I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the wonderfully talented artist, Michael Ricketson and learn a little about his thoughts on art and creativity…
Tell us a little about yourself and your work.
My primary medium when I first got into painting seriously, was digital paint. I remember creating digital art, back when it was not considered a serious medium. (Of course today it’s come completely into its own). I first did digital painting in the 1990’s, at the Art Institute of Philadelphia, and it was one of the great revelations of my life. I took to it immediately, it was such a forgiving medium, and for me, color on the screen just glowed! At the Art Institute, I majored in animation, but I easily preferred digital painting over the monotonous grunt work of animation. In college I was also introduced to the computer animation series, Miramar’s “Gate to the Mind’s Eye”. These videos gave me the conviction that art should be beautiful and romantic, and should make life better!
Anyway, about a year and a half ago, I felt like I wanted to create something of real value, something that you could hold in your hand and appreciate, and so I finally took up acrylic painting, after many false starts over the years. I really began to understand the necessity of painting from life, and so I took up still life, to give my eye something to ponder while my hand worked the brush. I worried that I had done things backwards, working in digital art before serious traditional study, but I did find that principles learned in digital work translated well to the real canvas. You just have to respect your own path that you’ve followed.
Most recently I trained for over a year in acrylics and oil, with an accomplished painter named Materese Roche. My current traditional painting is done in a realistic style, and also, recently, abstracted. I first got into painting fruit still life, due to an online painting study course that I was taking. I found the subject to be endlessly suitable for what we really value in art, beauty and color and variation, and so I stuck with it, with a patience that I had not anticipated.
I see myself doing much more acrylic than oil painting in the future, both for health reasons and efficiency of technique.
Do you have any creative routines or rituals?
I do my best conceptualizing inside my mind, that is, without a pencil or brush in my hand! I just sit and let my mind wander, with my eyes half closed and a complete disregard for the passage of time. I also think better with words than pictures, having started my creative journey as a writer, rather than an artist. So my brainstorming work on paper tends to be words as much as anything else!
I have to listen to music when I paint, but it can’t be anything loud or obnoxious!
Painting: Afternoon Passion
Oil on MDF, 5″ x 7″
Artist: Michael Ricketson
Galri Montaj Contemporary Art
What is the best advice you have received with regards to creativity, and what advice could you offer an aspiring artist?
My favorite advice from others is actually inspiration, which is what I get when I look at the art of my peers. The continuous source of ideas and concepts that breathe in the works of others is always what I turn to, when I am drained of elation for my art. I’ve spent many hours online and in bookstores, being reminded that there are no limits to creativity except that which we impose ourselves. I doubt that I would still be an artist if I didn’t have the motivation from my peers!
My personal advice to artists, is to never get the idea that you are not creative. When I was younger, I had this firm conviction that I could not generate creative ideas. I would struggle in school to complete writing assignments, as it would take me too long to decide what to write about. Even after I got started writing, I couldn’t finish the paper, because that would involve making more creative decisions and having a commitment to completion. This attitude changed when I took up creating 4-panel comic strips, a medium which forces you to be blunt, immediate and productive. By writing about what I loved and understood, I discovered that I wasn’t as bereft of ideas as I’d imagined. There are some practical tools and tricks for stirring up creativity in the mind that I’ve found very helpful, one of which is working with what you already know, what comes naturally for you. For example, with the comics, I would be totally lazy in idea generation, by simply imagining any type of mundane situation, and then dropping my characters into that scenario. Because I had a good grasp of who these characters were (extensions of myself perhaps) the scene would take a life of its own, as the characters responded and handled the problems at hand in their own ways. Ideas came naturally because I was at ease with the characters that I wrote about. So art is real and can happen on its own, the trick is not to stand in its way.
If you can, absolutely try to train under a professional artist. Being in the presence of a skilled painter will teach you things that you won’t get from books…. Little things, such as how to handle a brush, when and how often to wipe the brush while blending, etc. Of course you won’t end up mimicking your teacher in every way. But when you’re a beginner, seeing is believing, and you need to believe deep down inside that great paintings are possible. Seeing a wonderful painting come alive puts a thought in your head, that you can do the same thing.
We’ve all heard it before, but persistence is really the one important trait to have, in becoming an artist. You become who you want to be, by simply ignoring what any negative self-perception tells you is true. I can’t tell you how many times I set out to become an acrylic painter, only to quit two weeks later with the firm pronouncement that I would never be a traditional artist. But one day I finally decided that I wanted to be a painter badly enough. I started to paint in acrylic once again, and when the usual mental roadblock was thrown in my path, telling me to give it up, I simply ignored it and continued painting. So not long afterwards, I realized, “Hey, look at me! I’m painting every day now. I am a painter!” And sure enough, I was. The mental barrier restraining me, today looks to have been paper thin in reality, but it took too long to figure that out.
Painting: Night Reordered
Oil on MDF, 11″ x 14″
Artist: Michael Ricketson
Galri Montaj Contemporary Art
What does “being creative” mean to you?
This question makes me think more specifically of the controversy, “What is art?” I believe that we’ve let pride and commercialism mold our perceptions in defining art, and I think we need to remember that art is simply any small act of personal expression. And that expression is completely separate from skill of any kind, and is not beholden to people’s opinions on its value or accomplishment. Of course, we can add commercial value to art by doing it with skill, but art is neither about money nor ability at its core.
So what is expression? It is anything done for the sake of doing it, or for creating an aesthetic value. It can be a scribble, or a photorealistic painting. I disagree with those who say that photorealism is a technical exercise as opposed to art, because I think it is rare that a painter creates any type of work without making some adjustment for beauty or other interest!
What would be your dream project?
I’ve always hoped that digital virtual reality would make some great strides in my lifetime. It’s been slow in developing, but it’s fascinating to consider the possibilities, that of creating your own world which is almost indistinguishable from real life. Then art will truly be without limitation, every little aspect of your life open to your imagination and development. Paul McKenna predicted that we would soon move out of the information age, and into what he calls the psycho-technology age, in which bettering our minds and tapping our inner strengths would be the prevailing culture. This, along with sophisticated virtual reality, would be an artist’s dream, and would surely result in many new collaboration projects that we could only imagine today.
What are some of your professional goals?
When I was accepted into the gallery of Galri Montaj Contemporary Art, I received some needed encouragement to continue exploring abstraction in my painting, which is new for me. I think that more and more, my paintings will be enigmatic explorations of color and texture, but always with a trace of the representational, so as to retain an easy connection with the viewer. I think that people relate best to human stories, which means that a painting should be thought provoking, and strive to remain in the person’s conscious long after the viewing. Becoming an accomplished abstract artist is a main goal.
To become an art collector myself one day, would bring immense satisfaction! I could imagine turning my home into a place where others could come and see wonderful works of art. I enjoy reading of some of the legendary collectors of our time, and I’m always keen to understand their thought processes, and am appreciative of the opportunities that they can give to artists.
I have a side interest in pigments themselves, I can see myself one day making my own paints!
Painting: Still Life with Small Pumpkin
Acrylic on Masonite, 6″ x 6″
Artist: Michael Ricketson
Where can we find your work?
My work can be found online at Galri-Montaj Contemporary Art:
Also you can visit my website at:
And also on Pinterest:
I would like to take the opportunity to thank Michael for taking time out of his busy schedule to share with us his thoughts on creativity and to give us insight into his brilliant art. Please take some time to check out his amazing artwork.