Richard Downs' art making combines contemporary aesthetics with the rich history of printmaking to create images that feel both current and timeless. He has worked for most United States periodicals and newspapers ranging from The Progressive to National Geographic and international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations publication divisions . Downs is a graduate of Art Center College of Design and was a faculty member for 6 years. Richard is presently a faculty member of the Applied Art and Design department of Sierra College teaching Illustration practices. Richard lives in Northern California in the historic Victorian mining town Nevada City with his wife and artist Gwyn Stramler and their daughter.
*2013 American Illustration 32 - 1 piece selected
*2012 American Illustration 31 - 2 pieces selected
*2012 Crocker art museum -"2012 Art Auction" June
*2012 Sacramento Temporary Contemporary -"Memory" May
*2012 Gallery 2110 - "Human Voice"- March
*2011 The Center for the Arts - Solo Show - Richard Downs "Couples and Curious Creatures"-Opening June 20 - July 11, 2011 Grass Valley, Ca
*2011 Sacramento Temporary Contemporary- Group Show - "Looking Back, Looking Forward" curated by Robert Ray Opening May 12 - June 4, 2011
*2011 Sacramento Temporary Contemporary- Solo Show - "Couples by Richard Downs"-Opening March 10 -April 10, 2011
* 2011 New York Society of Illustrators Museum- Included in the Institutional Exhibit, Illustrators 53 -February 23-March 19, 2011
* 2011 Skinner Howard Contemporary- Sacramento-Risque Valentine Show February 12 - March 5, 2011
* 2010 New York Society of Illustrators 53 - 2 Illustrations accepted into the exhibition and book
* 2010 Invitation from the Sea Turtle Restoration Project to be included in an exhibit and benefit to help support the restoration of habitat destroyed by the BP oil spill.
* 2010 Work included in the New York Society of Illustrators Museum exhibit EARTH: Fragile Planet and included in the Traveling Exhibition
* 2010 Work Included in Illustrators 52 Traveling Exhibition. Tour dates from September 2010 through July 2011
* 2010 New York Society of Illustrators -52nd Illustration Annual- 5 Illustrations accepted into the exhibition and book
* 2009 New York Society of Illustrators -51st Illustration Annual-Phoenix Magazine
* 2007 Communication Arts -48th Illustration Annual-Stanford Medicine Magazine
* 2007 American Illustration -26th Illustration Annual-Communications of the ACM
* 2006 gold medal -Council for Advancement and Support of Education(CASE)-editorial art - Middlebury College
* 2006 gold medal - 28th Annual Design Awards - American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE) - Computerworld
* 2006 silver medal - 28th Annual Design Awards - American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE) - PC World
* 2006 award of excellence - 36th Annual Design Competition - The University & College Designers Association (UCDA) - Middlebury College
American Illustration-Communication Arts Illustration Annual-HOW magazine-Print Regional Design Annual-Society of Illustrators New York-Online Design-Hypno Magazine-Society of Publication Design-Step by Step Japan
acm communications-businessweek-cmp-kiplingers-ing barings-discover-time warner-mens journal-outside-national geographic-wall street journal-los angeles times-san francisco chronicle--new york times-washington post-chicago tribune-hartford courant-dallas morning news-disney-stanford-harvard-columbia -usc-cyan-salon-msnbc-international monetary fund-pc world-computerworld-american medical news-harcourt brace-book of the month-rigby-der spiegel-der freitag-london times-the vidal partnership-toyota-usa today-nike-united nations-forbes-texas monthly-bloomberg-spin-wendy's-3com-mips-quantum-heineken-phoenix magazine-canadian business-cure-cricket-crocker art museum-lynda.com
________________________________ Laid Bare: Works from Richard Downs
By Laurien Dusharme
Standing in front of a Richard Downs painting reminds me of why I entered into what has become an enduring habit - the study of art. It began innocently enough: I was perplexed by abstract paintings. I simply wanted to know what they meant. Like many, I had bought into the idea that an artist’s work always held deep and important messages – but what were they? Years of art studies still managed to yield periodic wonderments like, "Is contemporary art exclusive?" That thought upset my pragmatic approach to art.
