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Rick Wooten: My Paintbrush Odyssey

Article ID: 65
Written by: rhknigh
Written on: Wed Jul 03, 2013 7:34 pm
Article Description: Surrounded by the natural beauty of the forests, lakes, and granite rock formations of Prescott, Arizona, career artist Rick Wooten, has much to inspire him along the journey that he calls his "Paintbrush Odyssey". Rick was kind enough to submit to an interview contemplating his art, so let's begin now and journey with him as he shares his artistic life and the journey he's on.
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Surrounded by the natural beauty of the forests, lakes, and granite rock formations of Prescott, Arizona, career artist Rick Wooten, has much to inspire him along the journey that he calls his "Paintbrush Odyssey". If you have seen some of his artwork, I'm sure that you'd recognize right away that he is passionate about wildlife and the environment. His Photo Realistic style will mesmerize you when you look at the fine detail of his drawings, and the vibrant colors, a mixture of watercolor and Dr. Martin Dyes, that seems to breathe life into his paintings. Rick was kind enough to submit to an interview contemplating his art, so let's begin now and journey with him as he shares his artistic life and the journey he's on.

Image
"Forest Sentries" © 2012 by Rick Wooten

Every forest needs a couple of Grizzly Bears to guard it against those who would want to harm it. And so, at least in my imagination, I came up with a solution with these two ferocious bears. Well, actually they came out more like Yogi Bear & BooBoo Bear than angry bears. But that's okay, I actually prefer the friendlier approach when dealing with conflict. Perhaps the message of this painting should be that "love conquers all", or something like that.

How long have you considered yourself an artist?

I would have to say that my art career really began when I was around six years old. This is when my mom began to bring home rolls of blank paper from work so that I would have something to draw on. I can remember that even at this young age I had a desire to try and bring to life on paper the things I really liked, like my cat, or some of my favorite toys. As I began to grow, my love for wildlife and the environment began to grow as well. And so did my ability to bring these things to life through my drawing and painting. To this day, my passion as an artist and my love for the environment continues to burn brightly. If I were to have one goal in my career as an artist it would be to create paintings that capture the imagination, cause the viewer to appreciate the beauty of God's creation, and awaken within them the realization that this beauty needs to be protected and preserved so that generations to come might continue to enjoy this amazing gift.

What are you trying to convey through your art?

I believe that most paintings have a certain personality which is a reflection of the artist’s way of looking at the world around them. I am basically very detail oriented. I’m mesmerized by the detailed textures found in the bark of a tree. I love the shape of rocks and boulders as they merge securely together, contrasting light and shadow. I love to focus on the variety of plants and foliage, and how they create an intricate blend of vibrant colors. I love to examine the look of fur as it reveals the structure and shape of an animal. When I’m drawing, I love to work on the tiny details that define the essence and character of each object. As they say, “It’s all in the details.” And for me that’s what breathes life into my paintings. Another characteristic that defines the personality of my artwork is the vibrant, saturated colors that I work with.

Over time I have trained myself to look beyond the obvious colors, to discover the hidden treasure of color found within the shadows and highlights of my subject. I seek to bring out the many variations of hue and tonal values that are so often overlooked by the casual observer. To me each painting becomes an odyssey, a journey where I follow my paintbrush from one place to another. I love to see how my paintings grow from my initial concept to their completion.

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"Salmon Patrol" © 2013 by Rick Wooten

Salmon Patrol was first inspired by a Discovery Channel program about a group of salmon trying to swim upstream, struggling to reach their home because only then would they be able to give birth to a bunch of baby salmon. But as they swim their way upstream they run into some growling Grizzlies who are hanging around waiting for a pre-hibernation brunch. In "Salmon Patrol" I wanted to create a sense of suspense as the Grizzly patrols the stream for his next meal, and a sense of tension as autumn means it's almost time to hibernate.

What does your art mean to you?

For me, I can’t imagine not painting. It’s so much of who I am. Painting gives me an outlet, a way of expressing what I see as beautiful, unique, special, and important to share. I think that we live in a world that's so loud, we've forgotten how to listen. We are bombarded by so much noise we can hardly hear ourselves think. There's entertainment, and information. There's temptations, and opinions. There's so much noise constantly fighting to get our attention. It's exhausting!

