story: Sandie Tillery photo: Brent Van Auken
Roby Baer, PSA— Picture–Perfect Pastelist
Among wildlife and conservation groups, one local artist’s work stands out among the throng. She has earned accolades from such groups as Quail Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited and the Dove Sportsman’s Society. More than 100 of her works have been donated to fundraising efforts including Upland Game, Shasta Land Trust, KIXE and The Wild Horse Sanctuary. Roberta (Roby) Baer is a home-grown, self-taught Shasta County artist who enjoys international acclaim for her photorealistic pastel paintings.
Viewed close up or from a discreet distance, the images painted on Baer’s Bristol boards can hardly be distinguished from the view through a camera lens. Her artistic challenge is always to create that illusion so the viewer will ask, “Is it a painting or a photograph?” She works from reference photographs she and husband Rich snap from their backyard and on country excursions, as well as contributions from friends and family. Other resources broaden her picture-perfect representations. There is nothing like a visit to the zoo, she explains, to give her realistic images from which to work as she paints.
Baer has turned her rare talent into a “fun” lifestyle encouraged and supported by her husband for the past 12 years, ever since their two sons left home. Though she has plenty of space in their comfortable home to use as a studio, she prefers to paint from her favorite easy chair in the living room with a lap easel and side table ready with painting supplies. Her large picture window offers inspiration with a bird’s-eye view of local wildlife in the rustic landscape just beyond their backyard. Roby paints, Rich prints, mats and frames, and together they travel throughout the year to various arts and crafts shows in Oregon, California and Nevada where her work has found a faithful following. Baer attributes their successful marketing efforts to her husband for the set up and upkeep of websites.
Her love for wildlife springs from an idyllic childhood lived first along the banks of the Sacramento River, and later on a small ranch in Palo Cedro. She credits her early years as part of a “fishing family” for the beginnings of her interest in all things living. Along with identical twin sister and best friend Becky, and their older brother Garrett, Baer launched out on true Huckleberry Finn adventures, including rafting on the river between the area near the current Posse Grounds and where the Sundial Bridge now spans. Her patient mother, Baer says, put up with snakes and lizards, among other wild “critters” that the young adventurers brought home to nurse, display and study. Later, the ranch offered a whole new variety of domestic and wild animals for Baer to learn about and from which to store mental images for her artwork.
Her grandmother, Marjorie Garrett (a well-known impressionist artist during the 1940s and 1950s), Baer’s mother (who was a recreational oil painter) and her paternal grandfather, Hilton Reynolds, gave her the early foundations of art appreciation. Often the children would accompany their grandmother on her en plein air painting excursions where chalks and drawing pads kept little hands busy. Though Baer has had no formal training, she remembers Enterprise High School art teacher Rex Morvac explaining the importance of LMD (light, medium and dark) as contrasts. From those humble and inauspicious beginnings has grown a prolific and highly acclaimed body of work.
Among her professional achievements, Baer proudly lists recognition as a Signature Member of the Pastel Society of America based on her lifetime achievements and awards; this gives her the right to tag PSA after her name. She is also an Associate Member of the Pastel Society of the West Coast, Shasta County Arts Council and North Valley Art League. Baer was included among “Master Painters of the World Showcase” in the 2003 issue of International Artists Magazine and was featured in the 2008 issue of Pastel Journal. Her work has graced the covers of numerous wildlife magazines and she has been chosen “Artist of the Year” by Quail Unlimited and Dove Sportsman’s Society, among other notable tributes.
Baer gushes about her life in the North State. A resident of Redding now, she says, “I love my town!” Evidence of her passion for her community and her artistry was recognized in her portrayal of the Sundial Bridge, chosen from among close to 100 entrants in the Turtle Bay Exploration Park contest. It was featured at the grand opening of the bridge on July 3, 2004, where she was honored alongside Santiago Calatrava, the bridge designer.
“The Daily Paintings of Roberta 'Roby” Baer' can be viewed along with a video demonstration at robybaer blogspot.com. A gallery of Baer’s work can be seen at robys.com.