Cincy is Creative: Robin Ewers Carnes makes a living with stickers, wine-and-paint & dripping eyes

CINCINNATI - Cincinnati and the greater Tri-State region are home to people who excel in artistic and other creative disciplines. Each week, we focus on a creative individual who is bringing new perspectives to our lives and enriching our cultural diversity.

WHO: Robin (Ewers) Carnes
WHAT: Artist, Designer, Owner of R. Ewers Designs and Dogwood Studio
WHERE: Brazee Street Studios , Oakley
LATEST: Drip Series of watercolor paintings
GREATEST: Drip Series of watercolor paintings

You don’t have to live in New York to make it as an artist. Just ask Robin Carnes, the vivacious, newlywed artist who is already well known by her maiden name Robin Ewers. Born and raised in the Cincinnati area, Carnes has no plans to leave Ohio anytime soon. She loves Cincinnati and has already attracted enough fans to be voted Best Local Artist by readers of City Beat magazine. She won the honor in 2010, and was nominated again in 2014.

Carnes has painted several murals, including one in the pool area at Coney Island and one behind Strong’s Brick Oven Pizzeria in Newport, Ky. She is the artist behind the Over-the-Swine Pig, sponsored by the Cincinnati Development Fund and co-artist of the Christian Moerlein Brewing Heritage Pig in the Christian Moerlein Brewery in OTR.

Carnes experiments with many different media and formats, trying everything from pencil, ink, and charcoal drawings to oil and acrylic paintings and wall murals. Currently, she is doing a lot of watercolor work. Some of her most popular works are from her “Drip Series” of watercolor paintings that feature mesmerizing eyes. One client was so intrigued she commissioned Robin to do a similar drip-style watercolor portrait of her eyes.

While working full-time as a graphic designer, Carnes is energetically pursuing her dream of earning a living from her art. She sells prints of her work at art festivals in Mt. Adams, Oakley, and the open-studio nights at Brazee Street Studios. Each Christmas Robin is busy creating hand-drawn family portraits from photographs. Right now, she is working on a nursery room wall mural for expectant parents.

She also sells hand-cut, hand-painted greeting cards through her Etsy store (R. Ewers Designs) and through her page on the Society6 website , you can order one of her designs printed on stretched canvases, art paper, iPad or iPhone cases, or laptop covers.

Art lessons and painting parties 

Robin shares her passion for art by offering one-on-one art instruction, drawing and painting classes for targeted age groups. She offers beginner to advanced lessons in the cozy Dogwood Studio she opened in the Brazee Street Studio art community in Oakley.

Her most popular art education event is the wine-and-painting party she hosts for small groups. Since she started promoting the parties through CincySavers and Living Social, her weekends have been booked solid since January.

“The parties are so much fun,” Carnes said. Each Dogwood Studio party is limited to 10 guests, all of whom are invited by the person who books the event. When everyone already knows each other, the students are less inhibited and ready for fun. Add wine to the mix, and the would-be artists really start to cut loose and laugh.

Carnes believes party-goers enjoy getting together to try something new. The painting parties let them break free of digital screens for awhile and get a little messy making something with their hands. Even those who don’t think they have any art talent relax in the warmth of Robin’s down-to-earth personality.

“Don’t be afraid of the paint,” she encourages the party guests. “It’s just paint. It’s just canvas. You can always fix it. We’re here to have fun in a stress-free environment.”

Carnes is glad the parties bring more people to Brazee Street Studios for the first time. She encourages everyone to come back for the Second Friday events and meet the other artists who work in the other 25 studios in the Brazee Street facility.

Graphic design training pays off

Carnes wanted to be an artist ever since she was a child. After refining her drawing and painting skills in high school, she enrolled in Antonelli College, where she earned a degree in graphic design. While that degree helped her land a full-time job, she said the graphic-design training also helped her expand her knowledge of composition and other principles of fine art. The program’s digital imaging courses helped her understand how many ways she could reproduce and sell her art.

So now she creates and sells prints of her originals. She deliberately makes originals small enough to fit on her flatbed scanner. She then scans each piece and touches them up in Photoshop to ensure the prints look just as good as the

originals. Once the originals have been digitized, Carnes can print her art in whatever size she chooses and on a variety of materials, including plain paper, textured watercolor papers, canvas, or adhesive-backed vinyl.

She then can sell the prints in the $25 to $35 range, a much more appealing option for younger art lovers who can’t yet afford to spend hundreds for original works.



One of Robin’s latest creations is her “Cincinnati” bumper sticker. It started out as a watercolor painting, but has been printed out adhesive-backed vinyl. The stylized “Cincinnati” was inspired by the nameplate on a clock that hangs at one of the doors to Brazee Street Studios, which used to house the old Oakley Tool and Die Company. The bumper-sticker can be purchased for $5.00 through Carnes' Etsy store.

As schools cut back art programs, Carnes is happy to help guide young artists. She encourages them to “find out what type of art makes you tick and hone in on that.”

She says it takes determination and a thick skin to make it as an artist:

“You have to be able to take critiques well,” and keep trying even when you fail.

Constant practice also helps. Carnes carries sketchbooks with her at all times because she never knows when inspiration will strike. She also takes lots of photos of scenes that inspire her.

“I don’t like to paint from other people’s photos. I want to paint from what I find.”

Achieving success as an artist depends partly on how you define it.

“Just do what makes you happy. It’s not about getting fame or recognition,” Robin says. “If painting calms you down and soothes you, and if it’s your peaceful place, you have succeeded.”


(Photos courtesy of R. Carnes)

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