Not only is life noisy, but it's also rushing by so fast that we can never seem to catch up. In this loud, fast-paced life, I believe that we've forgotten how to push the "pause" button, where we can sit still, listen, and take in the beauty of God's creation.

When I paint I'm able to enter that place of peace and rest. It's only from this place that I'm able to imagine and visualize, dream and create. When I'm in this place, I'll call it my "sweet spot", the cares of this world fade away, and time seems to stop. My goal is to reach that mountain top whenever I paint. When I do, the image that's been cultivating in my mind, soul, and spirit, has a chance to be expressed on canvas for others to see.

And that's the reward. The ultimate goal for me is to create something beautiful that I can share with others. If one of my paintings can cause someone to pause for even a moment from their busy, hectic lives, and visually be drawn into the beautiful, restful world I've created, then I've accomplished something important. What does my art mean to me? Well, it means that I can share with others something from my heart that's unique and special. My art is leading me down a path that's exciting, and challenging. Each painting is like a new adventure for me, full of surprises, and rewards. I'm on a journey, each painting pointing to the next. For me my art is an odyssey, a "Paintbrush Odyssey"

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"Creek Crossing" © 2012 by Rick Wooten

This painting is for those who love lots of green. I loved working on this painting. After getting my ideas down, arriving at a detailed sketch, then a finished drawing, I went to work painting all those leaves, and blades of grass, and rocks, and pebbles. You would not believe how many hours it took to finish this one. But you know, I loved it. I'm weird in that I can literally sit down and paint nothing but leaves for 6 hours straight, and more, and still be ready for more.. I drove my wife Kat crazy towards the end of this painting. To her it looked done, and it probably was, but I kept thinking, "One more blade of grace over there," or "Oh no! There's a pebble missing, where's my paintbrush?" Anyway, this really was one of my favorites. The overall look came from my boyhood memories of Smith River, which used to be a river up by Crescent City in Northern California. Remember the Alaskan Earthquake which registered a 9.2 (yes! I'm that old). Well, it actually shifted the river to a new location. Bad news for all those cabins and businesses. In this painting I wanted to capture from my memory that wonderful river. And what about the bridge? For me, the bridge represents the Odyssey, the journey. Am I ready to accept the challenge, cross the river, and head off for an unknown adventure in a place I've never been before? It's about taking steps of faith, and trusting that God will be there for you, helping you to grow as you discover new things about life, about yourself.

Tell me about your creative process, from the beginning of a work to its completion:

A question that I always seem to get when a person sees my artwork is, "How do you do it? It almost looks like a photo". I guess it's inevitable that people will look at one of my paintings and wonder if it's a photo, because of the detail. In a way it's a compliment, but in a way it isn't. And that's because I want people to see my work as unique and different, not just a reproduction seen from a camera. Well, how do I make my paintings unique and different? Sometimes it starts with an idea, an inspiration. These are my "Imagination" paintings. In this case, I go to the sketch pad and work out a composition, filling it with the elements needed, such as wildlife, landscape objects, etc. When I like where it's going, I start laying it down in pencil on watercolor paper. I really take advantage of my "Smudge" tool (at least that what I call it), blending in the shadows and textures. The black and white pencil stage is probably the most important step in the process as it lays the foundation for my color work. As I mentioned earlier, my paintings are noted for their vibrant saturated colors. I’m able to do this by mixing my watercolors with Dr. Martin Dyes, which are highly concentrated water based dyes. This is what gives my colors that vibrant, saturated look that brings life and vitality to my paintings.

When I tell someone that I just spent the whole night painting nothing but leaves, I will typically get this weird look, followed by the question, “Why?” Why would you choose to do this type of work? My answer back is usually, “I didn’t choose it. It chose me! And so, why not.” A question that I always seem to get when a person sees my artwork is, "How do you do it? It almost looks like a photo". I guess it's inevitable that people will look at one of my paintings and wonder if it's a photo, because of the detail. In a way it's a compliment, but in a way it isn't. And that's because I want people to see my work as unique and different, not just a reproduction seen from a camera.

