Richard Downs
March 2011
30 Days at the Temp
Couple #131 | Monotype | 12" x 15" | Oil on Japanese Paper | 2011 sold
My "Couples" show closes at the Sacramento Temporary Contemporary this Sunday April 3 2011, with a party. I have always loved the cyclical nature of periodicals but when it comes to gallery shows 30 days or less doesn't seem to be enough time. I can't believe that it is a done deal and time to move on. This was my first experience in a big venue with the challenge of creating new work that was designed for a defined space. The Temp is actually 2 spaces, one massive and one intimate by comparison. Although I was the featured artist my work and it's scale could only support the back space. Here are a few pictures of the opening and a few pieces of art that I have not shown including a nice review of my work. I want to thank curators, Jan Louise  with Robert Ray and director Rebecca Garrison for the opportunity and LIMN Gallery entrepreneur Dan Friedlander. So, this Sunday if you are in the neighborhood come on by.
Richard Downs "Couples"
Sacramento Temporary Contemporary
March 10 - April 2  2011
Couple #136 | Monotype | 12" x 15" | Oil on hand painted Japanese Paper | 2011 sold
Couple #132 | Monotype | 12" x 15" | Oil on Japanese Paper | 2011 sold
The Sacramento Temporary Contemporary
Me, with our friends and our daughter Jillian
Front space at the Temp featuring the work of Skip Lee
The backroom at the Temp

Artists Jillian, Gwyn Stramler, Me and Jerald Silva
Laid Bare: Works from Richard Downs
By Laurien Dusharme
Standing in front of a Richard Downs painting reminds me of why I entered into what has become an enduring habit - the study of art. It began innocently enough: I was perplexed by abstract paintings. I simply wanted to know what they meant. Like many, I had bought into the idea that an artist’s work always held deep and important messages – but what were they? Years of art studies still managed to yield periodic wonderments like, “Is contemporary art exclusive?” That thought upset my pragmatic approach to art.
So I arrived at this: when I stand before abstract work, I put aside art theory and simply decide whether or not something is being communicated. Because isn’t art a form of communication, like writing a letter or singing a song? It is visual communication. An artist may have a grand message, but how can a work succeed if no one can translate it? It really just comes down to whether or not the viewer and the artist speak the same language. And sometimes, happily, it is within uncomplicated, unself-conscious work that one hears truths being spoken. So it is with Richard Downs’ artwork. Downs’ language speaks to most people because we are the subjects. He observes and represents the physical-emotional expression of a figure in the context of a relationship. Within paintings of oil on panel and delicate monotypes, Downs tells stories that read like a snapshot. He gives the viewer one moment within many, using the nuanced language of the figure to speak of the unspoken communication between two people.
This is how they read: in one piece, a couple holds each other: the man’s hands held together at the small of his partner’s back, his head turned to the side, away. Her face is hidden from view, buried in his shoulder. In another work, a monotype, a couple is eye to eye, as close as possible without embracing: his arm at his side, her arm bent back as she grasps her hair at her neck. So close, yet holding back. A third piece, another couple: her head is on his shoulder, tucked under his chin with her hand resting on her head. His arm reaches above them both, bent at a right angle. His hand bent at the wrist, an angle that shields. A pose of protection, it seems.
And this is what is great: they are so easy on the eyes. There is sweetness and simplicity to the work. They aren’t trying to be anything other than elegant, contemporary paintings. They aren’t cryptic. They don’t require knowledge of art theory to be deciphered. They are just what they are presented as: beautiful images of coupled figures. But that isn’t all they are. They communicate an understanding of the way people express themselves with their bodies. They express appreciation for the wonder that occurs when two people connect. And they express compassion for the pain when connection is broken. The sincerity of the artist shines.
The delicacy of Downs’ imagery seems to belie the weight of the subject. His monotypes are created on Japanese paper, the figures born of simple outline and knowing details in red and black ink. They reside on fields of loosely layered colors that tend to inform the emotional tone of the figure(s). Adding to the delicate sense of the monotypes is the stippling Downs employs to indicate or emphasize areas of import: hair, breasts, spine, arm, chest; the feature varies from piece to piece, serving as a unifying or dividing attribute between a couple. The stippled and profiled representations bring to mind the depictions of heroes in Classical Greek art (usually shown in profile with detailed hair in contrast to the rest of the figure). There is an ancient look to the monotypes, resulting from the artist’s style and the nature of the medium, but also from the timelessness of the subject. It is a successful triad. Downs’ gentle treatment of his subject serves it well by giving space for the emotions that are present.
Like the monotypes, Downs’ paintings depict couples and single figures in various states of association, yet are strikingly distinct from the prints. The figures are fully rendered rather than outlined. The colors employed – tan, beige, melon, olive, various red tones – are deepened by his usage of black to outline, shade, and contour the figures. His faces tend to be in deep shadow, giving anonymity and universality to the image. His liberal shadowing gives a stylized, Leger-like abstraction to the forms. Instead of stippling, he uses dashed and curvilinear lines to crown the heads of the figures; they repeat in abstracted trees that frame the couples. The results are powerful. There is a lot of information to take in, and so they require more from the viewer. To stay with it is worth it. The paintings have heat. And distance, and discomfort, and tenderness. But where the monotypes give some emotional space through transparency, the paintings give solid figures, deep color, and emotional density. They’re potent.
To look at Downs’ paintings, then look again at the monotypes, it is clear why his figures say so much – because the man can paint. He knows color, he knows form, he can work a space. Downs is a professional. He earned his BFA from Art Center College of Design (with honors) in illustration, taught editorial illustration at Art Center and other schools, and has illustrated for a plethora of national publications. All along the way, Downs has been creating and showing fine art – paintings, drawings, prints, and sculpture. His skills are evident in the work.
When I first saw Downs’ work, I liked it immediately. I was attracted to the simplicity and elegance of his pieces. Today, I still like them for those reasons, but for others, too. The simplicity of the imagery holds, but the complexity of his observations go deeper, softly. I have learned more of the vocabulary in his language, so they say more to me. And therein lies the rub. His work serves as a metaphor for how a person relates to any one or thing: what you bring to it determines what issues from it.
Happy Collectors with "Couple #101"
Happy Collectors with "Couple #131"
Artist Gary Dinnen- Paintings and Sculpture April 7 - May 6, 2011 at the Temp
She's Gone,
what went wrong? This was a very cool assignment that had art director support but other folks thought that a stock photographic solution was needed. It was a book cover for a fiction about mad sexual romping with prostitutes, addiction and murder. I tried my best to land the final art and even created a simplistic color comp for their catalog. Title's have been removed to protect the innocent.
These last 3 designs were an attempt to save the project. It was decided that my other designs were too whimsical and not literary enough, they were sketches, folks!

