Don Ricks, now deceased, was a highly regarded painter and instructor. He assisted Russian-born master painter Sergei Bongart for many years in workshops in Idaho. Don also taught painting in his own classes in Idaho throughout the latter part of his life.
According to Don Ricks (1929-1996), "it's not what you paint but how you paint that counts". Ricks should know. His are paintings of singular vision: pastoral, brilliant, impressionistic landscapes and still lifes suffusing with light, depth, and texture. As critic Linda Shochley writing in Focus magazine explains, what sets Don Ricks apart is his "eye for luminous detail"... "a palette so fresh-squeezed you can taste it, precise and vivid design, and a talent for setting a mood".
Ricks' passionate artistic vision first emerged in childhood. He was only in the 5th grade when he told his father he wanted to be an artist. He later went to the University of Utah on a football scholarship and studied painting until he became a father and postponed studying art to support his family. He started a sign painting business, which he ran for 22 years. "I was quite happy as long as I had a brush in my hand," he said.
At the age of 39, he exchanged the sign painting brushes for oil brushes and canvas. He taught art classes and ran summer artist workshops at his home, one hour from Yellowstone National Park in the Snake River country of southeastern Idaho. The programs sponsored artists like Sergei Bongart to come study, teach, and paint with artists from the United States and abroad. As Ricks recalled, it was through these experiences that he found his direction as an artist and realized "it is vital to discover your own direction as an artist and constantly strive for that". He began to "get (his) joy and satisfaction out of painting itself". For those of us who have viewed Ricks' work, the joy and satisfaction is mutual.
"Ricks' still lifes offer tables laden with the fruits of the harvest, exploding with exuberant light and color. Jugs once used for farm fresh milk now hold bouquets of zinnias, peonies, hollyhocks and mums. Baskets and platters of peaches, melons, pumpkins, Indian corn and apples, all ripe for the taking, spill over onto the ground like a lush carpet. And it's all dappled through cottonwoods and aspens.
Although influenced by the works of Sergei Bongart, Alvin Gittings and William Merritt Chase, Ricks maintained, "I've learned a lot on my own. Artists may influence your art, but you must learn on your own." It's a singular vision - a hard-won quality of focus that will continue to set Ricks' work apart from others. While he painted landscapes and portraits, still lifes were his forte and oil his medium.
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