With just a pencil — and a great deal of talent — Rico Molina creates detailed portraits that are so expressive the viewer can't help but be touched. And for Rico, that's the highest praise.
Even though he's currently unemployed, he doesn't measure success by whether a drawing sells, but how it impacts the viewer.
He and his wife Judy showed his artwork at the crafts fair at Bill Heddles Recreation Center earlier this month. "If people see a drawing and appreciate it, that's something. They don't have to buy," Rico explained. "I don't like to put too much burden on myself to sell, sell, sell. I'm an artist not a seller."
"That's what he has me for," Judy said. "I'm the one with the mouth. I just want him to be recognized for his talent, even though I don't know much about marketing. I just know I've been married to him for 25 years and even if I wasn't his wife and saw this artwork, I would be amazed."
Judy said some people hesitate to buy his artwork because they think they're photographs. She quickly convinces them the portraits are not photos but exquisitely detailed works of art.
Rico remembers creating his first drawings with crayons when he was in the second grade. At that young age he was captivated by ducks, particularly the coloring of mallards, mandarins and other species. The wide stripes near theducks' eyes, the rippling water . . . even with crayons he was focused on the details. He sold the drawings to his classmates for 5¢ each. If he had some nickels left after buying milk, he splurged on cookies.
Art was one of his dad's hobbies, and when he brought home a thick binder about drawing, Rico was captivated. He carefully studied the techniques and from his dad learned shading, smearing and blending. That was the closest to formal training Rico has ever received.
Horses and flying hawks were his new passions. While experimenting with color he drew a bright red cardinal sitting on a branch which he promised to his fifth grade teacher. When the drawing was displayed at a school open house, a well-dressed gentleman offered to purchase it. Rico had to refuse because the drawing had already been promised to his teacher.
In middle school he discovered the artwork of Norman Rockwell, which continues to be a strong influence. Rico strives to duplicate Rockwell's ability to capture the emotions of all his subjects. Rockwell drew real peoplein everyday situations, and many of his illustrations wound up on the covers of Saturday Evening Post. "The faces were so expressive," Rico said. "They contained so much life, so I started picking up on that."
The expressiveness of people's faces, and even that of animals, is the main reason Rico does primarily portraits. Portraits, he says, have the ability to really connect with people not just aesthetically, but emotionally as well. "The person can come to life," Rico said. "I've had people literally cry when they see a finished portrait. Now that's priceless."
"They're so realistic," Judy said. "I don't know he does it. God gave him a talent."
When doing a portrait on commission, Rico works from a photo. The larger the better, since he is so committed to details. Rico is not out to create an exact duplicate, so he makes some modifications to highlight the individual's personality. Many times those modifications are made to the person's eyes, the "window to the soul."
But before picking up his pencil, Rico will study a photo for up to a week, trying to capture the individual's aura. He can take a cherished photo of your dad and combine it with a different photo of your mom to fashion a treasured memento of your parents. He can do the same for a family, using different photos to create a collage.
Between commissions he draws celebrities including John Wayne, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Stevie Ray Vaughn, Bob Marley, Marilyn Monroe, Lucille Ball, Sammy Davis Jr., and more. A portait of Bruce Lee includes a quote from Rolph Horn both Rico and Bruce Lee embrace: "Art is an expression that transcends both time and space."
A portrait of John Lennon titled "Imagine Beyond the Image" earned "People's Choice" at a BeatleFest in California and netted several hundred dollars in a silent auction. A later, larger version garnered awards at the Delta County Fair and the Artists' Alpine Holiday, a juried show in Ouray. Rico didn't realize the BeatleFest included an art show until the last minute and the initial sketch of John Lennon was the result of an all-night burst of creativity.
Some of the portraits he's done are unexpected — the rapper Tupak Shakur, rock musician Kurt Cobain, Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia. Rico explains that he values innovation and self-expression, in music and in art. He adds that he does prefer to actually be able to see that self-expression, as opposed to "contemporary art" which is often just a smear of paint on canvas and has literally been done by a monkey with a paintbrush. Rico's art is not only realistic, but expressive.
Attention to shadows and highlights, a focus on individual facial features, the use of gradation to impart depth — through these techniques, each portrait is able to tell a story.
With Rico's art, "What you see is what you get. Close to it, I mean. God is the perfect artist."
Each portrait is a cherished work of art because each one took time, and each has something to say to Rico, and hopefully to others. He's humbled by the talent he's been given and takes joy in sharing it with others.
"What can I say? It's a gift."
Rico's portraits can be seen at the Artist Michael's on Main Street in Delta or online at www.yessy.com. Rico and Judy can be contacted at 417-2433 or 773-4469.blog comments powered by Disqus