So I arrived at this: when I stand before abstract work, I put aside art theory and simply decide whether or not something is being communicated. Because isn’t art a form of communication, like writing a letter or singing a song? It is visual communication. An artist may have a grand message, but how can a work succeed if no one can translate it? It really just comes down to whether or not the viewer and the artist speak the same language. And sometimes, happily, it is within uncomplicated, unself-conscious work that one hears truths being spoken. So it is with Richard Downs’ artwork. Downs’ language speaks to most people because we are the subjects. He observes and represents the physical-emotional expression of a figure in the context of a relationship. Within paintings of oil on panel and delicate monotypes, Downs tells stories that read like a snapshot. He gives the viewer one moment within many, using the nuanced language of the figure to speak of the unspoken communication between two people.
This is how they read: in one piece, a couple holds each other: the man’s hands held together at the small of his partner’s back, his head turned to the side, away. Her face is hidden from view, buried in his shoulder. In another work, a monotype, a couple is eye to eye, as close as possible without embracing: his arm at his side, her arm bent back as she grasps her hair at her neck. So close, yet holding back. A third piece, another couple: her head is on his shoulder, tucked under his chin with her hand resting on her head. His arm reaches above them both, bent at a right angle. His hand bent at the wrist, an angle that shields. A pose of protection, it seems.
And this is what is great: they are so easy on the eyes. There is sweetness and simplicity to the work. They aren’t trying to be anything other than elegant, contemporary paintings. They aren’t cryptic. They don’t require knowledge of art theory to be deciphered. They are just what they are presented as: beautiful images of coupled figures. But that isn’t all they are. They communicate an understanding of the way people express themselves with their bodies. They express appreciation for the wonder that occurs when two people connect. And they express compassion for the pain when connection is broken. The sincerity of the artist shines.
The delicacy of Downs’ imagery seems to belie the weight of the subject. His monotypes are created on Japanese paper, the figures born of simple outline and knowing details in red and black ink. They reside on fields of loosely layered colors that tend to inform the emotional tone of the figure(s). Adding to the delicate sense of the monotypes is the stippling Downs employs to indicate or emphasize areas of import: hair, breasts, spine, arm, chest; the feature varies from piece to piece, serving as a unifying or dividing attribute between a couple. The stippled and profiled representations bring to mind the depictions of heroes in Classical Greek art (usually shown in profile with detailed hair in contrast to the rest of the figure). There is an ancient look to the monotypes, resulting from the artist’s style and the nature of the medium, but also from the timelessness of the subject. It is a successful triad. Downs’ gentle treatment of his subject serves it well by giving space for the emotions that are present.
Like the monotypes, Downs’ paintings depict couples and single figures in various states of association, yet are strikingly distinct from the prints. The figures are fully rendered rather than outlined. The colors employed – tan, beige, melon, olive, various red tones – are deepened by his usage of black to outline, shade, and contour the figures. His faces tend to be in deep shadow, giving anonymity and universality to the image. His liberal shadowing gives a stylized, Leger-like abstraction to the forms. Instead of stippling, he uses dashed and curvilinear lines to crown the heads of the figures; they repeat in abstracted trees that frame the couples. The results are powerful. There is a lot of information to take in, and so they require more from the viewer. To stay with it is worth it. The paintings have heat. And distance, and discomfort, and tenderness. But where the monotypes give some emotional space through transparency, the paintings give solid figures, deep color, and emotional density. They’re potent.
To look at Downs’ paintings, then look again at the monotypes, it is clear why his figures say so much – because the man can paint. He knows color, he knows form, he can work a space. Downs is a professional. He earned his BFA from Art Center College of Design (with honors) in illustration, taught editorial illustration at Art Center and other schools, and has illustrated for a plethora of national publications. All along the way, Downs has been creating and showing fine art – paintings, drawings, prints, and sculpture. His skills are evident in the work.
When I first saw Downs’ work, I liked it immediately. I was attracted to the simplicity and elegance of his pieces. Today, I still like them for those reasons, but for others, too. The simplicity of the imagery holds, but the complexity of his observations go deeper, softly. I have learned more of the vocabulary in his language, so they say more to me. And therein lies the rub. His work serves as a metaphor for how a person relates to any one or thing: what you bring to it determines what issues from it.