Interview with David Rice for “Hanging Valley”

Thinkspace is proud to present Portland-based artists, illustrator, and designer David Rice’s upcoming exhibition Hanging Valley in the project room. As a realist painter, Rice composes a juxtaposition of elements to create a visual universe that is a fantasy and experiment.  In anticipation of Hanging Valley, our interview with David Rice discusses the shows inspiration, his creative process, and post-show rituals.

Join us for the opening of “Hanging Valley”, Saturday, June 2nd from 6 to 9 pm.

SH: Tell us about this show. What is the inspiration? What were you exploring in the work?

DR: My new show, “Hanging Valley,” was a chance to expand on ideas and narratives that I have been building over the last few years. Each painting in this series represents a piece of my own introspection, portrayed through various subjects. These paintings cover a wide range of themes: self-doubt, confidence, the way we experience time, and other elements that fill my head on a day to day basis. I wanted to explore these themes through different lenses, while also giving the viewer something they may not expect to see from me.

SH: What 3 websites do you check every day or people you follow on social media?

DR: I don’t know if I have an everyday website routine, outside of just checking my email and watching Netflix. I do love to periodically check in on a few of my favorite art blogs:,,,,

SH: What excites you about your work / creative process?

DR: What excites me about my work is the broad range of subjects and themes I choose to paint. Although I may be categorized by some people as an environmental painter, I try not to put all my focus on one subject. Instead, my work covers many different ideas, landscapes, and characters. This leaves me free to paint whatever creeps into my mind, not being held back by an audience that expects me to stick to one thing.

SH: What frustrates you about your work / creative process?

DR: I get frustrated by just about every step in my creative process. I am constantly evaluating every decision. As much of a dream come true it is to create a body of work, it can be extremely difficult to translate your ideas down on canvas. Every element – size, color, etc, has an effect on the impact of the final piece. It is a lot of trial and error, emphasis on the error. I put a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself. It’s something I am still working on, but it is getting a little easier to ignore the self-doubt and keep pushing through.

SH: After a show what do you do? Do you take a long break, vacation, a particular ritual? Tell us.

DR: After a show, I always plan on taking a few days to regroup and relax, however, I usually put off so many other projects while I am doing the body of work for the show, I have a stack of things I am already behind on. I will get a break one day (fingers crossed).

SH: How do you plan out your compositions?

DR: I usually start with a photo I have taken as the jumping off point for my compositions. Then I just start to think about what I would want to see in the picture. I have always been a big daydreamer, so my mind just naturally starts playing out little narratives. I then will bring the photo and other references I have gathered into photoshop and illustrator and start to set up the composition. I usually have the piece 75% thought out before I start painting. If I waited till I had it 100% thought out, I would never get anything started. I then paint what I have planned, and let the painting direct the course it wants to go for the final touches, ie. colors, patterns, little additions to help balance the piece.

SH: How often are you in the studio, do you work on the pieces daily or do you have creative spurts with concentrated efforts of work and then long periods of not working?

DR: I am in the studio pretty much every day. I like to do my sketching and designing at home, so I am there about one day a week and the studio the rest of the week.

SH: What do you eat when working on the show? Are you a 3 square meals kind of person, or have snacks on hand?

DR: I usually have a big meal before heading to the studio. Then I just snack while I am there, trying not to take too many breaks while I paint. Then usually a small meal when I get home at the end of the day.

SH: If you were to collaborate with a band or musical artists to create a music video inspired by your artwork, who would you work with?

DR: Oh man, that is a tough question. One of my favorite bands is Alt-J and I feel like their music is on a similar trajectory as my work. They can’t really be put into one category and you never know what their next album is going to sound like.

SH: Has there been an artistic catalyst in your life? Something, someone, some event that made a significant impact on you that has lead you to where you are now.

DR: My family has been incredibly encouraging of my career in art. Since I was a child, my parents have been nothing but supportive of my artistic endeavors. My older brother Andrew was a huge influence on me. He is an artist as well and growing up, I just wanted to follow in his footsteps.

A large turning point for me was when I met up with artist Blaine Fontana in 2013 and began an intensive internship with him. I had never really painted before I met him, and over the next year, he threw me into the fire. Blaine is a true Jack of all Trades, and together we worked on gallery pieces, large commercial paintings, murals, sculptures, design work, and a ton of other projects with varying mediums. Blaine was an invaluable resource in helping get my career off the ground and I am extremely lucky and grateful for the lessons he passed on to me.

SH: What’s in your toolbox? AKA what paints, brushes, tools would we find in your studio? What do you wish was in your studio?

DR: I mostly work in acrylic. I like Golden paints, but there isn’t just one brand I am loyal to. The colors I use the most are titanium white, mars black, yellow ochre/oxide, raw umber, burnt sienna, raw sienna, cad red, primary cyan. I destroy brushes fairly easily, so I try not to get the super fancy brands. I have a few nice flat brushes and varnish brushes, and then I will often buy the cheap pack of six small brushes from the art store for like $8. They usually last me two paintings.

I share a studio with two other artists so together we pretty much have everything one would need. Maybe a beer tap in our kitchen area would be a nice addition.

SH: You have a time machine, and you could do anything / go anywhere for 24 hours, and would not interfere with the space-time continuum. What would you do?

DR: f I had a time machine for a day, I would either go way-way back and spend the day with some dinosaurs, see how close our depictions of them are. Or, I would go into the future and see exactly when we can expect to get our hover cars.

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