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Art & Life with Rob Varela

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rob Varela.

Rob, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I’m a self-taught graphic designer and my career has spanned four decades. I knew I could draw but I never considered myself an artist.

About five years ago, my wife Teresa and I were on vacation and we popped into an art gallery to kill some time. Enjoying the art, I mentioned to her that I had always wanted to learn to paint. She said I should look online and see if I could find some art lessons somewhere when we got home.

I did a search for art lessons and I found Jo Long in Cave Creek. When I first met with her, she asked me what I wanted to get out of our lessons. I told her that if I could just paint one painting that I could hang in my home, then I’d be happy.

We started with basic drawing and Jo was very encouraging. From what I know of myself and most artists I’ve met, we are very self-conscious and lack confidence in our talent and ability. So when Jo complimented me and encouraged me, it was worth more than gold.

After working with Jo, I found Phoenix Center for the Arts and began taking lessons from Edna Dapo. When I walked into the studio for the first lesson, another artist, Linda Spiars, was working on a portrait that was incredibly life-like. I thought to myself, I have no business being here and almost left.

But I stuck around and like Jo, Edna was very encouraging. When I finished my second or third painting in Edna’s class, she said I should submit it for an upcoming art show. I was floored! I couldn’t believe that something I painted was good enough for an art show. And when it was juried into the show, I was ecstatic!

I still take lessons from time to time and, because of the praise I received from Jo and Edna and the impact that it had on me, I always try to offer praise and encouragement to other artists, whether they’re established and have been painting for years or they’re just starting out.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
I know there are artists that have a “voice”… have something to say in their art. They paint powerful pieces that provoke thought and make statements. Unfortunately, I’m not that guy!

I’m relatively new to fine art so I’m still learning. I’m still looking for my style so I experiment with realism, impressionism, and abstract. I think the two that I enjoy most are abstract and impressionism.

What I enjoy most about abstract is that it’s an intuitive and instinctive form of expression for me. I get as much enjoyment seeing the piece being created as I do the finished piece itself. But what I love most about abstract is that it belongs to the viewer as must as it does the artist. People see different things in my paintings and it becomes their painting too!

What do I hope people take away from my art? Well, I hope it brings them enjoyment. I hope they see something beautiful in it.

Do you think conditions are generally improving for artists? What more can cities and communities do to improve conditions for artists?
Not sure if life has become easier or harder for artists in recent years. But I think the opportunity to create art has become easier, especially through technology with all the apps that are available now. My four-year-old granddaughter has a painting app on her tablet and she uses different brushes and blends color. It’s pretty amazing! So someone who may be interested in art can learn and experiment on a tablet without having to invest in brushes, paints, canvases, easels, etc.

As for art in the Phoenix area, I think it’s made great strides, especially in the past decade or so. When I moved to the valley in the late 1980s, the only place I knew of art galleries was Old Town Scottsdale. Now, as downtown Phoenix has grown and matured, the Roosevelt Row area seems to be the place to be for art, especially with First Fridays.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
I have a website,, that right now features mostly abstract work. But I’m in the process of updating it to show more of my impressionism and portraits.

I also submit frequently to group shows in the valley. I will be showing a piece in an upcoming show at Herberger Theater Gallery. The artist reception is on June 7 and the show runs through June. I have a page on my website that lists upcoming shows.

Contact Info:

  • Website:
  • Phone: 602-432-2637
  • Email:
  • Instagram: rob_varela_art
  • Facebook: Robert Varela Fine Art

Image Credit:
Rick Odell Photo

Getting in touch: VoyagePhoenix is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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