No artist had a sweeter year than Robyn Blair Davidson, the creator of byrobynblair, and according to OK, The Most In Demand Instagram Artist Of 2018. There are very few artists today whose careers have moved quite at the speed hers has. In January, she was a creative strategist at her namesake experiential marketing company. By November, her artwork was displayed in the windows of Saks Fifth Avenue at Brookfield Place in Manhattan.
So, how did Davidson become one of the most popular artists of the year? It’s a combination of talent, social media and her experience in the corporate world. The fact that her medium is something everyone likes doesn’t hurt either.
The Accidental Artist
Davidson didn’t plan on becoming an artist. Prior to starting her own business, she had a thriving career as the director of marketing and sales for fashion line Ronny Kobo. After working there for eight years, Davidson pivoted to the world of experiential marketing, launching her own agency with a focus on partnerships and branding.
One of her clients was artist Peter Tunney, who inspired her to look at art and decor in an entirely new way. After gifting her a limited edition print, he told her, “having a piece of art that you love can really change how you feel every day.”
Realizing how influenced she really was by her surroundings, Davidson took his words to heart and began redecorating. She bought one of Deborah Kass’ iconic C’Mon Get Happy prints and hung it in the living room of her Chelsea apartment. “I love the way bright, happy things make me feel.”
Then one day, she was sitting in her living room looking at an oversized bowl that was entirely filled with candy and thought “I want this candy on my wall.”
She was inspired to create her first piece, which was Double Bubble with hot pink writing that read In Case Of Emergency Break Glass. “It was clean and minimalistic, but still allowed me to use real candy,” she explained.
Friends and family saw her creations and wanted pieces for themselves. She posted pictures of her work on Instagram and it instantly went viral.
Social Media Sugar
Soon enough, complete strangers were commissioning custom pieces with different candies including Starbursts, Blow Pops, Nerds and gummy bears. “I became so busy making and marketing these pieces, it became my full-time job,” she said. By June, Davidson wrapped up her marketing contracts and focused on her art exclusively.
Candy Is Dandy
It’s easy to understand the appeal of Davidson’s designs. Most people don’t know how to buy art, but everyone knows how to buy candy. Each work has a familiar, humorous and somewhat nostalgic vibe. “I have a lot of couples that buy from me who say they weren’t able to agree on a piece until they saw my art,” she revealed.
And much like the sugary treat itself, some of Davidson’s customers can’t have just one piece. “People like coming back for more because things look even better in groups of two or three pieces together,” she said.
Davidson has even garnered a celebrity following. Emmy Rossum, Sonja Morgan from Real Housewives of New York, Iska Lawrence and influencer Arielle Charnas of Something Navy have all purchased her work.
Davidson is constantly working on new designs. “I play with candy in a blank space, where I physically arrange it. I put together different colors and combinations that I like. When it comes time to make the pieces, I already know what it is going to look like,” she explained. “Everything is intentional. Even though I fell into the art world, when it comes to making the art itself, nothing is an accident.”
All of Davidson’s work is handmade and each piece is one-of-a-kind. “Even though I’ve sold over 100 Double Bubbles, no one has the bubble gum in the exact same space,” Davidson says. Because every piece is unique, it also makes byrobynblair highly collectable.
As for a favorite candy to work with, Davidson likes it all. “I love when I can combine lots of different brands together. Lately, I’ve been loving the monochromatic look of various candies with all the same hues in different shapes and sizes.” Artistically, the options are endless.
byrobynblair x everyone
Davidson’s first collaboration was with Name Glo. She worked the brand in June to design an installation with both candy and neon, which was displayed at American Two Shot in SoHo. “We built this mini Candy Land around the piece and it was in the store for the summer for people to visit and take photos in front of.” Davidson will be working with Name Glo again to launch a capsule collection in 2019.
Launched in August, Davidson also created a line of limited edition prints through ArtSugar that was sold on Dormify. While her custom work normally starts at $1500, this limited edition collaboration cost just $150. While the run has ended, she plans on creating another line of accessibly priced prints in the future.
In December, Davidson was commissioned by jeweler Harry Winston to make pieces for an exclusive VIP event in Los Angeles. “I had to pinch myself when they reached out to me. Getting to work with Harry Winston was a dream come true,” she says.
While all of these collaborations were exciting, perhaps there was nothing more thrilling than having a pop-up at Saks Fifth Avenue for the holidays. She describes seeing her candy creations in the windows as surreal. Davidson confessed, “I would spend days standing outside the window and watching people stop and look and take pictures of my work.”
Coming Full Circle
She attributes her success as an artist to the skills she learned in the corporate world. “If you asked me fifteen years ago if working for a clothing line could ever translate to success in the art world, I would have said no way! But it’s all about relationships. Everyone I’ve worked with for the past ten years now wants to support me. It’s the first time I’ve had my name on something that is solely mine. The support from former colleagues and contacts has been incredible.”
While 2018 might be a tough year to beat for the artist, 2019 is looking just as bright. Davidson is expanding her medium beyond candy to other collectable items. She is also working on a new category of products that she plans to launch in February on her website—just in time for Valentine’s Day. It doesn’t get much sweeter than that.