With an architecture background and an education from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Richard Graham began his painting career later in life. Only upon retiring eight years ago did Graham start painting. “I don’t have any real art training, but as an architect, I was involved in arts a lot.” As a designer and colorist, Richard has always had a feel for 2D works. “I was designing a restaurant for a friend who had some crappy artwork on the walls and I thought, ‘I could probably do something better than that’ ”, and so began his painting career within a Miami garage.
Born in Philly and raised in New Jersey, Graham has bounced from city to city, most recently settling in Portland before relocating to Seattle just a year and a half ago. Ages ago when he had his eye on Seattle, the downtown area wasn’t yet liveable. Graham acknowledges how Seattle has really come into its own over the past ten years. He came for the hustle and bustle and stays for the music and art scene.
Although once settled in a now defunct studio under the I5 bridge, ‘57 Biscayne was too good of a counter offer for Graham to pass up. The location in Pioneer Square brings exposure to his work and is closer to that city energy he craves. What sets ‘57 Biscayne apart from the rest is truly its founder, Jane Richlovsky.
“Studios tend to be that way; they’re all kind of bottled up unless you force us to gather around, which Jane is good at making us do. I always leave my door open, I want people to walk in.” Richard is still in the process of getting to know the community, but so far greatly appreciates talking with fellow abstract artists in the building.
When I identify rigidity and structure contrasting loose twirls within his work, Richard counters: “I don’t do architectural pieces. I think that happens in the arts, you try to get away from what you’re familiar with. That’s the great thing about panting; for the first time, I didn’t have to please anybody but me.”
As far as technique, Richard treats acrylics almost like watercolor. By thinning the paint down, he pours the mixture around the canvas, letting gravity take its course. When he paints, Graham oscillates between working on canvases on the wall, up on an easel, or on the table; depending on the day. Inspired by Jackson Pollock, Graham believes that each drip of paint was Pollock’s soul coming out in art form. “That’s the trick with painting, you willingly give up all control; that’s so free. You let the paint do its thing.”
We paw through canvases as if digging through crates of vinyl records. Richard points out one of his very first paintings, hanging on the wall behind the stacks. “I haven’t progressed much!”, he laughs, pointing out the shape of a face among the organic pushing and pulling of paint in various forms of liquidity.
When the subject of cost came up, Richard explains, “People love that they can buy a huge painting for $300, $500.” However, galleries have encouraged him to up prices near $3,000. “I think the art market is so distorted by ‘high art’ to collectors who aren’t necessarily interested in art, but are interested in investments. It’s like buying stock, it’s crazy!” He believes local people who like art shouldn’t have to spend thousands of dollars on it.
“I’m painting for myself. I’m painting for me. And I don’t really care if anyone else likes it or not.”
For a great conversation on music or the state of the world, you can find Richard in his studio, with the door always open.