Artist Feature: Robin Pickens


Robin_Outside Last week, I had the wonderful opportunity to connect with one of Magnet Works’ & Studio M’s newest artists, Robin Pickens. It was so fun to get to know the woman behind some of the beautiful new Localization designs we have.

As you read through the interview you’ll get a peek at some of Robin’s work that will start shipping in January 2014! Enjoy :)


-Tell me a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Michigan. My dad was an automotive designer for Chrysler Motors for over 25 years and my mom was originally a teacher and then later became a paralegal but she was also very creative. She did lots of silk screening, drawings, paintings, sewing, contemporary quilting, and crafting. Both of my parents were very artistic and creative. When I grew up we went to a lot of art museums and art was something that was always really encouraged in our house. That was a really huge influence on me.

Pelican Cove

“Pelican Cove” (Shown Localized)

Did you study art in college?

I went to the University of Michigan School of Art where I got a Bachelor’s in Fine Art, concentrating in graphic design and industrial design. When I was in college I did an internship at a television station. I never really intended to get into television work, but after graduation I moved to Chicago, and since I already had some experience in the broadcast industry, I was able to get a job right away at one of the television stations. I did graphics for the news for local stations, for ABC, CBS, and then Fox in Chicago. Later, I moved to Los Angeles to be the Art Director at KCBS, and then I ran the graphics department at TelePictures Productions, a division of Warner Bros. My department worked on the Rosie O’Donnell Show, Extra, Jenny Jones, The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, among other shows. My years doing design and animation in television taught me to do lots of creative brainstorming on tight time deadlines. Also, we needed to create designs with great impact that would be noticed in a short amount of consumer attention time. There was a lot of variety and many good projects, but I wanted to be doing something that was more personal to me, more about connections with others, creating a beautiful home, and adding beauty to people’s lives.


“Patriot” (Shown Localized)

-Was it hard to take the leap from the corporate world to a more personal career as an artist?

There’s certainly a whole element of starting over. That part is kind of tough, but I really felt like I was ready to be branching into other things. I had done television work for so many years. Now, when I’m working on projects – let’s say for licensing – it’s just more personal. I’m designing for something I would want to have in my home or something I would design for a friend or family member. I never have problems getting started each day on my work because I really want to sit down and do what I’m doing. I have a high desire to do this. It is definitely a passion for me so that is worth the effort required to make the change.

-What advice would you give to artists who are new to the licensing industry?

Really work on developing your own style. Sometimes people see something out in the marketplace and they’re quick to try and adopt that style. I think it’s really important for people to have their own style that really distinguishes themselves. Sometimes it’s a little bit hard to follow your own path when it seems like everyone else is doing something different. And I think, too, that it’s important to not get discouraged by a rejection. A lot of times it’s not that people didn’t like your work, it just might not have been what they needed at that particular time. So really just to have a lot of perseverance – to just keep going and not get discouraged. I think it’s also important to continue to keep learning new things and to try to have some fun with your work. Look for the opportunities where you can be a little bit looser with things, experiment, and try out something new. Sometimes experiments flop, but sometimes they work! You just have to keep doing it. Every time I work with a manufacturer in a different industry there are more things to learn. I think as I’ve been working, I’ve been getting smarter about how I create artwork so that I can work with different industries. So I would tell other artists to try not to be too locked into a particular format or size. Try to work a little differently and don’t put too many boundaries on it.

Woodland Deer

“Woodland Deer” (Shown Localized)

-What is your biggest challenge as an artist?

Probably having enough hours in the day to really do all the things I want to do. I have a lot more ideas in my head than what I actually have time to do. And I think the other challenge for me is keeping up with wearing all the different hats that I have to. There’s a learning curve with social media, a learning curve with your website, and a learning curve with new software that comes out. It seems like technology changes so rapidly that probably the biggest challenge I face is how to fit enough creative time in while learning all this new technology so that I’m staying current and relevant. It’s just a practical consideration. You’ve got to keep learning. If Adobe comes out with new software in Photoshop, you need to learn it. I just have to keep in mind that everyone who has done great things has all had the same number of hours in the day as I have.

-Tell me about your typical day.

I have kids, so it starts early, at 5:45 when my alarm goes off. After getting the kids to school, I usually get right to work. I have two studios – one that’s in my home and one that’s in a neighboring town. I work in both locations depending on what I am working on. I do different things at different locations – I might do more computer work at one and more drawing at the other. I try to maximize the time in the early part of the day because once I get my kids later in the day the work becomes very scattered. I’m sure there are other moms that juggle the same things I do, like helping with homework and activities like band practice, ballet, Girl Scouts, and music lessons. I have a laptop that goes with me most afternoons and evenings. So I pretty much utilize all my time. When I’m waiting for the kids while they have lessons or are doing some other activities I’m usually drawing or working on the laptop or something.

