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2012 April 18

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my little piggies

The $2 Art Contest and the artists I meet teach me lessons. Every portfolio I review opens my eyes to new perspectives, new techniques and a new understanding that there is a different path for everyone.  While one little piggy may take his art to market, another little piggy will stay home.  As a consequence of the decisions made, one little piggy will eat roast beef (with au jus, no doubt) and another little piggy (suffering from motivational anorexia) will have none.  But this little piggy is happily singing wee wee wee to have been able to give them all a home.

This month’s artist has taken his art to market and appears to be stuffed with pork (not roast beef) due to a sort of dedication to his art that is almost incomprehensible to me.   I preach about the value of dedication to your statement over aesthetic; however, I don’t often get to enjoy the work of an an artist that expresses emotion through technique–seemingly at random.

Learn more about Featured Artist Ross Ford!I am proud to announce the Featured Artist chosen from the March entries is Ross Ford. His artwork captures emotion through the constant evolution of color, form and stroke in his paintings.  I find myself contemplating which came first–the message or the form.   Does form follow function or function follow form in your work?

Ross Ford

Ross Ford was born in New Hampshire halfway through the Jimmy Carter presidency.  He first started painting in 8th grade when he met the artist Duane Penske while living in southwest Minnesota.  Duane introduced Ross to sketch journaling and how to stretch a canvas.  Duane’s work guided Ford to focus on work that came from an internal place instead of trying to recreate a real thing.

While in college Ford experimented with video as a medium but returned to painting in 2005 while living in Miami, FL.  For about a year he created and sold his work on the street in Miami Beach until he graduated to shows in restaurants and nightclubs.  In 2009, Ford moved his studio into the Bakehouse Art Complex in the Wynwood neighborhood.

423 by Featured Artist Ross FordIn 2010, Ford moved to Carrboro, North Carolina with his wife so she could pursue a PhD at UNC.  Since moving to North Carolina, Ford has been featured in 2 group exhibitions as well as a solo show at the Durham Art Guild and more.

I usually talk about technique later in the interview, but based on your images, I have to ask you to start with technique.  Talk to me. “I draw a lot.  Not doodling, but a directed expressive shape that has evolved over many years.  Since middle school, with a few exceptions, most of my sketch books were filled with just faces.  I would just start drawing and try to figure out what expression the face was making, finish it and move on to the next one.  Over time, these faces have evolved into the very abstract figures I paint today.

“It is a very intuitive/automatic process, I do not have some idea of what it is before I draw it.  I just start drawing and it’s done when it’s looking back at me.  I consider the process exploratory.  It is a directed exploration; I do not know what I have got until I start sorting through it afterwards.  They are reactive evolutions of the last painting.

Number 418 by Featured Artist Ross Ford“Since I do literally thousands of individual drawings for each painting they can’t be strictly consecutive evolutions.  As the series grows, I have become attracted to different elements in the paintings, specific shapes that, for whatever reason, appeal to me, so during my editing and selection process I am looking for specific elements in the drawings that excite me but also fit the pattern that has been established.

“There are other considerations too.  I consider myself a colorist, I love color and sometimes I have ideas about what colors I want to use.  Sometimes I will look at a drawing and say to myself “that would look fantastic in a really dark purple.”  Or I know I want to paint something bright orange, so I find a drawing that wants to be orange. The colors vary along a different arc than the lines.  I go through phases where specific colors are the ones I want to use, the ones that I surround myself with and this influences the drawings I select.”

Do you consider yourself a painter? Something else? “I consider myself a painter, although as my process has evolved to include printmaking I have focused my thinking more about the concepts in the art instead of the means of production.  Each of the mediums that I work in examines the patterns that emerge from this process in different ways.  The paintings focus on the intricacies of individual expressive shapes.  The prints investigate the different shapes created by overlaying multiple expressions in a chaotic manner.  The grid drawings explore the evolution of shape over many consecutive expressions.”

Number 402 by Featured Artist Ross FordI was surprised to find that your pieces start out as sort of abstract portraits. Why faces? “I am not sure why.  I was just always drawn to portraits.  Maybe it comes from visits to museums were filled with oil portraits of important figures? When you look at portraits you see elements of yourself and of people you know.

“Faces are the look of the human condition, we express love, hurt, loneliness, comfort,  joy, everything through our faces.”

“It is a universal communicator that exists outside of language and can be understood and interpreted by people from every background and culture.”

Do you have special terminology for how you work?  “I call it Iterative Expression – because it is a directed expressionism.  The term iterative expression comes from computer science, it relates to code that performs a set of operations while certain conditions exist.

Number 412 by Featured Artist Ross Ford“The operation is the drawing process… and the data that is fed into it is subconscious thoughts and emotions.”


You know we have to talk about food. What are your favorites? “I love pork.  In Miami for 6 years, I ate Cuban food all the time.   I am proud to say that I have stumbled 2 blocks past midnight (more than once, I suspect) to the local Cuban cafe 24 hour window to get a medianoche and some croquettas.

“Now that we live in NC,I am in hog heaven.  From barbecue to the locally made garlic bratwurst, this state has me covered.  I have a few tricks of my own though, like my famous, at least to me, spicy mango pork empanadas.  Cayenne + Cumin + Mango + Pork + Pie = WIN.

“I find the extra effort required to bake things
into a pie is always worth it.”

  Amen, brother, amen.

Number 401 by Featured Artist Ross FordWhat about snack foods? “I have been a hopeless popcorn addict since I was a child.  I do not recognize microwave popcorn as a substitute for stove top made.  When I was a child my parents used to make popcorn for my sister and me on Friday nights (movie night) and the flavor of orange juice is forever paired with salty corn in my mind.” We share this addiction, Ross, but I prefer mine with Romano and freshly-cracked black pepper.

So, what’s coming up next for you? “My studio at Golden Belt will be open for the Durham Art Walk the last weekend of April.  I am talking with someone about doing a show in June but nothing is final yet.  I have a few proposals in progress, so we’ll see.  I have a book that I started last year that I want to finish.  I did 65 pages of sketches in one day.”

Thank you, Ross Ford for reminding me that I some days it pays to get off my soapbox and just create from the depth of my feeling–without a pre-determined outcome.  More calm, more patience, less control.

Learn more about Ross Ford online!

Learn more about Featured Artist Ross Ford!

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2 Responses
  1. April 18, 2012

    Great write-up on Ross’ work! I am always intrigued to read about his process, and he explains it very well. I admire his drawings and enjoy seeing them en masse…then translated to fluid and dynamic paintings.

  2. April 18, 2012

    Thanks for sharing this insightful look into Ford’s work and process. I find his development of iterative expression such a pure and visceral art. I’m having a great time exploring the myriad of unique drawings on his website — can’t wait for the book!

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