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Artist of the Month - December 2005

A Window into Welch’s World
By Annabelle Numaguchi

Rick WelchWhether you know it or not, you’re probably familiar with Rick Welch’s art work. Your gaze has probably not only rested upon it, but penetrated it.

Especially if you’ve spent a major holiday in town.

Remember the wizard Gandalf wishing Happy Holidays on behalf of Arches Book Company a couple of years ago, or the rugged striped jeep cruising along the front of City Market last April, or the enormous dinosaur still guards the children’s section of Back of Beyond Books? Yep, you’re familiar with Welch’s work.

Rick Welch is known for his many skills, but most notably for his window painting. His work has brightened the entrances of businesses around Moab for the last fifteen years, since he returned after obtaining a Design Production Art degree from the Phoenix Institute of Technology.

Window painting allows Welch to indulge in two of his favorite aspects of art, realism and detail. Welch displays a strong attraction for representational art. He admires the “trompe l’oeil” technique, which literally means “trick the eye.”

A good example of this type of work is located over the gift wrapping section of Arches Book Company, where Welch painted a shelf harboring classics by Hemingway, Kafka and other notable authors. Despite the enormous proportions that look more like a giant’s library, the painting is such a realistic portrayal, including shadows imbuing a three-dimensional quality, that the work “tricks the eye” into believing the shelf exists.

He strives to represent the object of his artwork as realistically as possible and declares that he wants the finished work to “look like a photograph.”

This desire for realism is linked to his detail-oriented method of painting. He loves the meticulousness of recreating what he sees. Welch admits that “I would have a hard time being an impressionist because of this attention to detail.”

Even in the ephemerality of window painting, he labors over the work despite that it will be washed off within a month. Welch is also a self-acclaimed perfectionist.

Although he has parlayed this talent and personality trait into a viable commercial outlet, he also pursues his interest in art on other canvases, exploring a wide range of mediums. A thorough training combined with a natural artist’s desire to recreate and manipulate reality inspired Welch to become adept at using different methods of painting, including oils, pastels and air brush.

A good manifestation of this ability to use mixed media is his painting, “1937 Chevy.” To create this photorealistic picture of a classic Chevy parked in what appears to be an apartment complex, Welch used air- and paint brush, watercolor, acrylic and gouache.

He evidently enjoys playing around with the effects each medium creates as he includes an array of different reflective surfaces, including chrome, water and buildings. He accurately captures the fluidity of water, the sheen of metal and the glow of clay.

Although Welch strives for realistic representation in his depiction of objects, the arrangement displays his artistic vision and license. From afar or at a first glance, the apartment complex resembles a sandstone canyon with a stream running through it. The influence of the Moab area is clearly apparent in this intentional blurring of images.

Another artistic addition to the composition is the tear drop headlight. According to Welch, an avid classic car enthusiast, the 1937 Chevy didn’t come with such a feature. He chose to add it to the painting as a central focal point in which most of the objects in the painting are reflected on the concave metallic surface.

In addition to cars, wildlife and portraiture are Welch’s favorite subject matter. One work of interest he completed for an art class features a wolf. The animal is in a classic pose evoking wariness and defiance.

What stands out about this piece is the checkerboard effect over the realistic representation. Welch used squares of warm and cool tones in an alternating sequence, which makes the painting look as if a transparent checkerboard has been placed over it.

Achieving eye-catching effects through his deft use of mediums is one of Welch’s recognizable traits as an artist. In “Watching the Light Show,” the Three Gossips and Sheep Rock are illuminated by vivid bolts of lightening. The majority of the painting is done in air brush, giving the rocks soft contours. Against this blended-in background, the sharp definition of lightening bolts, which were painstakingly painted in with acrylic, stand out.

Painting the lightening was his favorite part because it demanded the most attention. In his perfectionism, Welch captures the sizzle and electricity of the bolts. It seems as if the crack of the thunder can be heard as the lightening illuminates the sky and rocks below.

Welch’s ability and comfort in using such a wide array of mediums can be a surprise to most who know him. Still a young artist, he continues to work at a hardware store, and many people know him as “the lumber guy.” Welch is used to hearing people react to his art by saying, “I didn’t know you were an artist.”

Considering his parentage, it should not be a surprise. His biggest inspiration is an artist who, a generation ago, used to paint windows around town, too - his mother, Kathryn Welch. She specializes in oil portraits, and surrounded Rick with art. She gave him confidence in pursuing his own creative abilities. Welch enjoys challenging and developing his artistic talents by painting in a variety of mediums and surfaces. He is a young artist worth keeping an eye out for. And if you’re spending the holidays in Moab this year, it’ll be hard not to since most likely at least one of his creations will grace a window where you shop.

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