Born and raised in Minnesota, Bonita Roberts’s first encounter with a great work of art was during a visit to the Minneapolis Institute of Art. It was there that she first saw Edgar Degas’s Hortense Valpincon. The work, with its bright colors and child model, made an impression on the young Roberts, and the influence of this work can still be seen in her pieces today.
Roberts interest in art flourished as she grew older. By the time she reached high school, she was sketching the people and places of her local town, often on sheets of freezer paper that her father brought home from his job at the local dairy. Roberts had considered the idea of attending the Art Institute of Chicago, but her father discouraged that plan in favor of a more practical education. It was then that Roberts set aside her dreams of being an artist and began a career in social work. Still, the desire to paint and draw never left her and she frequently visited museums and libraries to study works on her own.
In 1981, Roberts married, and her husband encouraged her to give up social work and pursue her original dream of becoming an artist. She began taking photographs and learning about light and composition and slowly started doing commission portraits, usually in charcoal. In 1993, she began showing her work in commercial galleries and from then on, her pieces have continued to gain popularity. In 1994, Roberts became a member of the American Womens Artists Group. Currently, she continues to live and work in Minnesota.