Technology Never Sleeps 3
Microsoft Excel 2010 Formulas and Functions
I want to thank my friends over at for all of the nice cover assignments that they have given me of recent. Here is a suite of new DVD titles that I have illustrated. My favorite title, although a hybrid of my style was Photoshop Scanning and Retouching. I scanned some of my photography collection as samples and included a few heirloom family pictures which made that assignment lots of fun from a personal point. Art Direction: Heather Stallings
Photoshop Scanning and Restoration of Archival Images | That is my Mom's baby picture and my Great Grand father John O'Connor on the left and his brother Dan on the right.
Final Cut Server 1.5
Photoshop Elements 9
Microsoft Visual Studio 2010
Pro Tools 9
Adobe Acrobat X
The DVD covers
Sacramento Temporary Contemporary
My friend, artist and curator Robert Ray who is working with the Sacramento Temporary Contemporary Gallery suggested that they mount a show of my work after another artist bailed for unknown reasons. After 27 years of illustration deadlines I had no problem saying yes to 21 new pieces within a squeezed schedule. The Sacramento Temporary Contemporary is the brainchild of Limn Gallery owner Dan Friedlander, who grew up in Sacramento, the gallery is modeled after the innovative space in Los Angeles that eventually became the Museum of Contemporary Art. It is an enormous contemporary space in an up and coming part of uptown Sacramento called Del Paso. Here are a few samples of my new work. Please come out and celebrate with us.
Sacramento Temporary Contemporary Gallery
March 10, 2011 - Thursday Preview Opening 6-9pm
March 12, 2011 - 2nd Saturday Opening 6-9pm
Exhibit Runs  March 10 - April 2, 2011
SACRAMENTO, CA-  Following in the footsteps of Paul Klee and Mexican artist, José Luis Cuevas, Nevada City artist Richard Downs creates contemporary images of "Couples" embraced in archetypal relationships. Richard will be showing more than 20 new monotypes and paintings in this contemporary venue. Richard's  art making combines contemporary aesthetics with the rich history of printmaking to create images that feel both current and timeless. Richard has worked for most United States periodicals and newspapers ranging from The Progressive to National Geographic and international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations publication divisions.

Sacramento Bee Art Critic Victoria Dalkey said this about Richard's monotypes in a review. "His elegant yet emotive monotypes focus on abstracted male and female figures engaged in archetypal relationships. These rich and sophisticated graphics quietly steal the show.
Couple #39 | 19x24" | Oil on Birch Panel | 2006 remixed 2011
Couple #129 | Monotype | 12x15" | Oil on Japanese Paper | 2011
Couple #135 | Monotype | 12x15" | Oil on painted Japanese Paper | 2011
Couple #130 | Monotype | 12x15" | Oil on Japanese Paper | 2011
Couple #134 | Monotype | 12x15" | Oil on painted Japanese Paper | 2011 | Sold
Sea Turtle #3 | Monotype | 12" x 15" | Oil on Japanese Paper | 2010
It will be an honor showing in this Friday's opening of the Illustrators 53 Advertising and Institutional Categories. I wish that I could make it to the opening but living on the opposite coast makes it difficult. These 2 selected pieces were created through an invitation from Erica Heimberg, the director of the Sea Turtle Restoration Project to participate in an art exhibit and benefit to help restore habitat destroyed by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Erica had seen my work after I posted several personal pieces in response to the spill after I had read that BP was burning surface oil in which endangered Sea Turtles were trapped and burned alive, just writing this makes me so angry and upset! The Sea Turtle Restoration Project is a fabulous organization that continues remarkable worldwide conservation efforts for our sea creature friends through public support.
A huge thanks goes to judges, Oksana Badrak, Marcos Chin, Fanny Gotschall, Ethel Kessler, Gail Morowitz, Bill Mayer, Adam McCauley, Tim O’Brien and Felix Sockwell for selecting my work and big appreciation to SI's Anelle Miller and Kate Feirtag for all of the hard work putting these exhibits together.
Society of Illustrators
Advertising and Institutional Categories
Awards Presentation and Gala
Friday, March 4th, 2011 6:00pm -9:00pm
*Sea Turtle #3 is available as an Archival Giclee Print
Sea Turtle #4 | Monotype | 12" x 15" | Oil on Japanese Paper | 2010
Recent Articles
Links to Articles