Richard Ingersoll is a Denver based artist who expresses work across many mediums but tends to most frequently find a home in oil painting. While he has practiced traditional forms of art since a very young age, his artistic journey became the focal point of his life after taking residence in the Westword award winning DIY house venue known as Mouth House in the 5-points area of Denver in 2010. It was here that the vision of a career in visual arts crystallized doing comedy and live entertainment poster illustrations, merch design for bands, live painting at music events, showing at the Red Wolf Gallery, and booking music and showing work at the VFW post 1 in Denver’s Santa Fe art district. Since then he has shown in venues all over Colorado and across the country, sold work all over the world, participated in conventions, and continues to do freelance work and show while raising his two sons.
Hi Richard, it’s a pleasure to sit down with you. First question…You reside in Denver, Colorado. How does a regular day look like for you?
I actually now live about a 30 min drive south of Denver in a city called Castle Rock. I still consider and feel like my home base is Denver because that’s where I kind of came into being. Living in that city had an integral role in shaping me into what I am today and its the closest city people out of Colorado recognize, so I just stick with that as where I’m based out of. I feel like I have an allegiance to it. A normal day for me though isn’t crazy exciting haha I get up and make sure my kids are getting ready for school, go drop them off. Sometimes I’ll start the day with a short hike near my house just to get my mind and body going and be outside to prepare for several hours usually sitting in a chair painting. If I have stuff to pack and ship, I do that, then I paint straight through the day until I pick up my kids around 4, then come back home and paint till dinner. After the kids go to bed I usually party pretty hard just raging like its my religion until dawn.Just kidding, they go to bed and, you guessed it, I paint more. The smell of paint chemicals becomes me.
Do you remember when you started to draw? And what got you interested in painting? Talk to me a little bit about your painting journey. From the beginning stages to your current developed style.
The story I always tell about the absolute origin of my making art is with my Grandma Tellaz. She’d be in the kitchen literally all day making tamales, tortillas, and sopapillas. That’s a cornerstone memory for me is doing that with her. If my cousin, Milo, and I were becoming a handful in the kitchen, she would set us up with tracing paper and Disney coloring books in the living room. It was her way of getting more use out of the coloring books like we’d color the books, then use the tracing paper to get uncolored versions of the characters and color them again. She comes in one day to check up on us and Milo is like, “I want to be an artist when I grow up”, and I looked up at her and said, “Grandma, I AM an artist.” Haha Its interesting because I was always a pretty shy kid and that was a cocky thing to say. Like it was just something I was always sure of and it’s felt like a part of who I am from the beginning. I never took art in school growing up, I didn’t want it to become “school” like it was mine and reserved as an escape or a meditation or something whether I was conscious of it back then or not. I actually leaned really heavy into making music for most of my teen years and early 20s. I was living in a DIY music venue/communal living house that a bunch of people from my hometown, Elizabeth, CO, found in 5 points in Denver at this time. Lots of experimenting with a bunch of different psychoactive substances and almost a carnie type lifestyle. I always described it as feeling like touring with a band but just in one place. That was the lifestyle. Boundless and unhinged. And then I would actually tour the country a bit with a couple bands. One night though, I was tripping and painting a canvas I just hung up on my room wall to paint, I didn’t have an easel or anything, and I just had this overwhelming feeling of like “this is what I need to focus on, making visual art is going to play a huge role in my life.” Life a premonition type feeling. Woke up the next day and there was randomly a huge metal easel in the backyard of our house and no one knew where it came from. Took that as a sign haha. And then yeah, I just started painting everyday basically just trying to make each piece better than the last, being critical of myself but not too critical, learning constantly and trying to get better and that continues today just the same. There’s other really important events that happened but I’ll end up responding to this question all day if I don’t stop now. I’ll just say there were also some key people who really encouraged me, they know who they are, I love em all.
Correct me if i’m wrong. I would characterize your paintings as: Horror/Fantasy/Sci-fi with a squeeze of psychedelic. What is it about those genres that intrigues you?
