An Interview with Terry Richardson

Julie Devine interviews Gray Sky member artist Terry Richardson.


Terry, when did your interest in art begin?

My mom tells me I was always an artistic child; drawing, painting, baking, or creating something. But I really began to focus and learn about the principles of visual arts when I was in high school. I was fortunate that my high school had a great photography program, with its own dark room. The first real medium I worked in was black and white photography - when I was 16 I won the Best in Show at the Puyallup Fair for a black and white portrait. I would say that in that dark room, and in those years, my interest developed from something I liked to do to something I felt I needed to do. 

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You have a pharmacy background. Do you find this has an influence on your artwork?

I work professionally as a pharmacist and I spent many years in science laboratories looking at different specimens under a microscope. This is my left brain - analytical and orderly. Art is my right brain. It is the balance to my professional work. However, the images I create today are reflective of the beautiful patterns nature creates, as seen under a microscope. I am also inspired by creating art that is tactile and textural. I love when someone sees my work and wants to touch it. Often people hesitate, but I love to see a timid hand reaching out toward something I created. Touching art is generally considered a no-no, but I think touch is another, often underused, sense that can be part of an art experience. 

Like many artists associated with Gray Sky, you balance an art practice with work and parenting. Can you share any tips and tricks with us? 

Not all creative minds are morning people, but my advice - wake up early! I am most creative between 4 and 7 o’clock in the morning and often I wake up with a concept or idea that pulls me out of bed. Also, I have a lot of help, for which I am incredibly grateful. I rely on my mom to help with my kids, my husband to feed the kids when I get lost in my process and forget to feed them on the weekend, and my dad to help me figure out how to take a new idea from concept to reality (which usually involves his supply of cool power tools) and of course I rely on my friends and family to fill my heart and bring joy and balance to my life, which I need as the foundation to begin any creative process. 

Terry Richardson

What materials do you work with, and have they changed over time?

Today I work mostly with everyday paper materials - books and magazines - creating my own canvas, and I paint on wood-board canvas with several different mediums, like encaustic paint, acrylics, and water color. But yes, what I like to do most has changed over time. I think this is common for a lot of artists. The creative process for me is one of seeing what the materials can do, what I can do with them, and discovering what works and what does not. I still love capturing the right photographic image but today that is just the beginning of a piece, not the end. 

How did you become interested in deconstructing books and magazines? 

It was the mail delivery of the very large stack of Restoration Hardware Magazines! I just felt like it was a waste of paper and I needed to make something new out of it.

Tell me something about your training and influences.

My formal training focused on the standard concepts around visual art design with a focus on the application within photography. I use these concepts today in the construction of any piece, but it began with my high school courses and continued throughout undergraduate courses at UW, although with a shift to acrylics as the primary medium.

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How has living in Seattle influenced your work?

Seattle is a wonderfully-creative city. I have several friends who are amazingly creative and successful artists.  If it was not for their encouragement and support I would likely not be showing the art I create publicly. Their friendships and their journeys and experiences as artists in Seattle have encouraged me to take risks, show art in new places, and to share.

What are you working on now?

I am working on taking deconstructing books and magazines at a much larger scale, figuring out ways to create bigger pieces and reducing weight.