John Rychtarik– Featured Member of SDAA
by Stacey | May 16, 2016
Stacey Evangelista: Hi John; it was so nice to visit with you recently. Thank you for opening-up your home and sharing your studio with other members of SDAA. I am so excited about the Natural Pigment Workshop coming up (June 25th @ Pointer’s Ridge)! I once read a book about a lady who traveled around the world to find where different pigments came from and how they were mined/picked/etc. – it was so romantic. But even more romantic to me, is the idea of hunting for pigments from the land where you live and using them yourself to create a work of art. When I saw your work a while back at Eastbank Gallery I fell in love with it! Can you tell me how you got into soil painting?
John Rychtarik: When I was a kid I loved to collect rocks. I took my folks on wild goose chases trying to find certain rocks for my collections. Well, fast forward a few years, I had the opportunity to work on the BIA Mobile Art Van, along with noted artist Donald Montileaux in the early 1970s, traveling to reservation day schools teaching art. We used the students’ traditional native culture as motivation for their artwork through the use of stories, actual artifacts and slides of artifacts. Many times we used natural materials for their artwork including various color of soils. In our travels we collected soils. After the project ended I kept the left over soils and started painting with them on canvas. However, while raising a family they were stored away but they moved with all our household goods when we moved. Recently, I started to use using them again
Stacey: So where have you gone to collect your soils? Is there a region of South Dakota that holds more variety?
John: In our travels within South Dakota we collected the soils. Many of them are from the Black Hills. Others are from the Bad Lands area and along the Missouri River. There are some that I do not remember where they came from. Someone at one time gave me a container with dust from Mt. Saint Helena which works real well. Clay type soils work the best. Rich black soils do not so I use vine charcoal for the black.
Stacey: There is a process to prepare the soils for painting. Can you tell me a bit about that?
John: I use a mortar and pestle to crush the soil and then I put it through a fine screen.
Stacey: So what do you add to the soil that allows you to paint with it, and is there a substrate you like best for your soil paintings?
John: I use polymer medium liquid or gel. It is somewhat transparent so I usually paint several layers to get the effect that I want. I use brushes but have experiments with sponges and event linoleum block printing.
Stacey: Ok – I want to talk more about you as an Artist now. What drew you to become an Artist & where did you study art?
John: I have been interested in art since grade school. One of the first characters I drew was Woody Woodpecker. While in high school at Riggs High School in Pierre, I was involved in getting art back in the school’s curriculum. After high school I attended Northern State University in Aberdeen where I majored in Art Education and minored in history. After teaching for a few years I attended the University of South Dakota for more concentration on my own art.
Stacey: You work with a lot of different mediums. Can you tell me what you are working with/on right now?
John: Majoring in art education I got a little bit of everything but not much of anything. This helped me as a teacher but confused me as an artist. So, I like to experiment with many mediums including ceramics, sculpture, color pencils, watercolors, oils, acrylics and some printmaking.
Right now I am working with acrylics, however, I am looking forward to plein air painting with oils.
Stacey: Do you have any favorites when it comes to Artists thru history? Whose work do you use as examples/tools/guides for your own art?
John: I really like all types of art from realism to minimalism. While being an exhibits curator at the South Dakota Art Museum I marveled at the variety of work by many different artists from the area and nationally. Their creativity amazes me. I love traditional Native American art and the contemporary art of Oscar Howe. I also love the work of the Monet, Van Gogh, Dali, Georgia O’Keefe, and Wayne Thiebaud.
Stacey: Any advice for young artists or someone considering the field of art for a career?
John: Go for it! Work! Experiment! Look at art! Remember – there are many areas of art a person can go into. It may not be just paint, printmaking or working three dimensionally. It may be designing landscape, buildings, building interiors, graphics, clothing and exhibits. I went from teaching art and creating art to being a museum curator. There are many areas a creative person can succeed.
Stacey: Thank you for your time & insight John! I can’t wait to stick my fingers in all the different South Dakota soils at the workshop in June!