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Just Asking: J. Kirk Richards

1. Your color palette is fairly consistent. What makes you choose those colors and how do you feel they enhance the emotion of your paintings?

I use a lot of glazes, or thin layers of translucent paint, which make the painting glow. My favorite color to glaze with is Transparent Brown Oxide. So, most of my paintings have a rust-brown tint to them, and they feel luminescent and antique. One of these days I’ll break with tradition and switch to a new palette of colors.

2. Of the places you have lived and visited, where has inspired your artwork the most—and how has the influence lasted through your career?

I served in the Italy Rome Mission. The colors and textures of Rome have continually influenced my work for the past fourteen years. Also, a recent trip to Israel gives me new inspiration. You can expect to see a lot of work in the next few years with scenes from Galilee and Jerusalem.

3. What is the atmosphere like in the studio when you paint? Is there music? Do you stand or sit? Give us a virtual tour of the scene of you at work.

My studio has wood floors and a wall of mirrors. The three remaining walls are full of paintings, some on the wall, some stacked in piles against the wall. Sometimes I work on the paintings on the wall. Sometimes I work on an easel or a table. Sometimes I crouch down and work on the floor, particularly when I’m working with washes of acrylic paint. There is a full-size mannequin in the corner, which serves as a drapery model. I listen to music while I paint—usually music with a beat that keeps me moving.

4. What’s a typical day like for you?

There are few typical days for me. Some days are full of painting. Some days are full of errands. Some days are full of music practice and production. Some days are full of family activities. I just try to fit everything in in its own good time.

5. You’ve studied under some impressive artists, but who is one artist you’d have loved to learn from in a past life, if you could choose anyone in the history of the world?

I would love to learn a thing or two from Rembrandt, Carl Bloch, Jules Bastien-Lepage, and Edgar Maxence.

6. Painting such a familiar and beloved figure as Jesus Christ seems like a daunting task. What made you chose to focus so much of your work on this subject, and how do you deal with the pressure of “getting it right”?

I never worry about getting it right. It’s going to be wrong for quite a few people. My goal is to create something that is moving to me. If it touches me, it will touch at least a few others. I’ve done some pretty bad paintings in hindsight, and I’m sure I’ll do some bad paintings in the future. At times like these, I remind myself that Leonardo Da Vinci painted some pretty bad paintings as well. But his Mona Lisa is arguably the most famous (and in my opinion, one of the most perfect) paintings in the world. I’d rather do work that takes risks and has the potential to really be moving to a few people, including me.

7. Your faith has obviously influenced your work—most of your subjects are religious in nature. But how has your work influenced your faith?

I love artwork that is redemptive, and I try to capture redemption in my own paintings. That means including the dark with the light. Perhaps art has helped me to appreciate opposition in all things. Perhaps it has made me more sympathetic than I was before to the plight of others experiencing trials or in need of redemption. Or, maybe I would be the spiritually the same if I was a doctor, teacher, or computer programmer. I don’t know.

8. If you weren’t an artist, what would you do?

Singer. Movie Director. Entrepreneur.

9. What do you do to unwind when you’re stressed?

Paint. Listen to music. Exercise. Social networking.

10. What is your advice for an aspiring artist?

If you’re an aspiring artist you should be true to your vision, work hard, keep expenses low at the beginning, produce a lot of work, value your work, appreciate and learn from a broad variety of work by other artists, don’t expect the Church or the government to be your main client, have fun, and get better all the time.

11. Where is one place you hope to someday see your work displayed, and who is one person you hope someday buys a painting of yours?

I did a painting for my own ward meeting house. That was a beautiful experience. I encourage local church leaders to make that happen for their artists—find a way to get appropriate original art in your ward meeting house. I love that my friends and neighbors, my brothers and sisters in my ward family, are able to share something meaningful that I created. Also, I’d love to do a solo show in a major museum someday.

I don’t have hopes for a specific person to purchase my work. I feel a special connection to anyone who ends up buying one of my pieces, from whatever walk of life or social stratum.

12. Do your four children take interest in your work? Are any of them hoping to follow in your footsteps?

My oldest daughter has expressed interest in a career as an artist. The other three all have talent, but are still young. We’ve taught them a little bit of painting, but we’ve also tried to give them a broad base of education in the arts. They take music lessons on multiple instruments. They love songwriting, animation, movie making, writing, etc. We’ll see what the future brings.

13. What piece of artwork has been especially challenging to complete, and how did you find the resolve to keep working on it?

Half of my paintings are really hard to complete, and half seem to paint themselves. I have so many paintings in progress at any given time, I rarely need to find resolve. I just leave each painting alone until I’m not sick of it anymore, and then I come back and push it a little bit further.

14. You recently released a book with depictions of the nativity. How did you prepare to paint that story, and what did you take away from it?

I prepared by painting Mother and Child and Nativity images regularly for the past ten years. The book seemed like the next step. Above all, I took away from it a finished product—one that I had dreamed about for years, and one that I wanted to share with my own children.

15. What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

Keep it fun—as in, fun for you to do. I love making art, in all its variety.

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