The vibrant and often surrealist works of Ricky Schaede have always given me food for thought. As with many visionary artists, there is often more going on beneath the surface. Pouring over each painting to understand my own responses, while simultaneously enjoying the process of interpreting his chosen symbolism, can become a kind of game that brings new levels of experience as the viewer. It’s also been interesting to see how the Canadian artist continues to evolve. The broad and potent colour palette from previous years seems to have muted slightly, condensing on many paintings to create a softer, more grounded feeling.
Don’t think, however, that this means Ricky Schaede’s visionary art foundations have disappeared. If anything, his new series of paintings share more introspection, transforming Ricky’s inner and spiritual world onto canvas more than ever before. Nevertheless, his latest body of work, Beautiful Wild, moves further into new grounds as a painter. I wanted to find out more, so I chatted with Ricky to better understand his ongoing journey.
Pushing past the breaking point
“At the beginning of the pandemic my creative powers definitely dwindled.” Ricky shares. “It was so hard to be inspired when the whole world seemed to be falling apart, and then to put brush to canvas seemed impossible. I’m always hard on myself if I’m not being productive in the studio because it is my ultimate passion, so it was really soul crushing to have all this free time off work and not be producing art. But it got to a point where I couldn’t take it any more, a breaking point, and I had to paint.
After I hit that breaking point, I became super productive and inspired. I started a whole whack of new pieces and finished a bunch of in-progress works. After the initial lull in creativity, it seems I found a spark and surged forward, and it felt totally awesome. I got so much painting done, and I was more fearless to try new things.”
F8$k those fears!
Before this whole pandemic I was working a lot, using my evenings to paint for myself. That time painting felt so precious and rare, that if I wasted any of it doing anything that might not ‘turn out’, I felt like I was wasting my time. So, I played it safe, which I think was definitely to my detriment.
Creativity requires risk.
“When I found myself with all this spare time [the pandemic stopped Ricky working], I had more time to make mistakes. I decided to take more risks. And in this creative risk taking, I found a bridge toward a new style, and new [processes] that work.”
I was in a groove before with a certain type of painting, and I guess I was afraid to try new things because of a fear of failure.
“I’m still very young as an artist and feel I have a lot to prove. I feared that if I deviated from the style I’d found that already looked good, I would no longer be producing work that was worthy of sharing. But I got over that fear and found something really cool in the new murky waters I’d decided to explore. And those waters have become much clearer and easier to navigate.
My next big journey in art is figure drawing. The next series after ‘Beautiful Wild’ will be works with human figures as the focal point. Painting figures is something else I’ve been scared of, but I’m so ready to face my fears! Also, during the pandemic I decided to be more public with my drag art – another side of creativity that I was hiding out of fear. The pandemic basically made me say ‘F*$k that’ to my fears and it has me living bolder and more true to myself!”
A new era
I think it’s wonderful how Ricky Schaede has managed to move through a dark period brought on by this pandemic; something many artists are still dealing with. We are each on our own path moving through into this new era of civilisation. For some this change may be subtle, for others, a vastly different life with reveal itself. Ricky and his new series of artworks join the group of creatives producing visual diaries of these many different changes. This year has been exceptionally difficult, but his ability to find light through the darkness and push his creative experimentation is an example of how we can adapt, overcome our fears and endure.
If everything is in focus, what kind of story is the painting telling?
Interestingly, Ricky’s experimentation has led him not only to work in different mediums. He has revised his entire approach to planning, and thus creating, a new piece. Now working with broader brush strokes with oils rather than acrylics, he now takes on a ‘bigger picture’ attitude. This approach stops him from getting absorbed in the tiny details too quickly.
“Now with oils,” Ricky shares, “I like to start my painting almost as if it’s a blurry photograph, and then selectively sharpen focal points and let other areas be out of focus. As much as there is still this neurotic, detail-oriented part of me that still tries to make me manicure every inch of the canvas with high detail, I see how effective it is to gradate the level of detail in the image to achieve a better painting. If everything is in focus, what kind of story is the painting telling?”
Beautiful Wild solo exhibition at Maggiolly Art
Ricky Schaede’s latest series of paintings, Beautiful Wild, has been exhibiting throughout August at Maggiolly Art in Orangeville, Canada. Maggiolly Art is a central art hub in Orangeville. The art supplies store is managed by Ricky Schaede, and he also teaches group art lessons to both children and adults in the studio section. “When I told my amazing boss Emilia Perri (an incredible abstract painter herself) about my new body of work, she was thrilled.”
The solo show is now moving entirely online throughout September 2020, to be further enjoyed by a worldwide audience.
“I start painting from a place of inspiration and excitement. As the image takes shape, so does my interpretation of the image in relation to my life and current events. When I sit down at the easel and paint for long periods of time, I’m forced to confront the things that are running through my mind. The way I feel about experiences, people, situations etcetera. And those things are, ultimately, channelled into my brush strokes; the painting becomes a record of my feelings and experiences. I then find a way to interpret the painting in relation to my feelings and experiences.
It is a very subconscious process at first, almost like a blurry photograph, which then comes into focus as I continue to paint and find meaning in the image.
Selectively bringing focal points into focus with subsequent layers, it feels like I’m pulling the image out through some ethereal fog.
Then, I name the painting and write a written message to accompany the image. I would say 8 out of 10 paintings come with an accompanying paragraph of writing. It really helps viewers and collectors connect with the image on other levels.”
Exploring the narratives
“Here are a few stories, though there is much more to enjoy when you visit the show! ‘Emancipation’ is a painting about time, exchange of time for money, and the liberation of our time from the shackles of servitude. I started it when I was incredibly stressed about working too much and feeling like it wasn’t worth it. But throughout the process of creating the piece my work situation improved incredibly, and I do feel that much of my time has been emancipated.
‘Conclave’ is about groups of special people creating spaces together to be truly themselves, without fear of prejudice or discrimination. It’s much like the spaces that my friends and colleagues create together to be ourselves. ‘The Message’ [earlier in the article] is a painting that came to me in a dream, and to me it is a representation of the global civil rights movements that are happening today.”
“My painting ‘The Mission’ is about my belief that the ultimate mission of humanity is to spread life throughout the cosmos. It is based on a dream I had in 2013. In this dream, I was in a space suit exploring an ancient city on the moon. It was huge and completely rusted, and I had this idea that gargantuan spaceships were once built here. In the middle of the ancient rusted city, I suddenly encountered a pristine stainless-steel ladder. I approached it, and then placed a potted plant on the ladder, and my mission was complete. I woke up then, and knew I had to paint this image.”
Beautiful Wild: online
Ricky Schaede’s solo exhibition may be rounding up at Maggiolly Art, but it can still be enjoyed online throughout September 2020. The online exhibition features all 30 paintings created over the past two years, sharing Ricky’s tribute to the beauty of our natural world. Be sure to visit Beautiful Wild before it ends!