A Pioneer at Heart
At first glance, CAA member Ron Riddick is an unconventional western artist. He grew up in Los Angeles, Calif., with a father who had a corporate job most of his life. But look a little closer and the early seeds of his pioneer spirit – and artistic influences – come to light. His father was the art director of a large insurance company, and his office was next door to the Los Angeles County Art Museum, which the two would visit frequently. Riddick’s grandparents were artistic as well, one an architect and the other a watercolorist, as well. And growing up in a thriving metropolis gave Riddick access to art schools, which he attended throughout his youth and young adulthood.
While all of these things played a role in Riddick’s formation, it was his uncle, rancher James Warren, who made the biggest impression on his young mind. “Whenever I could disappear and see my uncle I would think, ‘This is what I love. This is where I should be,'” he says. “My uncle was a great achiever and a real outdoorsman, and was many times award rancher of the year in the cattle and quarter horse business. I got my ranch living experience vicariously through him.”
Riddick’s early love of art led him to pursue a formal education. He attended Chouinards Art Institute, Otis Art Institute, Santa Monica College, Art Center College of Design and Sergei Bogart School of Art, where he became fascinated with American illustrators, Taos painters, the Russian school of art and European plein air painters, among others. “During this time, I started plein air painting, which opened my whole understanding of art,” he explains.
In 1978, a good friend invited him to come to Sedona for a visit. “I just thought of cactus and the screaming desert heat, but I was blown away by the beauty,” Riddick says. “Then I moved to Arizona, which was one of the greatest things I have ever done.”
That decision exposed Riddick to a new set of influences: the ranching lifestyle, Native and Mexican American cultures and the great Western landscape. “Everything started coalescing into what would become the real signature of my work,” he says. “I loved color and good painting, but now I had the subject matter to go with it.”
This move reflects’ Riddick’s pioneer spirit, which also can be found in his wife of 18 years, Natalie. “I wouldn’t be where I am without her love, encouragement, talents and sacrifices,” admits Riddick. The couple has dovetailed together in their passion for the west. “There are two kinds of people: pioneers and settlers,” he says. “Pioneers always are looking toward the horizon for the next adventure. That’s how we are, and Natalie and I have tackled some wild-at-heart journeys together.”
One of their ventures is in etching, which Riddick recently took up again after a decades- long hiatus. “I am coming back to it now with years of experience and much more maturity,” he says. “Etching gives two-dimensional artists an original work of art that they can share with more people.”
Etching is not Riddick’s only other pursuit. He also enjoys teaching up-and-coming artists through his workshops and mentoring efforts. These younger artists always are eager for advice. “They want to learn the short way to get there fast,” he says. “I tell them to start from scratch and keep on scratching.” He is honest with them about the lifestyle of an artist. “I tell them that even if you are good, it is a rough profession. You have to love the journey. It all goes back to that pioneer lifestyle.”
The Riddicks are ready for their next great adventure together. In the future, they plan to move to the mountains. “One of our dreams is to have a large ranch where we can live and teach, with housing for our families and students.”
For now, though, Riddick is content evolving his art and continuing to try new things. “There is something about the creative spirit that wants to lead me from one trapeze to the next,” he admits. “You must stay disciplined and consistent, learning to be flexible yet willing to bend with the wind.”
~written by Julie Wilson, JFW Communications