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Six of the Best, Part 32: Rick Beerhorst

Part 32 of the interview series in which I pose the same six questions to each artist. Rick Beerhorst is an artist who lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, host city of Art Prize, the world's biggest and most well-rewarded prize for art of all shapes and sizes. Rick's collaborative venture Plan B won the prize for Best Use Of Urban Space in Art Prize 2012, and this year his painting has just been selected as one of the finalists in the 2-D art category. If you want to see Rick's work in situ, and/or vote for it, click here for details.

"Hummingbird Girl", oil on panel, 32" x 32"

Philip Hartigan: What medium/media do you chiefly use, and why?

Rick Beerhorst: My primary medium is oil painting on wooden panels. For me it is a lot about building up layers. It is a slow process of building up and tearing down and building up again. After I have added a number of layers of paint and the image is beginning to have heft I go at it with sand paper and sometimes scrape with a razor blade to break down the surface layers and get back to what is underneath. In working this way I sometimes think that life is like this. The sanding and scraping is akin to when we experience hardship and disappointment and the adding of another layer of beautiful color is something like when we are feeling loved and appreciated. Life and painting seem to be a continual volley of both experiences.

Philip Hartigan: What piece are you currently working on?

Rick Beerhorst: I am currently working on a series of paintings and drawings of women holding books. The book has become an important symbol in my work over the past few years of what I am not exactly sure. I think it has something to do with reaching for meaning and an inner longing for a mystical state. Whereas visual artist are primarily working with a visual language, the author is using words. But the author's words also conjure a visual world at the same time. We look to writers and artist to not only help us into meaningful insights into our existence but they even may offer us a door way into a spiritual connection self realization.
"Licking the Envelope," oil on panel, 32" x 32"
Philip Hartigan: What creative surprises are happening in the current work?

Rick Beerhorst: I began a commitment to myself to blog six days a week about 18 months ago. The daily ritual of writing the blog helped me begin to develop my ability to communicate with a written language. This slow development seems to run a parallel with this series of paintings. It's as if by painting these women holding books represented my longing to learn how to write better which took me awhile to begin to come to terms with. I think we all carry deep inner longings to grow into new areas but often these longings never come to fruition because our early attempts are so awkward and clumsy we just quite before we ever find any rewards that could build our confidence to keep trying.

Philip Hartigan: What other artistic medium (or non-artistic activity) feeds your creative process?

Rick Beerhorst: Well I have been very involved in music in the past. I have had a band called the Wealthy Orphans for a couple years. We do a kind of gypsy tinged indie rock style. I have had a lot of fun with making music because it becomes a good excuse to hang out with friends and make something together. We also have a micro urban farm here in the city (in Grand Rapids MI) full of organically grown veggies, meat rabbits and laying hens which also leads into a whole lot of good cooking from scratch.


"Distracted Reader," oil on panel, 32" x 32"
Philip Hartigan: What's the first ever piece of art you remember making?

Rick Beerhorst: The first piece of art I remember making was a drawing of my mother. I remember it creating kind of a stir in our household because I was very young, maybe five? And apparently it was good enough to make some excitement among my family. I think I am still trying to create that stir and get a little bit of that attention I had that day when I was five.

Philip Hartigan: Finally, and you can answer this in any way that's meaningful to you: why are you an artist?

Rick Beerhorst: I am an artist because I have this deep inner compulsion to make things that are beautiful and kind of enchanting. You know that feeling you have when you see a peacock open up its tail feathers as it struts along, or when a young (or older) man or woman pass by that are just really beautiful and you feel that bit of a swoon? I want to create that fleeting experience for people but I also want to surprise them and maybe even tug the viewer into a place of confusion where they will be forced to reconsider what they have known before and have new thoughts and new ideas.

If you liked this interview, and you'd like to keep up to date with the series, why not Subscribe, or sign-up via Google Connect, using one of the options over on the right? Thanks, and keep creating.

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