Ron Hicks bridges the gap between two polarizing art styles with true sophistication. He’s cultivated a style that blends the intricacy and detail of realism with the looser, more gestural brush strokes of abstract. His current work is devoid of traditional backgrounds, instead, he opts for a minimalistic canvas full of expressive strokes of various hues. These gestural strokes melt into realistic portraiture as delicate skin, softly paint lips and luscious hair emerges from the canvas. Eyes that could tell a thousand different stories of their own gaze upon the viewer with curiosity. As the viewer asks themselves what this artwork means to them, the painting stares back awaiting an answer.
Born in Columbus, Ohio in 1965, Ron Hicks is an American oil painter who currently specialises in abstract realism. Hicks has been drawing for as long as he can remember and found a great deal of comfort in art throughout the tougher times of his childhood. At school he found himself in the art room surrounded by people who helped nurture his artistic talents. When he was 16 years old Hicks began attending classes at Columbus College of Art and Design and was awarded a scholarship there which he attended for two years before transferring to Colorado Institute of Art to study commercial art.
Hicks began his career as a representational artist with a traditional approach to painting, which was reminiscent of the styles cultivated by the old 19th-century masters. Whilst Hicks has been exhibiting his work all across the United States since 1993, his style and approach to painting have changed quite drastically into what we now recognise as his current body of work. Instead of keeping to a more traditional approach, he’s branched out into a more expressive and experimental style that draws from his own emotions and experiences in life.
My dialogue on the canvas is out there for the world to see. All of the passages, markings, scrapings, etc. mean something to me emotionally and directly relate specifically to each piece. I don’t speak a whole lot about what these things mean to me. Truthfully, I feel it’s irrelevant because I see my paintings as an open book.
Interview With Ron Hicks
A big congratulations to you on your win! I’d love to learn more about your winning piece “Amber Eve”. What was the inspiration behind this painting?
As with most of my paintings, “Amber Eve” started out very abstractly. Unlike how I approached my paintings early in my career, there are no preliminary sketches – I just start painting. Some of my initial passages or markings are intuitive, and non-objective in nature. I’d like to think of this as the ‘opening of dialogue’ where I am searching myself emotionally and spiritually, asking the work to tell me where to go. I feel there is always going to be a figurative aspect or a series of abstract shapes that are recognizable, as I [personally] like to refer to them. As for the inspiration for “Amber Eve”, I’d have to say it’s a byproduct of this process. Most of my recent paintings are born from my response to connection — i.e., things that are harmonious — and humanity.
Why did you decide to enter the Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize?
I’ve been a huge fan of Beautiful Bizarre Magazine for quite some time. I’ve enjoyed the content and follow them on IG. It’s been difficult to place my work categorically because it has facets that could belong to a number of artistic disciplines. When I saw the call for Art Prize, I thought it’d be a great fit for my work because of the magazine’s diverse and eclectic content.
What made you decide that this was the piece you wanted to submit for the Art Prize?
I decided to submit “Amber Eve” for consideration for Art Prize because I felt it speaks to the core of what I believe I most want to convey: My truth. Also, I want to create an open dialogue about the painting.
Your paintings, especially your faces, feel so delicate, organic, and effortless. What kind of painting techniques do you use to get such a soft and free-flowing finish?
I’m not sure I can say there’s a specific painting technique I use when painting faces. I tend to treat the face the same way I do while expressing all of the shapes in my works. The face is just another shape. There’s a specific placement, balance, and treatment for all of the elements harmoniously that I try to achieve in every composition. I will add this, I have yet to find a way to create some of the things I achieve emotionally with figurative shapes in a non-objective way. But I’ll keep on trying!
Faces are a vital part of your work and many of your subjects gaze intently at the viewer, would you say the face, especially the eyes, are the window to the soul?
The face is a vital component in my current body of work. As aforementioned, I find that the figurative shapes often open up a different emotional avenue in the works that take the expressions to a place I’m not able to achieve non-objectively.
I look at the adage “The eyes are the window to one’s soul” a couple of ways. From biblical scripture to Shakespeare to the present day, time and again, it’s been said that ‘seeing in one’s eyes can tell you what a person thinks or feels’ [paraphrased]. I can also make a case that the face or eyes can be a point of reflection for the viewer, perhaps inspiring one to look introspectively, for self-examination.
Unlike how I approached my paintings early in my career, there are no preliminary sketches – I just start painting. Some of my initial passages or markings are intuitive, and non-objective in nature. I’d like to think of this as the ‘opening of dialogue’ where I am searching myself emotionally and spiritually, asking the work to tell me where to go.
What challenges did you face when working on “Amber Eve”?
There really weren’t any challenges I can think of during the course of working on “Amber Eve”. I try to make it a point to only work on a painting when I feel I should be working on it. When challenges do arise, it’s usually when I’m operating from a place of fear, not trusting and second-guessing my intuitive meanderings on canvas. These moments were more frequent at the beginning of my quest, many years ago, to find out who I am as an artist. I believe it’s difficult to know what you should be doing unless you address this. You have to know you.
I understand that your work is emotionally driven, and you often pull from your own life story and memories to craft your paintings. What does “Amber Eve” mean to you as a piece of work?
My dialogue on the canvas is out there for the world to see. All of the passages, markings, scrapings, etc. mean something to me emotionally and directly relate specifically to each piece. I don’t speak a whole lot about what these things mean to me. Truthfully, I feel it’s irrelevant because I see my paintings as an open book. I encourage the viewer to engage and have their own relationship with the work, drawing their own conclusions. I truly believe I shouldn’t dictate or influence how someone should respond to my work.
Seek to understand who you are as a person and an artist.
What do you feel you have gained from participating in the Art Prize?
Anytime one receives recognition at any level, from a prestigious organization such as this, it comes with a sense of accomplishment and pride. I’m honored and grateful.
Would you recommend it and encourage others to enter the Art Prize? If so, why?
Absolutely! The Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize is first class and I have nothing but great things to say about them. I’d encourage anyone who has a voice — no matter your artistic contribution — to enter. You never know what could become of entering!
You’ve accomplished so much throughout your career; you’ve experimented with painting and have found your own signature style. If given the opportunity to chat with your younger self when they were first starting out as an artist what words of wisdom would you bestow upon them?
This will sound redundant but if I could chat with my younger self or someone just starting out I’d say this:
Seek to understand who you are as a person and an artist. This will not be an overnight process, however, I believe this is vital to understanding yourself stylistically. To me, one’s style is really a byproduct. Your art is really you. If you work on you, your path will be clearer.
When you’re not painting, what do you like to get up to?
When I’m not painting, I enjoy playing bass guitar and working in my wood shop, and of course, spending time with my wife. None of which I’ve had much time to do lately. Lol. Thankfully, my wife is my business partner, and we work closely together so at least I do get to spend a little bit of time with her.
What’s next for you? Do you have any exciting projects coming up that you can tell our readers a bit about?
Most of my time will be working on my 2023 and 2024 exhibitions. I do have some larger personal works in the making in the 8” x 12” range. Also, I have a couple of projects I’m working on that I can’t reveal at this time so stay tuned!