When she was tending to her ill father a few years ago, Conyers resident Robin Sawyer found comfort in painting.
"My father was dying, and we spent the last year of his life together," said Sawyer. "It was wonderful to have that time with him, but it was very stressful. I started painting as a stress reliever."
Sawyer refers to a majority of her work as "The Spirit of the Horse" and has a unique way of describing what she seeks to accomplish through her brushes.
"They're impressionistic paintings," she said. "It's what I think the horses think they look like on the inside. If a horse could talk and you told him he was brown, he might have an entirely different outlook on his color. That's about the best way I can describe it. I don't really know how I developed my style - I just got started and this is what I came up with."
Painting strictly for her own enjoyment, Sawyer didn't plan to market her work until friends and family members urged her to stick her toe in the community art show waters.
"I had no intention of selling it, but a lot of people encouraged me," she said. "I started taking my work to shows and it's been selling wonderfully."
Her introduction to the art-show world came earlier this year at the Conyers Artist Market, which she admitted was a nerve-racking experience.
"I was very nervous," said Sawyer. "When you're unsure about what you're doing, even if your family and friends like it, it's a little different when you open yourself up to comments that may be negative. I guess there's always a worst-case-scenario feeling the night before your first show.
"Because it was a cold, windy day, the turnout for the market was small, but I was so thrilled because I sold three pieces that day. I thought, 'Great! I can keep doing this.'"
Sawyer added that she was pleasantly surprised to be invited in September to participate in the prestigious Aiken's Makin', a longstanding multi-day event in Aiken, S.C., and showing her work at the show has opened some promising doors.
"Right before I was notified (of acceptance), my sister called me and read me an article from the local newspaper about how they had to turn away a bunch of applications," said Sawyer, who recently showed at the 27th annual Olde Town Fall Festival. "And then the next day, I got accepted. I nearly sold out - it was amazing. By the end of the weekend, I was dumbfounded. And I had to come right home and paint all week for my next show.
"I just sent two of my pieces to a high-end Aiken shop and I'm going to be the only equine artist in their shop. And I have been invited to do a Red Cross gala in Aiken where I'll show my work."
Although she has no formal training in the arts, Sawyer has plenty of experience with horses, as a trainer, teacher and rider.
"I have no training, but I'm very happy to be doing what I'm doing," she said. "I've ridden horses all my life and I trained horses for about 30 years. Horses, dogs and cats have been an integral part of my life as long as I can remember."
Using acrylics on wood and canvas, Sawyer creates multi-staged images, which she said her media of choice helps greatly in the process.
"Acrylics are just easy to work with," she said. "They're very blend-able and they dry fast, so I can move along to the next stage. I usually start with the background and if I worked in oils, I'd have to wait two days for it to dry before I could go back to work on it. I try to do a painting in two or three stages, then I'll hang it up and see if there's anything I want to add or change."
Not limiting herself strictly to horses, Sawyer also creates images of dogs and cats and has started to develop a nice list of commission customers.
"I like working freestyle, but I love it when people send me a photo and I do an impression of their horse or dog," she said. "Except I've had a little trouble with my sister's dog - evidently, she doesn't want to be painted."
It's hard to discern whether Sawyer - who also runs a business called Landlord Liaison, which aids local landlords dealing with tenants in rent collection, eviction and mediation issues - loves painting or her subjects more.
"When painting horses, I use my own experiences and imagination," she said. "Horses have huge personalities - I could make a painting a day of one horse and I'd never capture all he does. There are so many things you can do with a horse and what I do is pulled out of what I've seen in the past and what I see on a day-to-day basis. I translate that."
For more information on Robin Sawyer's paintings, call 404-304-5978 or e-mail at email@example.com.