Art is your second career. How you decided to make this transition and when?
FR: After 17 years of banking my last job with Bank of America was Senior Group Operations Manager for the banks bankruptcy accounts nationwide, I was ready to make a drastic change so I quit in 1991 to pursue a career in art. One thing I took away from banking was the ability to understand the marketing and managing of my artwork.
Why did I quit a good paying job? My partner Daniel was very encouraging about my leaving the bank to pursue a career in art. Daniel led by example. He had quit his corporate job a few years before I did to purse an advance degree in Psychology. He was the main reason I felt safe enough to take the leap.
I enrolled at San Francisco City College immediately after leaving the bank. I immersed myself in figure drawing, printmaking and art history. In 1993, Daniel and I left San Francisco to the Windy City for Daniel’s graduate work at DePaul University. Immediately I discovered The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), I was so green that I didn’t know anything about the school or it’s reputation. In 1994, I applied to the school and was accepted. My focus was painting/drawing from the nude figure and printmaking. I graduated with a Bachelors of Fine Art degree in 1997.
You are a lucky man to have such a supportive partner.
FR: Very lucky to have Daniel by my side supporting my art career. Even to this day Daniel is my biggest supporter and critic of my work. He has an eye for art and I value his input (most of the time). We’ll be celebrating 25 years together this year. We were legally married on our 20th anniversary almost five years ago on September 23, 2008. An experience I’ll never forget standing by my life partner with family and friends in attendance. I’m very lucky and wish the same for everyone.
How did you become interested in the figure?
FR: As far back as I can remember I loved to draw and have always been interested in the human body. As a young boy I thought I would become a fashion designer. I loved drawing imaginary women in fantastic exotic - almost futuristic dresses. I drew caricatures of my young sisters who were readily available models. I guess this was the start of understanding of anatomy and proportion. Throughout the years, my interest in the figure has broadened and changed. I focus on communicating an idea through emotion or thought celebrating the dynamic power of the human form. Aside from the figure, I paint urban-scapes. It’s a nice departure from the figure when I need a break but I always come back to the figure.
You combine classical influence and imperfection; oversized hands and feet, less than model-like models. How did this style evolve?
FR: I started figure drawing classes at San Francisco City College with the idea I had to draw the figure as accurately and perfectly as possible. My drawing medium at the time was graphite pencils; I stayed away from charcoal because I didn’t know how to work with it until I started taking classes at SAIC. My figure drawings were very stiff, precise and in proportion but my drawing instructors at SAIC would have none of that. That’s when I started using charcoal sticks and conte crayon and POW! my figure drawings were fluid in approach and much more interesting.
While attending SAIC I discovered many artists. I was particularly interested in old master drawings and paintings by Michelangelo, Carracci Brothers, Parmigianino, Pontormo, Teipolo, Pierre Paul Prud’hon, etc. The Art Institute of Chicago Museum has a vast collection of old master drawings and as a student of the school I was privy to their collection. Contemporary artists who have also played a large part in influencing my work are Paul Cadmus, Lucien Freud, Picasso and more notably Egon Schiele. Schiele stands out the most for me because of his raw, sensual, erotic and sometimes disturbing imagery of the figure. It wasn’t beauty he was after but rather documenting life of people around him as he saw it.
In 1997 I returned to California after graduating from SAIC and started my career as a full time artist. I lived in Davis for one year where discovered the artists of the Bay Area Figurative movement; Parks, Diebenkorn, Neri but most notably Nathan Oliviera. Throughout the years and the accumulation of knowledge, influence and inspiration of so many master artists, it has given me the impetus to develop my own voice in painting, drawing and printmaking. As my technique has evolved, it’s still very important to me that my art stays fresh and exciting. That’s what keeps my audience engaged as they continue to follow the progress of my work and my career. I have collectors that started purchasing my work in the early years who continue to follow me and have become major collectors.
Tell us about your current series
FR: The current series INCARNATE was created for a solo show that opened December 2012 at Nieto Fine Art in San Francisco. It was an homage to the artist Egon Schiele as stated in my artist statement.
In preparation for this exhibition I researched books and websites specific to Schiele to select drawings that I thought I could work from as inspiration to create paintings. My new work is not meant to be literal to Schiele’s drawings but they were the inspiration for creating paintings that are distinctly mine.
Why an homage to Schiele?
FR: Since discovering Egon Schiele’s work I’ve had an affinity for how he portrayed passion, sexuality and expressionism. In my past exhibitions of figurative nudes, undoubtedly I’d be approached by people who would ask me if I know of Egon Schiele’s work. They would express a familiarity of my work to Schiele. As an artist this is the ultimate compliment when one can evoke this type of response. In 2012, while exhibiting at the Sausalito Art Fair an older gentleman - probably in his mid-late 80’s spent some time viewing my figurative work. He turned to me and asked if I was familiar with the artist Egon Schiele? I smiled and replied, “Yes, I am”. He said he owns two drawings by Schiele and that my work reminded him of his drawings. He owns two drawings and sees them everyday! This was the first time I’ve ever met a collector who owns work by Egon Schiele that paid me a compliment. Amazing!
Do you have any advice to aspiring artists?
FR: YES I do!! Be open to looking at all types of art. Visit museums, gallery openings and artist studios; especially artist studios. Ask for advice! I along with many of my artist friends are willing to talk to aspiring artists to provide insight on how we started and where we’re at in our careers.
Work hard and be patient, submit to juried competitions and believe in what you do with your art. Art is a business, unfortunately it is, and like most artists this is the side of art most are not familiar with. My studio is a “working studio” where I create and show art. My home office is where I handle the business side e.g., managing my art inventory, collector base, mailing list, submissions, banking, etc.
Competition is intense, there are so many artists in the Bay Area who are looking to make their mark in the world of art. Like I said earlier, believe in what you’re doing, be innovative and fresh. When you think you’re ready, start searching out art venues, galleries, coffee shops, etc. anything where you can get exposure. Join art organizations like Pro Arts www.proartsgallery.org
(East Bay) or ArtSpan www.artspan.org