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Surfrealism, surf & surreal art

Rick Rietveld interview

Californian artist Rick Rietveld speaks to COTW about his career in art and gives insight into his surreal world of art and surfing…

Rick, tell us about your background, where are you from, where do you reside now, where do you work from?

RR: I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. My Father was a technician for NCR before the computer age so he was really a "left brainer", but in his spare time he loved working on cars in our garage. He could rebuild them from the bottom up, including custom paint jobs. So my interest in Custom cars and Hot Rods started as a child watching my dad. My Mother is an artist and took us kids to Museums and Galleries and around the age of 10 my Mom and I exhibited our art at Sidewalk Art Shows in La Crescenta and Glendale. I studied at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena majoring in Illustration. I moved to Newport Beach in 1978 to surf and pursue a career in illustration where I live and work today.

How would you describe your work/artistic style?

RR: I always have a hard time answering this question because most people want to put labels on artists and their work. Because I was trained as an illustrator my natural tendency is to try and tell a story through my art. I use many tools to create my art, usually beginning with a drawing in my sketchbook and then deciding what process to use to best tell the story. The image or subject matter dictates what medium I use and the style that comes from the medium and technique happens after many years of doing it. I never consciously try to create or follow my style. In the 80s I painted with acrylic and airbrush and pen and ink for most of the Tee shirt art and illustrated ads in the magazines and billboards. Since the 90s I've been working mostly with acrylic on canvas, pencil and ink. I also learned to paint on the computer in the early 90s with a pressure sensitive tablet that emulates painting and drawing. I think the fine art world is having a hard time respecting computer art but the truth is that a computer can't create, it's just a tool, nothing more, it is controlled and directed by the artist. Many people think you are cheating if you use a computer but it is like any other medium and requires a lot of skill to become exceptional at using it. I apply it mostly in my commercial work with the clothing lines. I would describe my work as Surf Art with a Pop Surrealism style or "Surfrealism".

So when did you first find an appreciation for art?

RR: My first memory of my appreciation for art was on the day I watched my Mother do a pencil drawing of a child. She started with lightly sketched basic shapes and then all of a sudden it magically became this beautiful piece of art, all in just a few minutes. I was amazed and inspired to learn how to draw and do art from that day forward.

Your art is of another world, what inspires your creations/subject?

RR: As a teenager, artists in the surf mags like Rick Griffin, Bill Ogden and Jim Evans inspired me because they all had their own unique way of drawing and painting. Later in art school I was inspired by all the great Illustrators and Master artists from all periods. Surrealists were my favourite such as Salvador Dali and Rene Magritte.

How long have you been surfing?

RR: I became interested in surfing around 14 years old and my "surf guru" who was an older kid in my school. He built my first surfboard in his garage. After I rode my first wave I was hooked and then everything I did revolved around getting down to the beach and surfing as much as possible. I drew and painted Cars, Dragsters, Hot Rods, waves, surf characters and…?

What is it about surfing and/or surf culture that inspires you so?

RR: The ocean and marine life have always fascinated me. Surfing is meditation for me and when I'm in a creative funk or stressed out surfing rejuvenates me.

Has surfing always been a subject for your work?

RR: It is the largest part of my body of work but my other interests are the Hot Rod Culture, and I also have an affinity for Cowboys and love to watch old Western's, which my family and friends tease me about, but I fancy myself as sort of a Surf/Cowboy and I have done a few Cowboy Paintings in my earlier works. The South Pacific is another subject matter that appeals to me and I have had some fun doing Tiki Art.

Are there any other artists, individuals or organisations that inspire you, personally or professionally?

RR: The Impressionists like Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin currently inspire me. I also like some of the fathers of the Low Brow Pop Culture like Robert Williams and Todd Schorr. Music is the other most important element of my creative drive and I enjoy all types of music.

Tell us about RIETVELD USA…

RR: Rietveld USA is an art inspired, creative surf brand that features my art on Tee Shirts, Alohas Shirts, Board Shorts, and Accessories. Rietveld USA is currently under contract with Wings, an Italian Surf Manufacturer. I met the owner Maurizio Cocchi in the mid 8o's when he became the licensee in Italy for Maui and Sons (a company I helped co-found). Maurizio and I became friends and now he owns worldwide rights to my clothing brand: Rietveld USA, as well as Bear Surfboards. I am the Creative Director for both brands. It's a great relationship because he gives me total creative freedom. I work with my friends at Wings along with my buddy and Art Director; Nick Newton.

So where can we find the RIETVELD USA brand?

RR: Rietveld USA can be found in many countries including Europe and Australia. As of today we are working with a USA licensee that will focus on special boutiques and surf shops in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. We hope to have products in the stores in the U.S. by 2007. Check out my website for the countries where the product is currently available: www.RietveldUSA.com then go to the company link and search the Dealers Locator, where a person can order products from many countries listed.

And where do those who want to see your artwork have to go?

RR: I've just signed with agent/publisher; Steve McKibben of McKibben Studios. Steve is well known and respected in the Surf Industry and we share a great passion for surf art and attention to quality and details in the fine art printing process. We are currently working together on some new innovations in the printing process that will set some new standards in the industry. McKibben Studios is featuring and selling my originals and Limited Edition Gicle prints and Limited Edition Rietveld surfboards through his website www.McKibbenStudios.com and in his beautiful, new Gallery in Corona Del Mar, California. He is also placing my art in specially selected Fine Art Galleries worldwide. Mckibben Studios features other surf art legends like Bill Ogden, Phil Roberts, Greg and Jed Noll, Drew Brophy and others. Check out his website, you will be stoked!

What does the future hold for your art?

RR: I'm in a great place now where I feel comfortable with all my creative tools and mediums that I have been practicing for most of my life. At the present, I am working with larger scale paintings and I am experimenting with different combinations of techniques and mediums but I will always continue to create art inspired by the ocean, surfing and music.

Thanks again Rick for this insight into your work.

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