un and whimsical are just two of the adjectives used to describe Cave Creek artist Robin Ray’s creations. Her illustrations of the natural world are full of life, motion and vivid color. The images leap out to greet patrons in her 2D murals and her 3D ceramic works. The vibrant energy of Ray’s design sensibility instantly creates a positive, fun and imaginative space for its viewers.
Watercolor and acrylic are Ray’s first choice of paint. Flowers, vines, birds, bugs, purple cows, orange horses and yellow pigs may be running across the landscape in any number of forms—as a mural, a watercolor or a ceramic sculpture.
“It will have your exploring the world of possibilities,” Ray said.
She asks viewers to stretch their imaginations when they see a piece commissioned by Ray. In fact, they are partners with her imagination.
“Needless to say, I grew up among creative people,” she said.
“I have been encouraged to think, draw, sculpt and paint out of the box since before my memory.”
Her first experience with clay was during a high school art class in Fargo, North Dakota, and it was love at first squeeze. When it was time for college, her dad took her to Bozeman, Montana, where she met Francis Senska, a professor with a wealth of knowledge and experience in the field of ceramics.
Her dad informed her, “This is the school for you. She is the real deal.” And he was right, she said. After three years in Montana, Ray was steered toward Chapman’s World Campus Afloat, sailing to ports in Africa, India and Asia, where students studied religion, art and dance.
The objective of the experiences was to teach the students how to integrate universal themes with their creativity across all mediums.
Once Ray stepped ashore, she enrolled and graduated from ASU with a Bachelor of Arts degree in K-12 art education, teaching degree.
In 1972, she purchased her first potter’s wheel and kiln. Ray returned to Montana, with her ceramics equipment in tow, to work as a professional artist in a cottage manufacturing industry producing soft sculpture.
During this time in Butte, she opened her own studio, The Robin’s Nest. As the year 1984 dawned, Ray was back in Arizona, where she took a job at Cactus Shadows High School as an art instructor. She was living her dream working with young artists. She “helped them discover their own creative edge and what their contribution might be to the world of imagination.”
Ray returned to school—this time NAU—to earn her master’s in studio arts with an emphasis in ceramics.
Retired from the Cave Creek Unified School District but not from creating, Ray is an active member of the Cave Creek arts community. She is a founding member of Hidden in the Hills Artist Studio Tour and a prominent member of the Sonoran Arts League. Her ceramic animal sculptures are constructed from slabs of clay decorated with abstract, sometimes primitive, designs. As a result, her work becomes 3D paintings as well as sculptural pieces. In addition, over time, Ray’s murals have become a major focus of her ever-evolving artistic style in whimsical design.
Her studio is open by appointment year-round. Visit her home studio No. 26 during this year’s Hidden in the Hills from November 20 to November 22 and November 27 to November 29.
For more information about the tour, visit sonoranartsleague.org.
Contact arts columnist Shea Stanfield at firstname.lastname@example.org.