Artist Rick Hamilton is inspired by phrases and lyrics he hears over the course of a day. His studio walls are where he jots these little ideas down, which creates a rather fascinating experience during a studio visit. Kind of like a little peek inside his head, but also interior decorating in the form of poetry. I could just sit in a chair and stare for days. And he's right-every single phrase I read immediately conjured up a visual in my mind.
Rick is a laid back, fun, open, and friendly guy. And his work reflects that. Figurative and narrative with colorful accents and unexpected twists (like the human figures only have four fingers and the four legged creatures only have three) they transport you into an imaginative world that just ends up making you feel happy.
I was so glad to pop into his studio for a tour, to see him in action, and discuss the art world with him. Read below for a Q&A with Rick!
Describe your work in three words.
Unique, fun, revealing.
My style has grown organically through trial and error on my part. I feel my art is light-hearted even though some of the topics are on the heavy side. It is revealing about what is going on in my head. I use the word revealing as a description of the process too. I learn so much about myself with each piece I do.
Have you always been artistic? Did you grow up in a creative family? If so, how did this influence you and your work/path in life?
I have not always been artistic. I started painting in about 1998 at 30 years old. I don't feel that art played much of a role in my life. I have traveled a lot through Europe before I started painting. I find it funny that I was in the cities that held works of art that have influenced so much and didn't even know it at the time.
What kind of art did you first start making?
I started with painting flowers.
How has your artistic journey changed over the years? Especially being a father…
I have much more discipline now. I'm more confident in the choices I make in the studio. At the same time I do multiple things everyday that show me I still don't know what I'm doing. Having kids has made me prioritize things. I have a note on my studio wall listing things I will give up for my art and a list of things I will not give up. The only thing listed in the not giving up side are my kids.
You have some musical themes in your work. Are you inspired by a particular type of music? Almost seems like a Cuban feel in some of them, especially with the figures.
Music is very important to me. My work is often influenced by the type of music I listen to. When I listen to salsa, I often use Havana as a topic. One day I was listening to Ornette Coleman. I had a painting of three bakers in my studio and I painted over the cooks/bakers outfits and made them the Baker Trio jazz band.
I love all the little quotes written on your walls. You mentioned you’ll write things down like that that other people say, and then create a piece inspired by that. Is that how most of your pieces come about?
The notes that I write on my studio wall are very important to me. When I have conversations with people and hear something they say that makes me want to do a painting I will write that on my wall. I also do this with lines I hear in songs.
What is your favorite piece you’ve completed?
I think my favorite piece is called The King of a Pile of Shit. I was talking to a friend about all the things he was doing to maybe improve his life: yoga, meditation, and healthy eating. He said after all that at the end of the day he felt like a king of a pile of shit. I wrote that down and went home to paint it. It was a man wearing a crown and kind of slumped over in a stool.
Tell me about your space…how did it come about? I know you share this space with other artists. Do you find that you feed off of their creative energy?
I found my studio by answering a Craigslist ad. It is a shared space but usually I am there by myself. I do really like it when the other artists are working. I also love to have people visit my studio. My space fits me very well. It is very utilitarian. Sometimes loud and messy, it is built for working.
Do you ever get the equivalent of “writer’s block” for artists? If so, how do you push through it?
I very rarely get "writer's block". If I ever do, I find the best way through it is to work. Even just prepping panels or putting down a base color. If i ever need an idea for a painting I can just turn around and look at the notes i have written on my studio wall.
How would you describe your work to someone who has never seen it?
I had a gallery owner call it expressionism so i have gone with that.
What is the best thing you’ve done for your artistic career?
The best thing I have done for my career is switching my operation from my house to this studio. It has improved my output and quality of my work.
Has being an artist in Maine influenced your work in any way?
I have a hard time seeing how being from Maine has influenced my art. I really love Maine and would want to be influenced by it but I just don't see it yet.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I do have some career and financial goals I would like to reach. I'm open to what comes around artistically. I'm working on a children's book and it will be interesting to see what comes from that. Aside from that I know that in 10 years I will be creating art and having conversations about it.
Thank you Rick!