Robin Faye Gates's Work May Be Funny, But She's Serious About Art

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You can find art all over town -- not just on gallery walls. In this series, we take a look at some of the local artists who serve up their work in coffeehouses and other non-gallery businesses around town.

How does a business major with no formal art training go from hotel management to painting? Robin Faye Gates had always loved art, but it wasn't until recently that she found the opportunity and courage to use her natural talent to launch a painting career that might soon earn her a place in our local art scene.

See also: DU Senior Conor Dowdle Paints History in a New Light

After graduating from the University of Denver with a degree in hotel and restaurant management, Gates wound up doing the 9-to-5 at the Marriott, painting sporadically for hobby, never imaging that an artistic career was even possible. But in 1999, when Gates was working at the Cherry Creek Arts Festival, she decided it was time for a career change. She went back to graduate school for digital media studies, ultimately landing a day job in the graphic design industry.

Four years ago, Gates transitioned to freelance work in an effort to "put a foot forward and do more painting," she says. Freelance gigs give Gates more time in her home office-slash-art-studio, where she'll spend hours sitting on the floor with her dogs, thinking about the canvas or wood propped against the wall.

The self-trained painter works mostly with acrylics. "I was so sensitive about the smell of oils and I didn't have a studio when I started painting, so I was always painting in my living room or bedroom," explains Gates.

Easily identified by their offbeat, whimsical quality, Gates's pieces come from "quirky personal moments or overheard conversations," she says, adding, "I like integrating life's subtle oddities into my work."

So she was shocked when one viewer mentions that the faces she paints are very serious. "I'm not in front of people a lot with my art," she admits. She sees her stuff as funny, oftentimes sarcastic, and she points to the titles of her pieces for evidence of that.

Continue reading for information on where you can see Gates's work.

"One of my favorites is the woman with the fox," says Gates, referring to "Mary and Larry." "I started this when Downton Abbey first came on, and that inspired the colors and the dress. I had this fox stole around Mary's neck, and I kept thinking something was missing from the picture. Finally I got a spark of an idea: What if this fox stole is eating chicken wings in this very serious painting?"

The Cheez-It eating contest is another one of Gates's favorites -- though it doesn't have much meaning deeper than, "Um, yeah, I really love Cheez-Its," says Gates, laughing.

Gates sells the majority of her art through Deny Designs, a Colorado-based company specializing in home goods and prints. She was one of the original fifteen artists to sign on with the husband-wife run operation, and she's been thrilled by how much growth Deny Designs has experienced since then.

Last August, an exhibit at Sol Shine launched Gates into the local art scene. One of her pieces, "Leonardo's Left Shoe," is currently on display at Pajama Baking Company, where she participated in a pop-up show in December.

If all goes according to plan, Gates will soon be doing a public art installation by the Vallagio at Inverness. Permits are currently being pulled for the project, which will include several colorful, sixteen- to eighteen-foot lexan and steel pieces. For more information on Gates and her work, visit her website or Facebook page, or follow her on Pinterest.

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