Meet Local Artist:
Rob Gerdin, designer and senior creative director of NatureRails, LLC
Custom metal railings, gates, fire screens, murals, mixed media. Airbrush & Sculpting
http://www.NatureRails.com 941-351-2598 INFO@NatureRails.com
His family and friends say that Rob sees everything: that pelicans twist upside down a split second before they hit the water; that the lower beak of skimmers is longer than the top one; that each feather of a bird is completely different from the others. Even when he was just 4 years old, he noticed things that others didn’t; he used his crayons not to fill in spaces but to shade, blending the colors to more realistically capture the intricate beauty of nature.
When he was 13, Rob’s family moved from Queens, NY to the Hudson River Valley, and his appreciation for nature was moved as well. “I was used to seeing rats and pigeons but suddenly there was another world so beautiful; there were deer, huge green spaces, and so many birds with unique colors and feathers.” The birds became his favorite subjects, so much so that his high school art teacher dubbed him “the birdman.” At 13 he sold his first professional painting to his orthodontist.
As an adult, Rob lived in Silicon Valley and then San Francisco, working by day and then coming home to paint at night. As a self-taught artist, he studied art at a community college but ended up teaching his teachers and fellow students. He then taught himself computer graphics, beginning with Corel Draw in its 1.0 version. His artwork garnered recognition and awards.
A transformative moment came when he moved to Colorado, met his wife Wendy, and built a log home that required dozens of wood spindles for the balcony. Again, Rob saw things differently. Here was an opportunity to take something functional and turn it into a work of art. The idea hit him at 3 am and by the time he was done, he had designed three metal panels depicting an eagle, moose, trees, and mountains to replace the spindles. NatureRails was born.
Under Rob’s artistic guidance, NatureRails produces custom steel and aluminum gates, railings, and mural panels that draw from the ideas, symbols, and interests of clients as well as the nature that surrounds them. Since their move to Sarasota in 2011 to be near his mother, Florida has inspired a new motif: starfish, clown fish in seaweed, dolphins, and of course the birds: egrets, blue heron, pelicans, and barred owls.
Each NatureRails item is meticulously designed to meet code, safety considerations, and built “like a bridge” by local metal fabricators to last even in a salty and tropical climate like Sarasota’s. [To see how they’re made, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kltPQMqWdFQ] There are no large areas of empty space, no sharp edges, and no area lacking a protective powder coating.
But what there IS, is art.
“If you can imagine it, we can design it.” Rob interviews his clients, interprets the ideas he collects, uses photos and research to get the details right, freehand draws into a tablet with a stylus and then from there uses his painterly skills to design the piece. “I’m a nature guy trying to be a metal guy,” he says.
His background in painting and his love for nature show in his works, but so does his sensitivity to what is meaningful to his clients. One of his current projects, [Full Disclosure: for my sister Cat] is a mural that depicts the Ringling Bridge, a woman below on a SUP board, her whippet watching from shore, and her favorite birds in the scene. Her reaction to the design: “It’s brilliant! He’s brilliant! Even better than what I had imagined.”