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Interview with artist J. Kirk Richards

Interview with artist J. Kirk Richards
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Artist J. Kirk Richard  has a new project in the works that will benefit a great charity along with celebrating the beauty of mothers. I got the chance to interview him to find out more about the man behind the paintings,  his career & process. We also get a sneak peak at 2 more new works in this series of 14. In his own words he briefly describes all this new project entails:

“Fourteen ornamental frames.  Fourteen Mother and Child paintings to go inside them.  You help us choose which one is the best.  We make Mothers Day cards and fine art prints of that image.  Fifty percent of all proceeds go to Camp Kesem, benefiting children of parents with cancer.  All before Mothers Day!”Great , right ? Oh the paintings…. even better.  I have admired Richards work for some time now.  I am drawn to the duality of realism & abstraction that plays out with in each painting. You can see his technical ability conveyed with distinct measures of abstraction, for me that’s creation in one of its highest forms.  He marries contradicting styles flawlessly.  J. Kirk Richards work as a whole carries a timeless quality in content & imagery carried out with a modern perspective that holds the viewers attention & allows them to explore spiritual subject matter in a way they haven’t before.1. Will you give us a little background info on you & your career?At the age of fourteen I begged my parents to let me trade in my music lessons for art lessons. Twenty years later, I now split my time between my home in Provo and my art studio in rural Redmond, Utah.  I’ve been a full time artist since graduating from BYU in 2000.   In addition to making art, I love songwriting and recording (my wife and I have a musical duo project you can sample at, writing and illustrating children’s books, teaching oil painting, playing basketball, and a lot of other things I wish I had time for.2. Where do you see yourself in 10 years as an artist, what are your greatest dreams?In ten years I hope to have a major museum show or two under my belt.  I hope I can continue to do larger work, and I hope the work gets better and better.  I hope to write and illustrate a hit children’s book.  I hope to get a studio on the east coast and spend  time there regularly.  I hope some of my students will have successful careers of their own.  I also hope to make some really great music between now and then.

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  1.  How do you come up with your images?

My images generally come as I’m sketching in a sketchbook–and often as a reaction to a previous painting.  In my head I’m thinking thoughts like, ‘My last few paintings have been too red–I’d like to try a blue painting’, or ‘This time I want to try zooming in on the face and lifting the perspective a little.’  I combine these aesthetic ideas with themes I’ve been wanting to address.  All these thoughts simultaneously effect the sketch while it’s being drawn.  Then many, many changes occur during the painting process.  Rarely does the finished painting turn out to be like my original idea.  New decision redirect the painting at every step of the process.

  1. Do you ever hire live models or work from photographs?

I work from live models sometimes, photographs sometimes, and sometimes from imagination.  Each approach strengthens the others.  Painting from life is how you get a rigorous realism, with true colors and mid-tones.  Photography is how you capture motion, flatness, and heightened contrast.  Imagination is how you get beautiful design and composition.  When you put them all together, you get the best of three worlds.

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  1.  Do you ever see your focus shifting or trying something new in the years ahead?

I’m always trying something new.  I have purposely created an expectation for variety in my work.  If you visit my website, you’ll see work that’s abstract, work that’s classical, work that’s in between. You’ll see oil painting and plaster sculpture.  I’m about to do some bronze sculpture.  I’m about to do a mixed media painting that incorporates real organ pipes, and another that incorporates real used fishing nets.  I hope the years ahead will bring a lot of experimentation.  That’s half the fun of art.

  1. Much of your work seems to be spiritual in nature, has it always been this way or did you slowly progress into this type of work?

Even as a student I was eager to paint spiritual themes.  Much of what I do is loosely based on scriptures from the Bible.  My work is not attempting to illustrate Biblical stories, but rather to distill from them their essential ideas, principles and emotions.  These spiritual themes are the themes that most interest me.  A second reason I love doing spiritual work is because my work then becomes tied into long-standing traditions in world art history–that is, art as worship, art as parable, art as praise.

  1. How do you think religious or spiritual art work is received within the art world nationally?

Most of the high-end art world is secular at best and nihilist at worst.  I’ve had to carve my own niche, often independent of official art organizations and programs. It has been at times frustrating, but overall extremely rewarding.

Here is a demo of Kirk working on one of his paintings for the series while visiting with one of his friends, writer cjane.  I love watching the creation process, you will too. You can also find more about J. Kirk Richards & of his work at


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