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Ricky Watts - Loving our Local Artist


Ricky Watts has the home ground advantage with us here at Modify HQ - we can't help but have a special affection for local artists. But we're not featuring him because we share a San Francisco area code, we're featuring him because his work is friggin' awesome and we want everyone to know it. We chatted with the SF based, San Diego trained, artist recently about how he got started in the art world and what inspires him. We also found out how he made extra cash as a kid, but we're not into spoilers so you'll have to keep reading to find out.

What's your 'journey to becoming an artist'?

    I've been doing art as long as I can remember. I was obsessed with coloring books at a young age, I'd fill those things up faster than my parents could get me new ones. Then I started drawing my own coloring books and later it turned into drawing comics in elementary school.

    When I was in the 7th grade, I fell in love with graffiti. I began drawing letters over and over and over. In class I would practice by drawing other kids' names for them in exchange for a few dollars here and there so I could buy lunch. I have no idea how I didn't fail every class, all I did was draw.


    I got serious about art in high school and began painting on a regular basis. I decided in 2000 that I wanted to learn about graphic design so I set off to San Diego and enrolled at the Art Institute of California - San Diego. There, I got a design degree and worked at a mom and pop print shop to satisfy my desire to keep making zines. I had a really good time and met a lot of great people in San Diego but missed the bay area so I moved home in 2003.

    My priorities shifted when I moved back to the bay area and got heavily involved in drawing and painting fine art type stuff and less graffiti. In 2004 I had my first solo show in a small loft of a toy store in my home town. I continued to show my work and in May of 2009, was finally at a point where I could quit my print shop day job and focus on art full time.

    What inspires you?

    I find the world around me is inspiring. Daily experiences, my friends, other artists and designers. Going to art shows, spending time at the beach. Dreams often find their way into my work. Architecture blows my mind, especially 19th century architecture and urban decay. Landscapes and nature. Lighting and shadows. My Dad’s story is special to me. He grew up in rural northern Nebraska and was the first son in the family. His parents owned the local bank and weren’t uber-wealthy but could afford to send him to private schools. Dad attended high school in New Hampshire and went on to Stanford. After college, he moved to SF where he met my mom, got married and started a family. He was the breadwinner of the house and art was always just a hobby. He enjoyed making art as a child/teenager but it was never a career option for him.

    As a kid, I thought it was neat that my Dad would break out the easel and paintbrush every once in a while and work on a painting. I didn’t really think much of it. In my eyes, he was good at making Mickey Mouse shaped pancakes. He would help me draw pictures of Santa Claus when I asked. That’s about as far as it went for me. Then, when I was around 18, we were at my grandparent’s house for a family reunion and I found a bunch of drawings and paintings that my Dad had done in his late teens. This blew my mind because his pieces were similar in style to what I was doing at the time, yet I had never seen these drawings before. I took one of them home with me, where it hangs today in my living room.

    Years later, I put the pieces together. My parents never pushed me to grow up and be this or be that. They let me figure it out on my own. Dad allowed me the opportunity to be an artist, something he was never able to do. I feel like I’m living my Dad’s dream of being an artist. He’s my biggest fan and that’s something I don’t take lightly.

    What are you working on currently?

    I’m currently barricaded in my studio working on new pieces for a show with Upper Playground in Portland this summer. I haven’t done an official announcement for it yet but I can say that it’s scheduled to open August 4th in their Fifty24PDX gallery space.

    Check out all of the wonderful watches from Ricky Watts here.

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