Well, how do I make my paintings unique and different? Sometimes it starts with an idea, an inspiration. These are my "Imagination" paintings. In this case, I go to the sketch pad and work out a composition, filling it with the elements needed, such as wildlife, landscape objects, etc. After that, I breath a little life into it with basic shades of color. When I like where it's going, I get down to the really fun part, I start laying it down in pencil on watercolor paper. When I'm happy with the layout, I start penciling in the detail work. I really take advantage of my "Smudge" tool (at least that what I call it), working in the shadows and textures. The black and white pencil stage is probably the most important step in the process. It allows me to see it like a great black and white photo, making sure the highlights and shadows, lighting, reflections and textures are all working together as a whole. Then it's time to start working in the color, using the basic shades of color created earlier as a guide. What makes my colors unique are how I mix the watercolors with Dr. Martin Dyes, which are highly concentrated water based dyes. This is what gives my colors that vibrant, saturated look that brings life and vitality to my paintings. There is one other step that I have been developing for the past 30 years that pulls it all together, and gives my paintings that signature look. But it's like an old family recipe that stays in the family, and is never divulged to anyone but those within the family inner circle. And so I'm keeping this last ingredient to myself (unless you purchase one of my expensive paintings, maybe).

When I work on my landscape paintings, I will typically find a location that begs to be discovered and revealed. I will pack a bag lunch, jump in my jeep with digital camera, drawing board, paints, brushes, walking stick, and my Cal Bear's cap, and head on out to the location, usually in the early morning or late afternoon, when the lighting is best. I will then walk the area, paying special attention to the many details that make that location special. I've been known to hug trees, sit on boulders, chase a Jack Rabbit or two, and if there's a lake, find some good skippers to see how many skips I can get by throwing them sidearm across the water's surface. I'm convinced that the more intimate you become with your subject matter, the more inviting your painting becomes to others. After getting intimate with my subject matter I grab my camera and start shooting, from every side, and every angle, I try to fully document the area, right down to the tiny details. I will then pack up my gear, leave a few crumbs from my P, B, & J sandwich for the bird life, and jeep it back to the studio, where I load all the photos onto my computer. The computer is a great way to weed through the hundred or so digital files to come up with a great composition. It also allows you to print out color samples that you can hang up all around your art table. I find that the photos are also valuable in that they can take you back to that special place and special time when you need that extra inspiration. After I get set up, I then usually follow the same steps that I go though when I create my "Imagination" paintings.

What plans do you have for the future of your art?

My goal is to find ways to reach as many people as possible with my artwork. And this requires taking the time needed to effectively market it. There are so many ways to get your art out there where people can see it. But you have to be willing to do the research. I'm hoping to find a willing art agent who can take care of all the marketing. I would love to be represented by as many galleries as possible, even outside of Arizona.

The future of my artwork will depend on where my journey leads me. But along the way I want to continue growing as an artist. I would love to have the time to experiment with different media, to get that "unique look" that would set my art apart. I would love to go in different directions as far as the theme of my paintings go. To do this would mean traveling to new locations which would give me opportunities to experience what type of art people are drawn to in different places. My future, well, I just want to paint, and paint some more.

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"Sailing the Stillness" © 2012 by Rick Wooten

My first visit to Watson Lake was truly awe inspiring. It was like I had arrived at my very own paradise on earth. This place had it all with its cool blue waters, massive granite cliffs, wildlife, and clusters of Ponderosa Pines. It was stunning, to say the least. But it was the lake's dramatic, changing moods that really won my heart. I could pull up a rock and sit there for hours, quietly watching the sun slowly travel across the sky. And as it did, it would cast its light across the landscape below, changing the colors and the shapes all around me. It's amazing that in such a still, quiet place, there is so much going on. On the day that inspired this painting, there was such a stillness. Without a breeze and with no clouds in sight, the lake's appearance was just like a mirror. But then very quietly a sailboat drifted into my view. But it seemed so natural that it should be there. It seemed like it didn't even break the surface of the water. It was just there, a perfect fit on such a perfect day.

This article was last edited by rhknigh on Fri Jul 05, 2013 12:45 pm
This article has been viewed 673 times

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Permanent Linkby ehoeveler on Fri Jul 05, 2013 6:43 pm

Beautifully written piece about one fabulous artist! Thank You, E
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ehoeveler

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