by Mel Fenson

The fresh fruit pictured on some of Longmont artist Rick Stoner’s still life paintings looks so real and luscious that you are tempted to reach over, pick up a peach or a pear and take a bite or pick up the football, he has painted so realistically, and throw it.

Rick says most of his work is representational, “meaning what you see is what you get.” Although he does some non-objective painting, “realism is what I like best” he states. In addition to his still life paintings, Rick paints landscapes and figurative works. He notes, “I’ve painted western subjects, such as brandings and rodeos, but most of what I have been doing the past couple of years has been predominantly still lifes, and those have been mostly done in oil.” He also paints landscapes, which he does in pastels.” He jokes, “it’s kinda fun to keep things going in two different media at the same time with two different materials.”

“The subjects in my paintings tend to take their own paths,” Rick observed. “A painting like this large still life (above) doesn’t start out with a complete concept. I start out with a particular setup, then end up putting more objects in or taking things out or moving things around. My paintings sometimes tell me what I need to do. If it’s a still life, for example, the fruit will sometimes let me know, ‘well this isn’t going to work very well,’ so I may need to rethink what I am doing, but that’s just part of the process. I enjoy working in that unstructured way more than if I tried to set up definite direction to start with or did a pre-study sketch, because I would probably lose interest if a project was too structured. I like to just let a work go through its own metamorphosis and become whatever it develops into.

“What you see here,” Rick explained, referring to the large still life on his easel, “is just the underpainting, the first colors I have applied. The image will eventually become more descriptive. You will eventually begin to see some of the shadows that are cast by the fruit and other aspects will also develop as the painting evolves. The reddish-purple background was requested by the person who commissioned this work. Although that will end up being the predominant color, it will relate back to what’s going on with the overall subject – the fruit arrangement in this case. The area where the fruit is sitting is a reflective surface, so it will bring your eye back into the central objects. I want to keep the viewer’s eye moving throughout the scene and not get stopped at one point or another for too long, so all elements of the painting become important. The first place that attracts the eye or the focal point will be where there is a lot of light. It will have the brightest light and the most brilliant color. I’ll put a stem here and there to turn the eye in those directions and guide it where I want it to go. It’s important to keep the eyes moving around, stopping here and there for a minute or so, then moving to other points of interest. Some areas are going to be more developed than other areas, but that doesn’t mean that I can disregard the whole upper fourth of the painting, which will end up being mostly color. It will relate back to things that are going on in the central part of the painting, such as colors that pick up other colors.”

Rick likes to use purples and burgundies, reds and cadmium oranges. To keep things moving back and forth, he adds accent colors like turquoise blues to subtly attract attention to certain areas in the painting. “A lot of the composition develops because that’s what the painting needs to have, “ Rick states. “If you look closely at a painting you will see the subtle colors woven into in its texture.”

He paints with oils on board and canvas and does his pastel work on paper. He said, “My big paintings are done on gessoed masonite – like the still life on his easel - however, in some instances I use linen.

“I’ve always enjoyed going on location to paint, but I haven’t been doing much of that in recent years,” Rick said, “and I want to start doing that more than I have been, but this big painting has kept me in the studio a lot this summer.” He said he used to paint a lot on location where he grew up in in Cortez, which is in southwest Colorado. “There is a canyon down there, called Mc Elmo Canyon. It’s a little southwest of Cortez. I worked in that area quite a bit and I also did an artist residency a few years ago through the forest service in the Mancos area, which is also in southwestern Colorado.

Around here, I just pull off on the road and go to work when I see something that appeals to me or just keep the location in mind for future reference. I also have a good friend that owns a ranch a little north of town that I have access to, if I want to paint there, and I have also painted in nearby national parks, but I don’t go backpacking carrying a palette.”

“My painting isn’t so much about the mountains or the landscape, it’s more of a personal way I have of seeing things like shadows across the road for instance or tunnel-looking trees or things that have a specific kind of vanishing point to them like roads. I don’t go out and pick a specific fence or road or corn field or barn or something, it’s just more about the feeling I get when I see something. It’s about what the scene says to me.” He added, “I don’t do a lot of buildings, but one year, I did a project that was all alleyways.”

