We had the good fortune of connecting with Ricky Watts and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ricky, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I spent 10 years working dead-end jobs making other people money while daydreaming of doing my own thing. I thought about working for myself everyday and began making the steps in that direction. Early 2009, the height of the recession. What a terrible time to start a business. But I was ready. I had paid down all my debt, saved a little money to float me for a few months and minimized as many bills as I could. In my mind, I could always go back to working for someone else if I didn’t make it on my own. So I made the leap and became a freelance graphic designer and artist. Making art was always the end game but the design work floated me for the first couple years until the art picked up more demand. Working for myself immediately felt right. Sure, I wasn’t making as much but I learned to live on less and did whatever I could to reduce expenses. I did what it took to ride out the first couple years of very little income and eventually, through hard work and determination, I grew my one-man-show into something I can survive on.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I suppose I’ve become known for this abstract style of colorful, ribbon-like patterns with an almost psychedelic twist to it. I developed this style of painting in 2012 and it caught on so I’ve decided to see where it takes me. It wasn’t always like this, I struggled for years to “figure it out” and find something that set me apart me from other artists. There’s been a lot of trial and error with particular styles of art. I like to think of it as planting seeds over the years, watering and nurturing them and over time, one of the seeds grows into a tree.
For many artists, the ultimate goal is to become recognized for a distinct style or body of work. You can see a Van Gogh or Picasso from across the room and immediately know who painted it. Something just felt right for me when I started to produce work in this abstract style. It became unique to me, like a signature. I knew I was on to something when companies and collectors started requesting it.
Persistence is how I’ve overcome most challenges. I just keep making work. Slow and steady, I’m always working on something. And I try to say yes to as much as possible. Some of the smaller projects, or jobs that don’t pay much will come back to me in other ways. More opportunities, new projects. I just keep putting it out there with the belief (and hope) that someone else will be impacted by what I create.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I feel like this might be meant for Dallas? Unfortunately, I don’t live in Dallas. I’ve only briefly driven through so I can’t answer this question very well. To be honest, I’m kind of a homebody, I would have trouble answering this question in any city. I live in a rural town about an hour north of San Francisco. Most of my time is spent in the art studio or traveling for a project. When I’m not making art, I’m home with my wife and twin boys playing/working in the yard, going on hikes or trips to the beach and cooking in our kitchen.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My parents supported me through every step of the way. Giving me the time (2 years) after high school to figure out what I wanted to with my life. Helping me go to art school. Encouraging me go full-time with my art. I am so grateful and thankful for their support. AND my wife, who allows me to be a daydreamer and chase my creative goals and achievements, no matter how silly and non-financially rewarding they may be. Without these three people in my life, I don’t know where I would be right now.
Personal Photo by Chloe Reyes for Shine On St. Petersburg Mural Festival, 2015 Additional Photos by Landon Taylor at The Container Yard, Jasper Wong for Pow!Wow! San Jose, Only Up! Mural Festival and Ricky Watts.