Please join me in welcoming classical artist Warren Rice to Brainripples for this week’s return of the Feature Artist Interview!
Greetings Warren! Thank for joining us for an interview. I’m excited for a chance to learn more about your work.
Thank you for the honor of being interviewed on your site.
To start off, could you tell us what originally drew you to your art?
That’s easy. My mother. She was a single parent after her divorce when I was 2yrs old. She used to say I was a real handful and bouncing off the walls constantly. Being a naturally talented artist herself, she thought that showing me a few cartoons and animals to draw (I was about 5 years old at the time) that this would keep me focused and calm me down.
What made you decide to pursue classical training? Could you tell us a little about what defines a classical painter/sculptor versus other artistic disciplines?
I chose to try to learn classical methods of painting and sculpting because my first impressive influence that was motivating to me as an aspiring artist was in grammar school and a trip to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The field trip blew me away. Later, I saw that my mother and grandfather had art books on the old masters that I did not even know we had. I imagined what it would be like to create those amazing pieces that I would see in those books, but also thought it was impossible, probably to do so today.
What I think defines a classical painter/sculptor differently as opposed to other artistic disciplines is a passionate appreciation for work done by the ancient Greek/Romans, the Renaissance attempts at the rebirth of that artistic mastery and the Pre- Raphaelite movement of the 19th century.
My greatest painting influence, the late Arthur DeCosta of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia once said to me, “Warren there are many categories of art : there is Primitive or Folk Art (which often defines a society especially in the most simplest terms), there is art in general (ie: computer art, illustration, the modern art movements etc.), then Fine or Classical Art- which looks at the masterpieces of,” as I said before, “the Greeks/Romans, Renaissance and Pre-Raphaelites as what to aspire to,” then finally he said “Then there is High Art, which refers to the greatest fine arts masterpieces of all time. These pieces not only define those times, but will always be immortalized and what every fine/classical artist should always aspire to achieve at least once in his/her life if they are so fortunate and talented.”
I know that you’re a big Caravaggio fan. What about his work do you find most attractive?
His chiaroscuro. Dramatic portrayal of light and dark. He was the first to portray drama in art. He was the Shakespeare of painting influencing so many including Rembrandt, Velasquez, Jesepe di Ribera to modern day.
What other artists do you admire, and why?
Oh, so many! Those I’ve mentioned. Of course the great Renaissance masters da Vinci and Michelangelo, Raphael. Primarily for their virtuosity in various genius pursuits in different genres. Turner, Contable, Bierstadt, for their mastery and innovativeness in landscapes. David and Ingres as masters of discipline and perfection. Sir Lawrence Alma Tedema, Rossetti, Alphonse Mucha (Art Nouveaux). For what they created in the 19th century. Andrew Wyeth, Thomas Eakins, Maxfield Parrish, Salvador Dali- for their imaginations and contributions to art. Bernini (Sculpture), Evangelos Frudakis + Tony Visco (both sculpture masters whom I’ve had the pleasure to learn something from). Arthur De Costa, Bo Bartlett, Nelson Shanks – the first man I studied with the other two I merely admire.
As a painter-sculptor, do you prefer one medium over the other? Have you found other artistic media that you enjoy?
I wish to be able to sculpt more but it can become pricey to begin a uncommissioned project. I inevitably end up painting more, though I always see things very texturally and physically more than in 2 dimensions.
Are there any media on your wish list that you want to try in the future?
Marble, try egg tempera in a very serious manner. Maybe ceramics for fun.
I understand you’ve been working with other artists on some Philadelphia murals in recent months with the Mural Art Project. Tell us a little about those projects.
Over the past 4 years I have had the honor of working on projects, assisting on projects and teaching children with the Murals Arts Program of Philadelphia. Right after graduating from art school I began doing portrait commissions and entering competitions for art awards as well as teaching some portrait painting classes for adults in a local art center. To supplement my income I worked in restaurants and in hotels. This was helpful and occasionally allowed me benefits. The problem occurred as I continued to get promoted and eventually was transferred to Los Angeles with a hotel company. I spent too many years away from my art. Shortly after 9/11, I discovered that the Murals arts Program of Philly was something I could try to pursue and return to my first passion, art. I was apprehensive at first and felt that I’d be showing some older work to represent myself, but the administrators liked my work and I was invited to join a 7-week muralist training program. I jumped at the opportunity. From that moment, I was exposed to some of the city’s most creative minds.Later, I was invited to teach inner city children in a couple of their sister programs (Big Picture and their Anti-Truancy art programs). I can’t speak highly enough about how my life has been enriched by Mural Arts of Philadelphia. I was able to work with some great talents like John Lewis (we worked on the “Anti-Smoking” mural at Temple University and the “Chick Davis” Murals together).John and I work well together because of some of our styles of painting tend to be similar. In both of those murals a strong mono-chromatic underpainting was necessary for the translucent color effects. Italians call it Chiaroscuro (a monochromed dramatic light and dark effect that Caravaggio mastered). I have always enjoyed employing that in my oil paintings. It took John Lewis to help me transfer that knowledge to acrylic paint and enlarge the scale too.
This past year I was able to also work with a mural master, Josh Sarantitis. I helped him work on a piece that was about freedom and inspiration that is in North Philadelphia. The project had to be done at a breakneck fast pace (3 weeks, as opposed to 2-3months). It was partially sponsored by the “Pay it Forward Program,” from the movie of the same name.
Murals Arts has helped me develop my skills on a much larger scale and allowed me to get the experience/confidence to take on private mural commissions on the Main Line Philadelphia suburbs.
As a freelance artist, what sort of artistic services do you offer your clients?
Portraiture individual or family, murals within the home (Large or Small projects), landscape paintings of their home or home environment, Bas- relief sculptures, Faux work as well, ex:marbleling a wall, do a wood finish, create a beautiful sky on the ceiling of a bedroom.
I know you like to teach, and that you’ve worked with individuals and classes. How does teaching art affect your own work?
I have loved teaching! I’ve done it recently for private students as well as in structured environments set up via Murals Arts Program where I have had as many as 50 students in a class that I would teach solely. All those minds interacting together has greatly opened my mind towards creativity and new teaching techniques.
What are some of your goals as an artist?
To be the best I can be. To make a steady, comfortable living and to be remembered fondly as an artist.
What are some of your upcoming projects?
I plan to work on some landscape pieces to eventually get in some local gallery shows. Also, i think I may be picking up a new project with Murals Arts of Philadelphia and a private home commission as we speak.
If you could visit any one museum in the world tomorrow, which would it be?
The Hermitage in Budapest, Hungary. I have a book on the works and don’t know if I would ever get the chance any time soon.
What advice would you give to other independent artists?
Find something you want to pursue artistically and passionately seek it out like your life depends on it, because the quality of your life truly does.