"Fishing" (Shown Without Localization)


-What type of music do you listen to while you create?

I actually don’t listen to very much music while I create. Sometimes I’ll catch up on some TV on my iPad while I’m creating, but I find that it actually kind of distracts me. I used to listen to music while I worked but I think because life is so full… with the kids and all the other things going on… I actually just really like the quietness of being in my office without a lot of sound around. That might be so vanilla and bland of an answer but there’s something so beautiful about the quiet.

-What is your studio like? What do you surround yourself with?

In my studio I have samples of things that I’ve worked on and I have lots of books and magazines. I love getting home décor magazines. They’re always really inspiring to me. I especially like to get some of the European ones like Elle Décor or Livingetc. Sometimes I’ll frame some of the images I find. The paint color in here is sort of a light, warm gray on three walls and then a really pale blue on the fourth. That way all the colors of my work and other things I have on the walls have a neutral backdrop to stand out against. I have some white magnet boards where I might put up whatever’s inspiring at the time. I’ve got some color charts from Spoonflower and my Pantone books. There’s a lot of counter space in my studio because I tend to pile things up. I can never have enough table space. And I have an eclectic mixture of dog crates for my wonderful dogs, and my son’s drum set in my studio, so I guess that would be the music that I listen to… I do have a number of pairs of earplugs! But it’s definitely a pleasure to hear him practice.

-Do you have a favorite place to work other than your studio?

I did just recently start working at a Starbucks that’s near where I take my daughter to some of her scouting meetings. It’s really nice because it’s this lovely environment – you can get a cup of coffee and get to work. There’s nothing else to distract me. I used to always go into Starbucks and I’d see people working on their laptops and now I guess I’m one of them! It’s very calm and serene.

"Flip Flops Forever" (Shown Localized)

“Flip Flops Forever” (Shown Localized)

-What is your favorite vacation spot/place you’ve traveled?

We went to Portland about a year and a half ago and we loved it. It was beautiful. The kids had a great time there. We do go to Florida a lot because we have family there, but we try to do extra little trips so that we see something different every time; this last time we went to Hilton Head, Savannah and Atlanta. I also have family in the Chicago area and in Washington, D.C. A lot of our trips have really been about going to see family but we also try to do a little more sight-seeing while we’re in those places because we’re from the west coast. The kids get really excited if they get to go when it’s wintertime and see some snow. We like to see all the regional differences when we travel; even with the beaches and the coasts it’s a different feeling on the east than it is on the west.

-What is your biggest inspiration?

I get really inspired by my travels. Usually on vacations I will try to make a point of seeing things that are really native to the area or aspects of nature that I don’t necessarily get to see in California. I also like to look for the differences in the architecture. We might go to Santa Barbara and I really want to check out the different Mexican ceramic tile and the Spanish-style buildings. I really enjoyed visiting Savannah, GA because the architecture there was really different. There was a lot of wrought iron everywhere, and the brick streets were beautiful; the buildings there just have so much history. And even the differences in the trees – the Spanish moss hanging from huge oak trees. That’s so much different than anything I’d see in California. And those differences in nature and architecture usually do become part of my work. A lot of the things I do for calendars will reflect some of the different places that we’ve been.

"Enjoy the Ride" (Shown Localized)

“Enjoy the Ride” (Shown Localized)

-Do you have a favorite piece that you’ve done?

I don’t think I have a favorite. I’ll really like something for a while – I’ll be sort of in love with it and I’ll put it up in my studio – but then I get tired of it and I need to see something new. If I had to pick a favorite, it might be the illustrations I did for a children’s book when I first started to change direction on my work. I loved the illustrations because they were a significant part of developing my own style and in following my heart for work.

-Who is your favorite artist?

When I was a kid growing up my mom was really a big fan of Charles Harper and I’ve always really enjoyed his work. He’s done a lot of graphic representations of animals in nature – really modern, beautiful forms and striking color combinations. I think he was really influential because my mom always had a number of his posters and prints around the house.

-How would you describe your style?

I think it’s kind of tough because I have multiple styles. I would say the thing that’s probably most consistent in my work is that it’s really colorful. I really like a lot of color. We have kind of a 1963 modern style house that we’ve done a lot of renovation on, and my parents had a modern style in furniture and decorating when I was growing up. So I have a very graphic design, clean, modern style, but then I also have a little bit more illustrative and colorful style. I wouldn’t necessarily call it traditional I would call it transitional. And then sometimes I’ll do things that are a little bit looser and sketchier, and might feel a little more retro. Mostly it is colorful and is frequently nature-inspired.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more Artist Features!

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