That makes me super happy to hear haha I would say those 4 words, horror/fantasy/scifi/psychedelic pretty much encompasses everything I’m into. I tend to lean toward the darker side of things conceptually. Even in my work that is obnoxiously colorful, the concepts are darker and more difficult to chew. I think encountering more difficult things to process catalyzes more growth and teaches you about yourself. Like how you react to and process extreme and off-puting things is just more raw and genuine. “Nice” things are cool, they are comfortable, I can get into any kind of art of any medium on a technical level and really love it. But unless there’s that edge to it, it doesn’t do anything significant to move me. Plus, I mean the world is only purely a nice place if you have your blinders on. Absolutely wack and insane shit goes on here and those genres are the only genuine response to it that make sense to me.
What is your earliest memory of a cartoon, movie, book etc.. that made an impact on you?
I read Lord of the Rings Fellowship of the Ring for the first time in 5th grade (slept through the council of Elrond though I mean come on) and Tolkien’s world had a massive impact on me. The N64 and gameboy Zelda games were also church-level worship for me. I loved animes like dragon ball z of course, sailor moon, rouroni kenshin, the Gundams. Man if I really reach back though… Im seeing like the live action ninja turtles movies from the 90s, that gargoyles cartoon, hey Arnold, Doug. I was more of a nickelodeon/cartoon network kid generally. I know that’s more than one thing haha but I really loved all that stuff. Still do.
What is the process like when creating one of your paintings? Do you already have an idea in your head? Or do you just start on a canvas and then go with the flow?
Unless I’m doing client stuff, which in a bittersweet way has become like %90 of the time now, I just go for it with pretty much no preconceived ideas or something very vague. I live for that exploration. I know everyones different but for me, I discover ideas that I would have never been able to consciously plan for beforehand. Working that way also makes me feel like I’m doing something bigger than me like it has a more timeless presence or something that goes beyond me as an individual.
What do you hope that we, the observers get out of your pieces?
Just enjoyment really. Like watching a movie, reading a comic book, listening to a song or something. I’ve never been a fan of that “art world”, nose in the air type trope of like oh there’s an elevated concept here that not every one can “get”. Nope. I make shit for everyone if they’ll have it. Im just having fun and I hope that exploration and openness I feel when I work can be shared by anyone looking at it.
I read somewhere that you have been raising your twin boys by yourself since they were 5 months old, which must have been a struggle. Did that experience effect your creativity in any way? Talk to me a little bit about how it is juggling being an artist and at the same time raising two sons.
Oh man. It has been quite the journey for sure. Yeah I got left with 3 month old twin sons when I was 25. Im 31 now and they are 6. I had about 3 months prep between knowing they were coming and then them being into the world prematurely, and then 3 months after that she left. So in a span of 6 months I went from “yeah im never having kids lol” and partying almost every night, to having twin infant humans in my house to raise alone. I haven’t seen or heard from her since then. Which I’m not bitter about that. I did struggle a lot with it at first obviously it was a monumental force of change in my life and to imagine undertaking that task alone was horrifying. A lot of peace came though when I realized that some people just aren’t able to parent and their presence would do more damage than their absence. Releasing the complicated feelings around that was huge. But I basically dealt with all of it through making art. It really did save me in the beginning when everything seemed bleak as hell. I had to quit playing in bands, touring, slowly quit my restaurant job in Denver because I had no one to watch them. I quite literally thought all my dreams were over. But it was the opposite and really what their presence did for me was light a fire under my ass a bit and I worked harder than ever. I was painting with babies in my lap, while they were napping, etc. Constantly. Didn’t have time to do much else so I thought I might as well make use being stuck at home all the time. Luckily, I got really chill kids and they always slept, napped and ate well. Even now they are becoming just awesome, thoughtful, hilarious people. I owe them everything. I would never be where I am now without the struggles I faced then and the new struggles I face every day. I couldn’t see that in the beginning but it’s overwhelmingly obvious now.
Staying on the subject. When you were first starting out, in the very beginning and started showcasing your paintings. What was the turning point? How did you get your foot in the door of the art world?
