Artist Survey #11: Rick Reese

Rick was my intro to illustration professor back at Long Beach State. I always looked forward to his class because he is a real down-to-earth guy and would often bring in his current projects to show us his creative process (usually because he was behind schedule I’m sure). I enjoy drawing a great deal, but am no illustrator, Rick made sure to let me know that! Rick taught me to really push to exaggerate my images to get the emotional impact that I often came short on. His work, whether commercial or otherwise is always fun to look at. He layers images and text allowing viewers to always find something new to examine while they should be doing something more important.

(The Escapist)


(Study for a Boy)


(The 6-3)


(Study for Mother)

Name: Rick Reese

Location: Orange County

Medium(s): All of them

What do you consider yourself (artist/designer/other)? They are all the same to me.

Where can we see your work (place/publications/url)? Various galleries, some magazines, around,

When did you start gaining interest in artistic forms of expression? I can’t remember, I think I might be a cliché and say from birth.

Who/What inspired your interest? Skateboard graphics from the 80’s, comic books and cartoons. I still look at them even though my interests have changed a lot.

Where do you first remember being exposed to art? Comic book store. Great place to get introduced to imagery and text working together. I loved comic books, not the lame super hero crap but the alternative funnies like Yummy Fur.

What is your day job? I’m an artist and a teacher. If you keep your “day job” you may not ever get around to supporting yourself with your art.

Why do you create? To fulfill some unexplainable urge to communicate my experience to others. Maybe I need validation I don’t know but I think it’s a common human need.

Is there any recurring theme in your work? At this point most of my new work is loosely dealing with memory and family.

What do you want from your work? I want it to make me rethink what I expected and amaze me that I made it.

What do you want viewers to take from your work? There is no one thing. Different people will take different things obviously. I really don’t care what they take as long as they are engaged by it in some way that is meaningful to them. If they have no reaction to a piece I feel like it’s a failure in some way.

How often do you work on personal projects? All the time. All your work should be personal or you’re wasting your time (in my humble opinion).

How often do you work on commissions or commercial work? Not so often anymore, but I used to all the time when I was younger and worked for other people and other companies doing mostly “commercial” work, whatever that means. I may return to it someday soon, I’ve been feeling the itch.

Does your art support you financially? Yes, but I teach too and that’s been helpful because I have a wife and 2.5 kids to feed. Selling work in galleries is not always something you can count on…its like freelancing used to feel to me, inconsistent but kind of fun.

Do you feel preoccupied with your art, do you think about it often during the day and night and do you anticipate your next session? I think about it all day and lose sleep over it at night, I’m obsessed by it and I can’t wait to work on a piece once its underway. I hope most artists feel that way or they aren’t in the right field in my opinion. If you aren’t that interested there are many easier ways to make a living.

What do you do in your spare time besides your art? Read, surf, hang around with my family.

Which musicians are you currently interested in? Bad Brains, The Misfits. I can’t stop listening to this music. Its had me since I was a kid.

Are there any events you are looking forward to attending? My daughter’s parent teacher meeting on Wednesday, should be a real scorcher.

How long do you generally take on a piece? Its all over the place. Weeks, a month sometimes just a few days on a small piece if its coming easy. Paintings evolve at their own pace it seems, some fast, others slow.

Have you jeopardized or risked the loss of a significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of your art? I married a graphic designer so she understands art and has been supportive and really a huge blessing. I quit a 9-5 corporate art department job to teach and pursue painting. So maybe I lost that job but I never felt like it belonged to me. I’m not good at that kind of thing. The consistent day in and day out monotony (as it seemed to me) was really hard. To me it was worth the loss of consistent income to regain my sense of who I was as an artist. Again that’s probably cliché but its the truth.

Do you work on multiple projects at once? Yes I usually will have a painting or two going on while I am working on a print or a drawing or collage. Who knows I may go back to taking illustration or client based work, I really like it, I just have shifted attention to teaching and painting.

Do you have trouble parting with your finished work? Not usually but sometimes. You get used to it and really if I don’t part with it I can’t make the next piece, I wouldn’t have a place to put them all. I will say that I still prefer to give art away rather than sell it. Not because of some belief in the “purity” of non-commercial art or any of that art school bull, but because there seems to be more value placed on the object by the person who receives than by the person who buys it. At least that’s how I feel. That and the fact that most young people, who tend to enjoy my work, can’t afford it so if I can give it away I will on occasion, to friends, people that really appreciate it, etc. Not to you though Zac, I don’t like you.

Peep this shit:

An interview with Reese about his work being featured in the Billabong’s Design for Humanity.

Artistic touch
Artistic touch