The Dedicated Life of an Artist

The Dedicated Life of an Artist
By Anna Horsnell

Dedication plays a key role in most successful careers. Artist Twila Robar-Decoste is no exception. For as long as she can remember she wanted to be an artist. She also had a keen interest in science, specifically the natural world. Last, but by no means least, she always had strong and unwavering ties to her childhood home of Aylesford. Those three things, art, science, and home, have remained constants throughout her life, and her artistic career is a testament to that dedication.

Robar-Decoste was one of those children who sketched during breaks in school. She always wanted to do art and that hunger to draw and paint would never leave her. Largely self-taught, she was drawn to the fine details that determine realism. Art of this type requires patience, a sharp eye for seeing the truth of a subject, and a determination to get it right. These skills do not develop overnight, and Robar-Decoste was happiest when following her passion, taking the time to explore and learn.

Artists grow out of inspiration and what inspired Robar-Decoste, even as a young girl, was the great outdoors. She spent many hours riding her horse or wandering the fields and forest with her dog, soaking up the natural world. When it came time for university, science seemed like a natural choice, a safer choice perhaps than the insecurities associated with the life of an artist. Robar-Decoste earned her Bachelor of Science degree at Acadia and soon after began her master’s, destined, she thought, for a career in research.
Life, however, was about to braid her passions in a twist of fate. Biology professor Dr. Merritt Gibson knew of Robar-Decoste’s artistic talents, and asked if she might consider illustrating a book he was writing. That project was the first of a long collaboration that would lead Robar-Decoste to illustrate eighteen books over the subsequent years. Most of the books were on natural history and provided an excellent opportunity to not only use her scientific knowledge but to hone her technical skills as an artist. Robar-Decoste went on to acquire a further degree in education, and taught school as a substitute teacher for ten years. Then in 1987 she taught her first art class and hasn’t missed a year of teaching art to this day. Illustration, teaching art, painting, and exhibiting became her profession.

Robar-Decoste has enjoyed the different aspects of her art career and has worked hard to do art well. She has also been aware of the opportunity to share her love of nature with others. “If I’ve awakened them to something new, to understand something, to care for it … the world needs that right now.”

Contentment resides at home, and for Robar-Decoste there is no doubt her heart has always belonged to Aylesford. Building a career at home in the Annapolis Valley has made her success all the sweeter. Her Windsong Studio and Gallery is surrounded by thirty acres of beautiful woodland which provides her with endless research material and peace of mind. Here she hopes to continue her studies in contemporary botanical art and to do more painting in oils.

“I made a job for myself,” she smiles, “I have been incredibly blessed. Art was my path. I am very content with life and always have been. I’ve done everything I wanted to in life.”

Contact the artist by phone at 902-847-9847 or email

Images: Ladyslipper Pair and Cortland by Twila Robar-Decoste