For over 30 years, “RBL” has enjoyed a multi-faceted career as a peripatetic art teacher and designer/illustrator.
Technically Robin is three generations away from any formal art college training.
Her degrees are all academic. A wise advisor deflected her from early frustration at OCAD because in his words, “this portfolio shows me you already know what you want to do.”
Robin hails from a family of artists, artisans, art teachers and at least one legitimate psychologist.
Since 1980, after contributing steadily as a youngster to the Canadian Children’s Annual for Potlatch Press, she went solo first with Kelly and Her Kidney, a booklet for the St Joseph’s Hospital in Hamilton ON. Two years later Robin was invited away from an executive position in Alumni Affairs at her alma mater the University of Guelph, to help launch a toddler category at Annick Press by designing and illustrating Kathy Stinson’s Red is Best, now a steadily popular and long back listed Canadian Classic.
Once RBL won a long wished for placement as a secondary school art teacher, as “Miz Baird-Loueee” she maintained the illustration work and used it often to demonstrate popular ‘real world’ problem solving opportunities within students’ assignments.
A substantial change in student demographic coincided with the arrival of Fern Sussman’s 240 page-plus tome, More Than Words, (Hanen) which required full-time attention and encouraged Robin to pry her pitiful pension from the Teacher’s Union and leave the formal system to finally adopt a self-employed business model.
The ensuing years have seen RBL working on a wider variety of illustration work for business clients from labels for hammocks and hardware to spice products and bicycle images, from a mural in support of developmentally challenged young adults to restaurant signage and murals as well as historical house sketches for the Guelph Arts Council.
Simultaneously the book illustration work has also been steady: following the mantra of ‘serving the text’ Robin has created distinctively styled images for 20 titles, published variously by Annick Press, OUP, Random House, Fitzhenry & Whiteside, Western Psychology Press, and for self published authors using General Store Publishing Co, Wishima Press and Friesen Press.
Despite the teaching ‘retirement’, throughout this period Robin’s presence in the classroom has never been far away. As a founder of the GYMC (Guelph Youth Music Centre) arts camps, a beneficiary of several Ontario Arts Council Grants and through the Author’s Booking Service she has maintained a programme of original and unusual craft projects for randomly booked school and library visits as an impressively entertaining teacher-illustrator.
Although thankfully versatile, Robin specialises in drawing children in a simple but nuanced line style and delights in hiding family members and friends in her illustrations. Her work consistently reflects witty insights into humankind and animal foibles with an accuracy born of a lifetime’s habit of constant observation and what she calls “visual filing” for future reference.
Choral singing, opera, knitting, animal care, baseball & Aussie rules Rugby are among her other ‘side’ interests. Her therapist is Dylan Moran. Her motto: “Fight the Forces of Evil with Creativity.”
“My tiny closet bathroom now has views of the Greek Islands I have always loved.” (Re: Bathroom Mural of Islands and Sea)
“My life will be
the best illustration of all my work.”
~ Hans Christian Andersen