Asked if he works from sketches, he replied, “not too much, I tend to just paint.” He does take photos for general reference, but not to replicate an image. “If I paint a subject on location, I paint it just as it is. The paintings I do on location pretty much just stay the way I first paint them. I don’t try to refine them, when I get back to my studio. If I am going to do anything, I might go back to the same spot and work on that same painting more.

Rick usually has several paintings going at the same time. “Sometimes they get set aside,” he commented, “ and I don’t come back to them ever, because some are rubbish and I get bored with them. But it is sort of nice to set work aside and take a look at it again, after two or three weeks. However, sometimes I know a painting is never going to work and that might be a year later when I have completely lost interest in it.

The average amount of time Rick works on a painting may range from three hours to three weeks. “If it’s three hours,” Rick says, “it might be a small still life that I work really fast on or a painting done on location. A painting like this large one (pictured above),” Rick explained, “has taken several months, although I have not worked on it steadily, but the whole process has taken some time - trying to get the concept worked out and time spent working back and forth with my client, who commissioned the piece. Even though I have done paintings in one or two hours, it doesn’t mean because I have spent less time on them that they are not just as good. I have also done small paintings that have taken me weeks. Sometimes, I have a tendency to work too much on a painting.”

Rick’s paintings range in size from a large still life like the one on his easel, which is about 48 x 54 inches, “which is pretty large for me,” he commented. “I don’t usually go a lot bigger than this - to as small as 8 x10 inches, which are usually in oil. A lot of my pastels are 16 x 20 inches or 18 x 24 inches, but I’ve done small pastels too. It’s not the medium but the subject matter that determines the size. For example, I did a painting of a baseball that was the same size as a baseball and it was 8 x 10 inches. It was a very realistic painting and I spent a couple of weeks working on it. I’ve also done paintings that are 18 x 24 inches that I have spent a tenth of that amount of time on. It all depends on what the image is and what I am trying to accomplish with it. On an average, Rick does 20 to 30 paintings a year.

Rick’s work has been influenced by Claude Monet, a founder of French impressionist painting, and a plein-air landscape painter, the French realist, Edgar Degas, the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer, the American realist, Edward Hopper, and the English painter, stage designer and photographer, David Hockney. Pierre Bonnard, the French painter and printmaker has also influenced Rick's color thinking. Friends of his who have influenced his work are Scott Fraser, another well established Longmont painter, Dan Sprick of Glenwood Springs, and the well known late, Richard Diebenkorn, a 20th century American painter.

Rick grew up in southwestern Colorado, but originally lived in northwestern New Mexico near Farmington, then moved there. His family eventually moved to Cortez, Colorado, where he attended grade school through junior high and then high school.

Rick holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Colorado State University in Fort Collins and a Master of Fine Arts from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He has taught art at the University of Denver and at Colorado State University and has done worked with the Art Students League of Denver and the Loveland Academy of Fine Arts. He is currently teaching at the Boulder County Campus of Front Range Community College in Longmont. He has taught under graduate courses in painting, print-making and drawing.

Rick’s paintings are mainly sold through the Abend Gallery in Denver and also exhibited in Gallery East in Loveland, Colorado. He also participates in a lot of national shows, such as The Governor’s Invitational, Artists of America, and The American Art Invitational. He has also exhibited at the Coors Western in Denver and other shows. Rick also does a lot of commissioned work and sells directly to collectors. Prices for his paintings range from $1,000 to $6,000.

“I try to have fun with this stuff,” Rick muses, “but often it doesn’t work out that way because sometimes you can take the work to a point where you get overly serious about things. However, I tell my students that they shouldn’t be afraid of the idea of painting because it’s great therapy. Painting keeps me sane and calm. While I am painting I am seldom distraught or upset about things. Just the idea of working with my hands, even if I am just doodling or drawing provides a great relaxation for me. Painting is just something that I have to do. I get too crazy otherwise.

Rick has no web site but can be
contacted through his cell phone at
or through the galleries.


Cover | Contents | Archive | Contact