Spotlight: Ron Hicks

A Q&A with Denver painter Ron Hicks

Photo by Paul Miller

How it all began…

“I started drawing when I was 4 or 5 years old. My mother was an artist, and I always had the ability to draw things. From elementary school through high school, I always had some instructor or teacher that was like, ‘Hey, this guy’s got something going on.’ It pointed me in the right direction. Eventually, I went to the Columbus College of Art & Design in Ohio. I majored in fine art and minored in illustration. After that, I was also trying to be practical, and I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll go to the Colorado Institute of Art and get a degree in advertising.’ I started working for magazines, doing a lot of grunt work, stripping negatives, typesetting, things like that. I quickly realized that I didn’t want to do that. There was something about painting and doing hands-on work that was just more exciting to me, so I delved into freelance art. I would take my portfolio around to various ad agencies and try to drum up work that way.”

His process

“I’m a romantic at heart. I love painting people—people doing things. When I was traveling abroad, I was attracted to outdoor cafés, and I would do lots of sketches. It is something I always loved seeing and experiencing. Most of my inspiration came from my travels as a young artist. Fast-forward to where I am now, and I’m in this interesting transition. I grew up practicing a very traditional way of painting: painting from cast, doing a lot of black-and-white drawings. Before I could even touch real color, I had to focus on this process. But I’ve always loved seeing Impressionist works that I encountered through travel, and recently I’ve started to see things a little bit more abstractly. I’m combining my traditional upbringing with abstraction and trying to make sense of how those things work together.”

His inspiration

“I love Degas. I also have a lot of admiration for John Singer Sargent and Gustav Klimt. Rembrandt, from the traditional side of things.”

His advice for young artists

“First, check yourself at the very beginning as to why you want to be an artist. I’ve had students come to work with me and say, ‘I want to paint just like you.’ Or, ‘I want to get into this business because I really want to make money.’ They have these grandiose ways of seeing things. But at the core, it should be you searching for your contribution to the art world. Take your time and really try to figure out who you are as an artist and what that contribution is. That would be the most important thing. Everything else lines up after that. Because once you know who you are, you have a certain direction, something to grab on to. You’re not working in a pretentious way. You’re actually working in a way that’s true to who you are.”

Ron Hicks
Denver-based painter