Monday, March 14, 2011

Introducing Richard Bolingbroke

Richard in his studio, 2003 (photo Greg Day)

AG - I've noticed that the native environment of an artist often leaves the strongest visual imprint. Where did you grow up and how do you see this primary environment affecting your work?

RB - I grew up in southern England. I don’t think this environment had any noticeable impact on my work except that my initial sources of inspiration were English. I clearly remember seeing Blake and Turner watercolors at the Tate gallery, however as soon as I was living in London, I left behind my rustic country roots.

AG - How did you first come to doing art? Was it ever a hobby or part-time passion before you went full-time?

Richard in the woods in Tennessee (photo Jok Church)
RB - Art initially was an escape for me from the frustrations of school.  My early work was sculpture, often wall reliefs made from plaster casts of clay moulds that I had beaten and carved with large pieces of wood! The art teacher recognized my talent and encouraged me to draw and paint. I got a place at Winchester School of Art, and attended for a pre-diploma year in 1969, and then went on to do a degree in Geography. I painted constantly, and taught myself to draw. I learned watercolor while travelling to India and around Europe. It wasn’t until I arrived in San Francisco in 1986 that I focused on my art full-time.
Parrot Tulip Abstraction, 1993, watercolor 41x29

AG - What other jobs have you done? 

RB - I was a professional chef for 10 years and co-wrote a cook book. I started my own handman business called The House Doctor here in San Francisco which supported me as I began my art career.

AG - When did you commit to doing art full-time?

RB - When I moved to San Francisco in 1986 I discovered I was HIV+ and at that point I decided that I had no time to lose. It took me a couple of years to put together a body of work and by 1989 I was showing with the Artists Guild. I figured I might have 10 years ahead of me. In 2000 when it was clear I was going to live, I refocused my career to be even more creative. I started to take courses in Monotype and Intaglio at City College as an alternative to my main medium of watercolor, and I started to paint more challenging work such as the work from the series Rituals and Meditations.

AG - Many people have described the move to being a full-time artist as a "leap of faith". How did this transition affect you?

RB - I made the transistion slowly, supporting myself with my other business. However I was clear from the time I made the decision to be supported by my art that it was what I wanted. It was never really a “choice” but a necessity to “do it”. For a while I was working two jobs, my art in the evening and on weekends, and my other job in the day. This was really intense, and took a lot of commitment.
Gesture and Feeling #11, 2005,
watercolor on paper 29.5x29.5

AG - Did your family support you in your artistic passion? How has the support, or lack thereof, affected your artistic direction?

RB - I have never received any support from my family. In fact they were shocked that I had obtained a place at an art school, and this probably affected my decision to pursue a Geography degree instead of an MFA. My mother came round to letting me do it as it became clear that I was never going to have that “safe” job.

AG - Describe a day in the life. What studio hours do you keep and how do you balance other demands in your life?

Love and Death, 2007,
watercolor on paper 40x40
RB - Being an artist for me is about totally giving in to the daily needs of my art. I try and maintain a regular studio practice, usually working at home on business, website and promotional ideas in the morning. I try and head to the studio around 11 or noon and working til 6 or 7pm. Some days involve very creative work, painting or printing, others are more about photographing my work, maintaining my studio, and other things that having a studio involves. Probably of an  average 8 hour day only half is actually working on art. I balance it with the other demands of my life by adjusting my schedule around them.

AG - Art making is intrinsically a domain of much uncertainty. Therefore, artists tend to be adventurous people. Have you taken big risks in other areas of your life? Tell me a wild story about yourself!

RB - When I was 24 I went to India to study meditation with my teacher on a one-way ticket and stayed there nearly 5 years. It was the best decision I ever made.

For more information about Richard, please visit his website.

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