Article by JAMIE CHASE
Robbi Firestone’s portraits capture the spirit within By Victoria Becker For Tacoma Weekly Published on: October 16, 2008 Two things are true about Robbi Firestone. One is that most people who meet her for the first time do not forget her. The second is that her portraits have the same effect, making her one of our best known and most sought after artists in Tacoma and the Pacific Northwest today.
When Firestone sits across from you she takes you in with large green eyes as if preparing to paint a portrait of this moment. However, it is Firestone who commands attention whether she is in a “wife-beater” T-shirt, pinning her hair up, or in formal attire playing celebrity at the esteemed Poncho Gala, auctioning a portrait as the featured artist in Seattle.
Several years ago she was living in Los Angeles, managing an entertainment company and starring in commercials. At that time she had an offer she couldn’t refuse to come to the Pacific Northwest. Knowing only one person here she fearlessly left her home and started brand new digs in Tacoma. It’s not the first time Firestone did what most would call a scary proposition. When she was afraid of the water she decided to take diving lessons in shark-infested waters in Turks and Caicos. When a pickpocket stole her friend’s wallet, she chased him down New York City streets, threw him against a wall and impersonated a cop until the real ones got there. She skydives, adventure travels and takes big life leaps when fear rears its ugly head. Firestone is also a businesswoman to be reckoned with. “Most artists hang out only with other artists,” she explains. “I hang out with artists and successful business people to learn from them. I know my art viscerally.” Her business plan includes tithing 5 percent to a charity of her client’s choice and 5 percent to one of her choice. When asked why she charges so much, she didn’t bat an eye. “I love that question. Today I charge $10,000 per person in a portrait. It is inexpensive considering my friend in Geneva just paid $2,000,000 to have his wife’s portrait done by Julian Schnabel. “My portraits include a Spirit Capture – a synopsis of how my client contributes to the world. It is a calligraphic stream of consciousness, scripted into the composition.” Each portrait is designed for the client’s home down to the beautiful paper backing. The painting is wrapped and presented like a gift. In order to prepare for the client sitting, Firestone spends time meditating the day before. Sometimes she goes to a spa, does yoga or visits a sacred place. The whole time painting is spent chatting with her subject. “During our time my client feels fully accepted, honored and cherished.” Firestone was educated at New York’s prestigious Parson’s School of Design and Fashion Institute of Technology. She paints Fortune 500 CEOs, politicians and celebrities. She remembers being a teenager in a small, roach-ridden apartment in New York City, flirting with poverty, vowing never to return to such conditions. Playing the celebrity at the Poncho Gala in Seattle this summer and matched with Dale Chihuly, it doesn’t look like Firestone will be revisiting those days any time soon. Her work will appear at the esteemed Agape International Galleries in Los Angeles Nov. 8-Jan. 26, 2009. Check her out at www.RobbiFirestone.com.