers open and sharing in ways reserved for the closest of art friendship and your photos so pleasing along with this beautiful smiling face of yours! Bravo to both of life is made richer by believing in our friendship!!
    Mary Ann

  6. Love Robyn's work and love her blog. My creative side has been enriched by both. Thanks Leslie for giving us a closer look at Robyn's life and art.

  7. Thanks so much for doing this interview with Robyn. I feel much more in touch with the earth and the people on it since I have discovered her blog. Robyn spends so much time introducing us to other artists, yet I always wanted to know more about Robyn herself.

    What a wonderful surprise here today -- one of my favorite blogs wrapped in another of my favorite blogs.

  8. Ilove Robyn's blog and this was a great interview and now I know a bit more about her, thank you.

  9. Thank you for featuring Robyn on your blog Leslie... her blog is a favorite. It was really a treat to see more of her work...she is so generous...always featuring other inspiring was a nice change to hear more abour her!

  10. Thanks for posting this interview. I love Robyn's work and a visit to her blog provides endless amounts of inspiration. It is great to get to know a little bit more about her!

  11. Wow - thanks for this. Her work is so inspiring.

  12. thank you for conducting and posting such an inspiring interview - I also enjoy Robyn's blog so much.

  13. Your interview with Robyn was such a treat....loved the format and the photos. Of course I am an instant fan! Her work is terrific.

  14. This made for a lovely read, Leslie. Interesting to learn a different side of "Art Propelled". Thanks for posting.

  15. Thanks for posting this Leslie. Robyn has been one of my favourite artists for a long time. It is always a pleasure to find out a little more about her life as an artist.

  16. Thank you both!

    I love reading this, and i never heard "moodlings" before, am rather smitten with the notion that i have moodlings!

    Robyn and her blog are revelation; i don't know how she does all she does to share all she shares there... Grateful.

    thank you.

  17. Thank you so much! what a great interview! it was awesome to know more about her and her medium!

  18. Very interesting work! And what a coincidence, I just started reading Michener's The Covenant, which is an epic history of South Africa. This will make a nice contemporary counterpoint to the reading.

  19. Hi Leslie,

    I enjoyed your interview with Robyn. I have visited her blog before and think her work is wonderful.

  20. One of my favorite things about Robyn is that she knows all the good books to read. Getting her to name her top pick is great. I know what my next read is now, thanks to you, Leslie.

  21. Thank you Leslie!

    Thanks to everyone for such a warm response.

  22. Robyn is such a modest woman, I am sure she would never tell this story unless invited.
    Hers is a blog the is ceaseless in soul food.
    Thanks for this insight and the gift.

  23. Hi Leslie, glad I came upon this interview with Robyn. Good questions, interesting answers, and another blog introduced to me. Thanks! Loved seeing the Fertility dool from the Cameroons. My son is working with forests in Cameroon now.
    Good to make the connection.

  24. Great interview - thank you so much for conducting and sharing it! I love Robyn's work (and her fabulous blog) and it's been lovely to find out more about what makes her tick.

  25. Robyn is such a generous soul - sharing with us all the fabulous art finds she ferrets out via the internet. Thank you Robyn and thank you all who commented and let Robyn know how much you enjoy her work and her blog.

  26. Great that you do this and share with all of us what you have found. So glad I "met" you and others this past year - hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and that the sun does shime a bit.

    All my best...John

  27. I'm late for the party, but I wanted to thank you for your interview series in general - and for this interview in particular. I've long been an admirer of Robyn's art and blog, always knowing I'll find fascinating images and ideas there.

    Bravo Leslie!ispor

  28. great interview/article on robyn. nothing but wonderful things to say and think when it comes to her work, her energy, her blog...few artists have the time or desire it seems to highlight other art work ~ robyn's blog is so refreshing and inspiring. most of all her work, which boggles the mind how one person can produce such consistent fresh work seemingly forever!!


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