Today we’d like to introduce you to Ralph Roether.
Ralph, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
At a young age in 4th grade I was recognized for having some artistic talent after a Christmas Art project where i drew a Santa Claus. My teacher contacted the high school Art teacher and soon after I was taking my first art lessons once a week at 2o minutes a session. I always enjoyed drawing popular cartoon characters like Magilla Guerrilla and Huckberry Hound. It wasn’t until high school where I got to take Art Classes every year learning different techniques and styles. Senior Year my art teacher convinced me to enter my art at the local Junior College for a chance to win a year scholarship. That was the spring board to my college career, I got the scholarship and went to get my associates in Art at Rend Lake College in Ina, Illinois.
I then transferred to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where I got my BFA in Graphic Design. I also was one of two Students that received the award of Outstanding Senior in Graphic Design.
Professionally I have worked as a Graphic Designer for almost 25 years. It wasn’t until around 1999 that I got back into and started producing more of my own artwork and got my first art show at a local coffee shop in Champaign. That lit a spark in me and made me realize how much I really enjoyed creating art again and having complete control over what I wanted to make unlike the rollercoaster work of Marketing.
Since then, I have become very involved with 40North: The Champaign County Arts Council and have participated in many of its programs and festivals. I also worked closely with the 40North Executive Director Kelly White and helped rebrand the organization with a new logo, typography treatments, signage and more.
As a professional graphic designer for so many years, I often infuse my graphic design sensibilities into my artwork and illustrations. I prefer painting on various types of wood instead of the traditional canvas. My style ranges from semi-realistic portraits with typography to cartoon, doodle, graffiti-esque creations. I often resort to creating stream-of-conscience doodle drawings on any piece of paper or bar napkin I can find. I then scan these doodles into my computer, colorize them, and make prints on paper, canvas, or shirts.
I was invited to paint murals at a local skate park and participated in various art shows; including Dirty Show/Dirty Detroit, a Solo Show at Indigo Art Gallery, and Boneyard Arts Festival in Champaign, IL. My artwork has been published in Studio Visit Magazine, Art Voices Magazine, and the Artist book 101 Artist curated by Terrence Sanders. One of my pieces was used in a living room scene for the feature film X-Men: Days of Future Past. I doodle, draw, paint, and create work that turns me on. It’s the only way to go.
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
I often infuse my graphic design sensibilities into my artwork and illustrations. I prefer painting on various types of wood instead of the traditional canvas. My style ranges from semi-realistic portraits with typography to cartoon, doodle, graffiti-esque creations. I often resort to creating stream-of-conscience doodle drawings on any piece of paper or bar napkin I can find. I then scan these doodles into my computer, colorize them, and make prints on paper, canvas, or shirts. I was invited to paint murals at a local skate park and participated in various art shows; including Dirty Show/Dirty Detroit, a Solo Show at Indigo Art Gallery, and Boneyard Arts Festival in Champaign, IL. My artwork has been published in Studio Visit Magazine, Art Voices Magazine, and the Artist book 101 Artist curated by Terrence Sanders. One of my pieces was used in a living room scene for the feature film X-Men: Days of Future Past. I doodle, draw, paint, and create work that turns me on. It’s the only way to go.
Currently I mostly create doodle art because it can be quick, stream of conscious, fun and relaxing. I definitely have a certain style I am not sure what exact category it could fall under. Maybe and infusion of street art graffiti crossed with R. Crumb, Ralph Bakshi and John Kricfalusi. Those folks definitely influenced my art sensibilities. In College I preferred Surrealism and Salvador Dali a lot but have grown to love all kinds of art and artist as, I have matured.
I have never really enjoyed painting on canvas so in the early 2000s II started painting (with acrylics) on hollow core wood doors. They were cheaper and I love starting with pencil on a nice brand new smooth door. I mostly did portraits of my family members and juxatapoz with typography, circles and other shapes. They become mixed media pieces usually Pencil, Markers and Acrylics. My Blue Portrait series I created two portraits each of me, my wife Jenny, my son Keaton and my daughter Theda. While working on all these I came up with a list of over twenty Film Noir movie titles and after I got a portrait fleshed out on the door I would pic a movie title from the list by just a gut feeling or mood and worked it into the painting. I love incorporating words and type into a piece it gives you immediate information but still lets the viewer experience their own interpretation and feeling.
Sometimes I will just let my environment pick the words for me like a song I heard a lyric or a sign I saw outside or words from a newscast.
Other pieces I have done in the past 15 years have had heavy sexual content using imagery of huge breast or huge distorted penises, big eye and big lips distorting everything at times. If you see my work you will see some of my obsessions.
Recently I have moved away from the extremely sexual stuff because I doodle in public a lot and it seems to make me censor myself a bit, but not always.
I usually don’t have a huge backstory or outright philosophy about my work. It does happen once in a while mostly when i am affected by a news story or comments made in public to me or others that may be weird or mean spirited.
I love to draw people or figures. When I am out right trying to draw someone with pencil, I usually have a loose, free gestural style with a lot of energy then I try to reign in get in some important details and bring out the realism the best I can in my own way.
I hope viewers just get, something, out of my work, even it is just a smile or frown or huh? I create art mostly for my own enjoyment and usually not for anybody else unless it is a commissioned piece and I want to do the best I can for them.
Have things improved for artists? What should cities do to empower artists?
I think today it is way easier to get your art out there in the internet land of space. I think it helps get you more exposure. mostly to just your friends and acquaintances.
But on the other hand… everyone can do this now, regardless of talent, skill ,craft etc.
With this huge mix of good, bad, great, and so so… all out there coursing through wires and space… it is still very very difficult to get noticed, to break through somewhere, to get someone, anyone, any business or company to be your patron. to buy or support your art, your concepts.
I am not sure but it seems like back in the days where there were apprenticeships, where you could study, learn and get experience under a master of art it put you on the course of success in a more direct way or path. I could be totally wrong.
I think there needs to be more art galleries, art spaces, art workshops… venues to help support artist and get other artist to connect with each other to learn from those people their experiences and similarities. To find out and know there are people out there like them trying to live out their passion and create art. Art openings, festivals, galleries are wonderful places to give your mind a break from the world. As human beings we all need art more than ever in our lives.
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
I post a lot of my art and design on my Facebook page: facebook.com/rroether
I have a Tumblr account that is mostly my graphic design and some illustration work:
I post art and photo fun on Instagram: @ralphroether
I have an art site also but it is currently down while I am revamping it for a much needed overall: ralphroether.com
I will be part of the Urbana Art Expo on Sept 15 and 16 in Urbana Illinois.
Local artists selling art and some doing live demos .
- Address: 301 South Locust Street, Pesotum, IL
- Website: ralphroether.com
- Phone: 217.202.8079
- Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @ralphroether
- Facebook: facebook.com/rroether
- Other: ralphroether.tumblr.com GRAPHIC DESIGN WORK
all Ralph Roether