Los Angeles-based artist S.A. Richard is inspired by skateboarding, pop art, rock and roll, Dutch madmen painters, and the mythic and dark history of California’s settlers, oilers, and dreamers. I met him when he was living in the Bay Area and gave him a call to catch up on what’s the latest. He was at a hamburger joint on Wilshire called “The Shack” watching a Lakers game. He started off by saying “I might take sips of beer during this interview, and cheer really loudly when the Lakers score.”
Where are you from and where do you live now?
Los Angeles. I’m back in Venice. I was in Oakland for the last two years, in a ridiculously awesome studio called The Paper Mill. It used to be a paper mill – and it’s about 5,000 square feet. I was living there with a few other artists that are good friends of mine and really awesome: Seth Armstrong and Chris Russell and Michael Louis Young.
Unfortunately I had to leave, because my real life exists in LA. It was kind of a vacation up there. But I got a lot of work done.
What are the differences and similarities between LA and the Bay Area?
Differences are just enormous, starting with traffic and public transportation and size and infrastructure… and just the general feel of the people, at least that I was interacting with. Not just my friends, or artists and stuff, but everybody. I love San Francisco and Oakland… and I miss it. But it’s nice to have both, they’re close and I can always go back and forth. They’re both home to me.
At least in art, I feel a much bigger community in San Francisco and Oakland, and feel much more connected to it. But in LA… I feel a stronger connection to the business side of my life and art and film. LA is the place I grew up, I love it more than anything. It could be ugly… it’s never gonna change in my mind. All my friends and family are still down here too.
I’m sure there’s tons going on in LA.
Oh, there is. There’s definitely a lot, and especially like all the cities coming up with a bunch of galleries, Downtown, Culver City and Venice. There’s a lot of art here. I feel disconnected from it, a little bit. I think it’s because I do other things; I work in production, I work in film stuff, and I have a script that’s coming into a movie now, so I’m working with a lot more film people than I am with art people here. Whereas up there, I only kind of worked with art people.
Name the best street food in Venice.
I think every single one of those trucks comes through and… my studio is right off Venice and Abbot Kinney. All those trucks park out front of the Brig… I like the Kogi truck, the Korean barbeque is good. I had this one taco truck, these pork tacos with mango and peppers. That’s pretty awesome. I’ve tried all of them. I don’t like the hot dogs very much, but I think the rest of them are pretty good. There’s a barbeque one too, coming around lately, like a regular Southern barbeque, that’s good.
So… a lot then.
It’s pretty much all I eat, because it’s closer than Abbot’s pizza. So every day, if I’m in the studio, and don’t want to walk very far, I go there.
Everyone knows I’m a Budweiser man. But I switch over a lot. I kind of have this routine, my birthday is July 3rd, and I drink beer all summer and Fall, and then at Christmas I switch over to Jameson’s until my birthday again. Right now I’m not drinking too much.
What is your creative process when you’re painting?
In my mind, the look of it, like the feel of my work, it’s my feelings for California. Basically the images are coming from the feelings I have from the sun, rock and roll music, and I don’t know if that sounds weird or if that makes sense… in my mind it makes sense, because the same feeling I get from the images I’m creating is the same feeling I get from those. A lot of people think it has a 60s or 70s feel to it. But I think it’s… it’s warm, it’s easy, the aesthetics are easy to appreciate.
The process for me is… daydreaming. I have a lot of books for sketching, drawing, and also just thoughts. The project I’m working on is sort of about California, it has an implied narrative to it. Sort of a loose storyline that goes through it. It’s 50 paintings, in five sets, with ten in each set, which are just different content – the style is the same all the way through. And there are 100 smaller illustration pieces that I’m gonna do in the book also. The book is called “I Can Only Give You Everything” and is going to be out this fall.
In (the series of) paintings there’s one in the forest, there’s one that’s a tragic shipwreck kind of series, there’s an oiling series, in the same feel of “There Will Be Blood” California history, there’s a cowboy one… and there’s an architecture one.
I’m about halfway through the paintings for the project. I’m finishing the cowboys and I’m about to start the oiling one, and that’s going to be just awesome.
It sounds like a lot of work.
Yeah, it’s a lot of work. For me, I like to do a lot of work all at once and then push it out into the world, instead of one at a time. I think some artists are staggered, slowly putting stuff out. For me it’s a lot easier to have a whole idea and be able to just hit it. The book I’m really excited about. A lot of people that like my work… a lot of people I want to connect with, are unable to afford some of the bigger pieces. This way, they can have the whole collection, you know, in their hands, look through it, appreciate it, have it on the bookshelf.
Ten of the paintings, I’m doing a thing where the people, the fans, I created a fan page for it, which is I guess gaining momentum right now. It’s really cool to be able to communicate with all of these people all at the same time. I think that’s a new thing for art too, for artists to have that open communication. So.. the 10 most popular paintings of the project… based on this feedback I’m getting from all these people, are going to be turned into prints. My friend Connor at Forthrite Printing in Oakland, he’s doing really nice 8-color silkscreens on archival paper, in a series of 100. So that’s going to come out when the book comes out too. I did a test run of that last year when I did this thing with Urban Outfitters, and they sold out immediately, so that was really fun because all these people get their own piece.
What materials do you usually work with?
Acrylic house paint on wood panels. Then I cover it with with a resin which is cool because it makes it look like a layer of glass on top. Makes it really pop, especially with my style it works really well.
Who or what are your influences and inspirations?
Growing up, I was skateboarding and into music, so my biggest influences for creative things were coming from those. That was the time that Ed Templeton, Aaron Rose and the Beautiful Losers stuff, all the artists there like Thomas Campbell, Mark Gonzales… all those guys were whose work I encountered most often. I really appreciated the way that it was connected to the same things I was connected to.
I guess it would be them. But then, I love Egon Schiele, of all those traditional artists you can go to out there. And I really, really love old traditional, really nicely rendered oil paintings. It couldn’t be farther from what I’m doing, but artists have always been painting naked chicks, and I get kind of a lot of comments about that from some people. But artists have always been doing it. Maybe it’s my style, flashier or poppier, and some people consider it a more contemporary kind of thing.
Aside from painting, do you have any other creative outlets?
In college I studied English, and I was originally going to go into film, I started working in film, and I was always doing my art thing. So, when I was finishing up college, I wanted to focus on something I loved to do, and I didn’t necesarily have enough time dedicated to every day. So that way, I was able to read and write every day. It’s hard to do the same thing all day, every day, so you have to have other ways… to work, and so with writing I can work still at the same speed, and in the same way, exploring my mind, getting these ideas out, without getting burned out on painting, and then I can go right back to painting, and that way I never am not working, but I don’t lose the energy. I don’t have a dry spell with the painting or the writing, I can keep switching back and forth.
So… I wrote a script last spring that it looks like we’re going to go into production on this summer, which is fun. It’s in the horror genre, but it’s not the typical horror movie. It’s more towards a regular drama, and there’s no supernatural stuff. It’s really cool — we’ve got a lot of people excited about it, and the people I’m working with to make it are excellent, at the top of their game. So I think that it might turn out really well.
My dog is awesome. And the score is now 49-43, it’s still early, but the Lakers are going to win. And you can write that.
Interview by Justin Allen
Art courtesy SA Richard