So via the DIY house venue I was living in that I mentioned up there, Mouth House, we would book host all kinds of shows in Denver ranging from music, art, comedy, theater performance, whatever. At one of our monthly events, Mile high improv, that we held at the armoury on 22nd and Larimer (RIP), I met this guy who had a vending table near me named Cody Kuehl who ran a gallery called Red Wolf. I had shown at Emmanuel Gallery on the Metro Campus in Denver and The Dock Gallery, but Red Wolf was my first step into the Santa Fe Art District. After doing shows there and just networking I started booking music and showing at the VFW Post 1 across the street and through networking at shows and the internet, it just sprawled from there. Showed at several places on Santa Fe, in Denver, and now I”ve got things floating around in a few different states and work all over the world.
You are one of the few artists in this world who are able to work and live off your paintings. That must be an incredible feeling. What brought you to this place in your life? Are there any specific moments or paintings that catapulted you to where you are now?
First of all, I don’t wanna front that just because I do this constantly and have had some success, that I would be able to maintain a life for my sons and I purely with this. If I was only responsible for myself still, sure, but not the three of us and all the money that kids entail. Ive luckily had a very supportive family through all my struggles with the kids and what not. When the boys were 3, my dad moved up to Colorado from Texas and we’ve been living with him the past 3 years and having another adult in the house has been an absolute game changer. But im constantly looking for other ways to apply my skills to make money besides the fine art game. When the pandemic hit, I was in the midst of having my first solo feature at Valkarie Gallery. I got snowed in to my house in Evergreen for the opening and then lockdown happened and galleries weren’t really doing much. So I started doing album covers for bands and rappers. Mostly Local but over the last couple years its blossomed into an ongoing thing with acts from all over the world. I would say there are two main catapult moments, one was doing a book cover for “Running the Light” by Denver comic and author, Sam Tallent. That book is a fucking phenomenal piece of art and I was elated when Sam asked me to do a cover for it. It blew up and was toted by the likes of Tim Dillon, Mark Maron, Joe Rogan, Doug Stanhope, the list goes on. Some of those same comics all read chapters on the audiobook. I signed a release with Comedy Central for the art to appear on programs they broadcasted and streamed. I think Garth Ennis is writing the screenplay for the movie right now which, as a comic book fan my whole life, is fucking mind-blowing to me. That led to a steady stream of more commercial work which led to more. The other catapult moment was on reddit haha I had an oil sketch go viral on the r/art sub and that really got my work going more worldwide. I was sending stuff all over the place after that and grew a decent audience in like china, Japan, South Korea. Riding that viral wave also got me enough private collector commission work to last the following 15 months. Im actually just finishing up work from that initial wave of commissions. It’s all perspective though. Some stuff that doesn’t blip the catapult radar now, would have been huge for me 3 years ago and things that were huge then, are common occurrence now. You gotta take every little win and loss with pride no matter the size and transfer it into some energy you can propel yourself with, even if it’s just motivation.
Who are your favorite artist(s) and why?
Painters, Id say my Mt. Rushmore of artist heads would be, Chet Zar who taught me valuable techniques I still use every day, living legend. Beksinski, who is basically right there w Giger as a godfather of dark art surrealism. Christian Rex Van Minnen, his work speaks for itself. The 4th head…. Idk kinda hard to pick… dan Quintana and dos diablos come to mind. Im obsessed with Colin Christian too… Or maybe the 4th head is just Giger. Yeah, lets make it Giger.
What motivates and inspires you?
My kids are an obvious answer. Everything I do is ultimately for them. But to get more cerebral, the things that people don’t want to face. I like honing in on that stuff I think its important. Music and movies. Painting and music go hand in hand for me I’m almost more inspired visually by music artists than visual ones. Big ones for me are flying lotus, you’ll hear his music in countless videos I post online. Genius. The Mars Volta/Omar Rodriguez Lopez. I shouldn’t have started naming people haha lots of great hiphop and death metal artists.
What is your favorite movie(s) and why?
Favorite movie of all time might be Blade Runner 2049… I just think its perfect. I actually hated it the first time I saw it and thought it was super boring haha but one day I was on some mushrooms and working with headphones on, someone texted me or something and my music stopped and I heard just the sound of a ship landing and the sound design was amazing on it. So I got totally sucked in and saw it in a new light. The acting is unparalleled. The nuances between how the the replicants and the humans behave are sooo specific and detailed. Like down to micro expressions and shit. The plot is epic and heartbreaking. The whole brutalist mood and look of it is great. I could talk forever about this movie.