Some kids get picked to decorate the hallways of their school with murals. Then there’s Esther Roby, who designed an intricate tile mosaic for her school in Rome during her formative years. No juvenile trifle this: Roby’s “Venere of Botticelli” still stands stands to this day as a testament to this native ItalianÍs artistic passion.
“It was amazing growing up in Rome,” says Roby, 55, who now calls Geneva, Ill., home. “Rome is a magical town with so much energy, history and delicious food. And loving the arts, I was able to go see the most incredible masterpieces from renowned artists.” It was all just blocks from her house, as Roby lived 10 minutes from the Coliseum. “It was such an inspiration to be able to enjoy so much beauty, anytime.”
And as time went on, Roby added to the Eternal City’s beauty. Much of her work was displayed and sold at the famous Piazza Navona, and as a student at Rome’s College of Architecture, Roby worked with a team of artists commissioned to decorate old buildings, walls and ceilings.
“That remains one of my favorite memories,” Roby says. “It was a truly incredible experience. Being in a group with other artists created a synergy that was very inspiring. And being able to see the work of amazing artists up close was priceless!”
Today, Roby works her artistic magic predominantly via oil paint on canvas. She seems equally at home depicting a still life of a rustic Mediterranean kitchen, or emulating the work of the masters.
Her projects have run the gamut from quaint Italian street scenes to a marathon project for the National Football League. In conjunction with Super Bowl XXXIV, the NFL tapped Roby to paint 70 recreations of famous artists (including Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Dali). She also has done many paintings of children and animals, “but I also love to paint landscapes, capturing the play of light, shadows and reflections.”
Yet this restless creative isn’t satisfied with one mode of artistic expression, and has extended herself into the world of culinary arts. Her husband, Chef Alain Roby, runs the All Chocolate Kitchen in Geneva, and Esther has found herself quite involved with that endeavor over the last year. “I enjoying sharing the Italian and French influence in the desserts with customers and especially introducing them to authentic Italian gelato and coffee,” she says. But hold the paper cup, if you please: “In Rome we don’t use to-go cups. We like to take the moment to enjoy the cup of coffee — and then run!”
And what makes Esther Roby run? “I always follow my passion and what makes me happy,” she says. “Art equals happiness.” That goes for whether she’s home in Geneva, back in Rome, or somewhere in between: “Every place I’ve been, I always carry a picture in my mind so I can bring it back on a canvas.”
To check out the work of Esther Roby, please visit esther-roby.com.