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HOME Cover Contest Winner

HOME Cover Contest Winner

Had it not been for Robin Popp’s spontaneous and spirited nature, “Park, Painting, Pipe. It’s A Good Day!” the oil painting that won her HOME’s cover contest, might never have graced a canvas. Not many people achieve such beauty and rhythm on a whim, but she somehow managed to quickly capture the serene and peaceful moment in time.

The man in the 11-by-14-inch oil painting is Turbado Marabou,
another artist Popp observed in Sweetwater Park during a paint-out, an event where artists paint subjects on location from start to finish. After taking notice of the light reflecting around him, Popp set up her materials along a sidewalk and began her masterpiece.

“I didn’t have my camera with me, so I just said ‘here it goes’,” she recalled. “I flew by the seat of my pants, and that one worked. I’m constantly pushing myself to try something new, and putting that man as the focus of that picture was new for me.”

Placing the fellow artist in the center of the painting added a fresh spin to Popp’s work because she typically positions people in the background of her open-air pieces, focusing more on landscape and wildlife. The subject matters that capture her attention depend completely on the way she feels about the object in that particular moment. She said anything can inspire her to paint, from landscape to birds, but it usually revolves around the form and the lighting she observes.

“If I get excited about it and I’m intrigued by it, I think there’s an emotion that goes into the painting process that carries over in the final piece,” she said. “You can tell when someone really enjoys what they were doing, there’s an emotional substance in there you can feel—it’s intangible, but it’s there.”

Through her website and Etsy store, Popp sells a combination of studio and outdoor artwork featuring animals, people and scenic landscapes. She is also currently experimenting with collage works.

While Popp paints with acrylics, she prefers oil because it is slow to dry.

“You can change your composition, and there’s a lot of forgiveness with it,” she said. “The downside is also that it’s slow to dry—you have to be careful getting it home, and it’s messier to clean up.”

Whether or not she uses a studio or the open air to create her art depends on the subject and type of work she is crafting. With studio painting, she said you can labor for hours and eventually make the painting look worse, but the advantage is being able to step back and return to the same model or photographic reference. With open-air painting, she said you are relaying something, like the light reflecting a certain color, to convey inspiration in “a moment in time that you can’t always get back.”

“Sometimes you work and it gets worse,” she said. “But when it comes together, it’s a victory and there’s a triumph in that.”

Popp jokes that she has been painting since birth—her mother found her passion for the craft while she was pregnant. Saved paintings of pumpkins Popp made at the young age of two illustrate her love for painting began as soon as she could hold a paintbrush.

Getting together to paint with her mother’s friend, who was an art teacher, kept Popp involved in the painting world. When she was in high school in Pinellas County, the art program at her school taught college-level art, allowing Popp to receive an exceptional education and experience at a young age. After attending Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota for a semester, Popp decided to pursue vocational school and became a cabinetmaker.

Today, she balances Laughing Chicken Farm with her husband Bill. Their farm sells pastured poultry like duck, turkey, chicken and eggs at local farmer’s markets. The Popps process all of the waste from the animals and use it for the compost pile that goes into their garden. She said the animals enjoy eating the grass and living in a clean space away from their own manure. The farm’s environment and unique practice allow for superior quality and flavor, she said.

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“Every part of this benefits everything, there’s no downside, except for two tired people,” she joked.” It’s labor-intensive, but the results are fantastic. The animals are treated humanly, it benefits the environment, and it’s a win-win every way you look at it.”

Balancing art and farming, the two all-consuming aspects of her life has become her biggest challenge.

“We try to do as much as we can before we fall into bed at night,” she said. “We’re always building something, or getting more animals, or getting the garden started.”

On top of farming, this summer Popp will travel to the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, N.C., instructing students on how to utilize and work with wool. The class is one of many she has taught through assorted venues, focusing on various types of painting and drawing styles.

Foreseeing the direction Popp’s art will take could be as unpredictable as the subjects in her open-air paintings. This artist-teacher-farmer has no limits.

“You name it, I want to do it.”

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