This week we chat with self-made artist Ricky Joyce who’s been hard at work adding his paint strokes to the local Leicester art scene in the UK. His abundant love for freedom and streamlined system for creating and marketing his art has enabled him to “beat the 9–5” and make a living doing what he loves.
Ricky Joyce is a multimedia abstract expressionist painter. Using music and his personal experience as inspirational tools, he creates bold and expressive paintings that communicate raw emotions through color, texture, and fragments of song lyrics. Find him on D Emptyspace by searching for @rickyjoyceart.
Joyce’s acrylic paintings on canvas are an experimental expression of freedom and blur the line between abstraction and reality.
When did you first realize you had a creative streak?
When I was in school, I would just draw on desks (like most naughty teenage boys!) and consider my creations to be meaningless scribbles. Then Mr. Cox, my art teacher, recognized my creativity and directed me away from desks and towards paper, pastels, canvas, and paint. He really showed me what’s possible and inspired me every step of the way. I still use some of the more interesting techniques he taught me to this day.
But back then, I didn’t realize there was potential to be a professional artist… so when I left school I went in the standard 9–5 job environment. I worked in offices and customer service roles for a long time whilst always feeling unfulfilled by any job I undertook. I kept changing direction, looking for something to make me satisfied, and I had more jobs than I care to remember.
When did you decide painting was something you wanted to dedicate your life to?
I guess you could say that becoming an artist was a gradual thing. Eventually decided to leave the humdrum of office jobs behind and do something creative so I started my own creative design business. But even this creative outlet couldn’t keep me away from painting.
Design was all about grids and organized layouts — painting was free from all of that. I could create anything in paint with no rules.
“That’s when it hit me, painting is freedom.”
It was exciting, passionate and scary all at the same time. And so I decided to dedicate my life to my new found freedom. Since then, I haven’t found anything that even comes close in giving me the same satisfaction.
I get to paint my emotions, thoughts, and ideas with no rules, it’s my purest form of expression.
What’s the artistic community like in Leicester? Do you feel supported as a creative?
Leicester is all about collaboration. There are so many events and workshops for artists to sink their teeth in to around the city. At every function, you really feel supported and encouraged by other artists.
Each local artist in Leicester has a unique style, so we do our own thing, and come together at shows and gatherings. We all want to see something different, it’s inspiring to see what others are creating.
“There’s a real sense of belonging here, and I am humbled to be a part of it all.”
Being supported by local creatives is a fantastic way to grow… but it’s not without hard work. You need to put in studio time, be involved in events and keep pushing boundaries to gain traction.
You create some fascinating textures with acrylic, what’s your process?
I love to see textures in a painting. My relationship with my paintings relies heavily on my emotions being on point (particularly with abstract work) so music is my main inspiration and keeps me focused. I often start my day in the studio by pressing play on my rock music and turning it way up loud.
I will usually work on two or three pieces at a time. I grab a large hardware store brush, (bigger the better depending on the canvas size) and start to carve out one or two areas that need color.
I add words with the back of the brush or a sharp pointed object. They’re a mash of my thoughts, words from my notes, or lyrics from the music. Then I use smaller brushes and other mark-making tools like sandpaper or paint scrapers and palette knives to create patterns in or around the painting’s focal point.
“I started adding materials to my work with interesting results.”
After maybe two or three color changes and mark-making layers, I wait for the painting dry while looking at it from different angles, analyzing the areas that balance well or the parts that need to be changed.
Sometimes I leave paintings for days and work a different piece until I feel ready to take on the refinement process. When I’m ready I work continuously until I feel that the painting is complete and well balanced.
And what’s the wildest tool or object you’ve ever used to make art?
I will use pretty much anything I can find to make art. Things like sandpaper, bubble wrap, polystyrene or paint scrapers make some of my favorite textures, although I have to say the wildest by a long shot was using my body. I wanted to see what patterns I could make. I won’t divulge which body parts I have used to paint with, that I’ll leave to your imagination!
Do you have any tips and tricks for laying out an exhibition? How do you decide what piece goes where?
I think the main tip would be consistency in style. Hang paintings side by side that have a cohesive look and feel — show off who you are and why you are there.
Someone recently recognized a painting of mine even though I couldn’t be seen from where they were standing. That gave me a real sense of achievement (plus they bought the painting). In terms of technical layout, I usually plan ahead by visiting the space in advance and making a mock-up of the layout so I can create a cohesive theme for the exhibit.
You use music as a major source of inspiration and creativity — can you describe how you paint your emotions on the canvas? Your piece ‘Break All The Rules’ stands out in particular.
When I listen to music I start seeing ‘visions’ of colors and images. That comes through strongly in the paintings I create.
It’s like seeing a puffy, slow-moving cloud in a blue sky. The shape and gradual movement form a picture in your mind and that picture, with all its dominant colors and textures, evokes an emotion or feeling when you visualize it.
Music affects me in a similar way. I see the colors, feel the emotions, and use the energy to start manipulating paint and blending the colors until I find a balance that conveys what’s in my imagination. It’s truly free-flowing.
I created ‘Break All The Rules’ in this way, with no balance or composition pre-planned, with every brushstroke flowing in no particular direction. To me, it broke the traditional rules of art. The black gloss paint highlighted that no one spot on the canvas was more important or relevant than the next. It was purely expressive with no rules.
How do you market your art to potential customers? Staying active on social media is something so many artists struggle with.
I attend exhibitions, networking, and social events locally which are often packed with creative businesses and individuals. It’s a good move as they’re already thinking about what they need creatively and may be open to collaborate or have some of my art on their walls.
Then exhibiting your work in person is a quick way to get attention from the general public and lovers of art. But to continuously set up exhibits and show face takes a lot of time and money. It’s important to make sure exhibits are worthwhile for you financially and time-wise. Always make sure they are a good fit for your art practice.
Having a website and high-quality digital images of your work online is important, but you can take it a step further. Always have a pre-curated selection of your work stored on your smartphone. So when you’re chatting with someone at an event, you have an instant portfolio sitting in your pocket ready to go (and hopefully a card with contact details to back it up). D Emptyspace is particularly useful for this. You can curate your work into a gallery and potential commissioners or buyers can really get a feel for the scale of your art.
Sometimes being active social media is the best option, so I try to use it on a daily basis. Instagram is a great platform though, another great way of meeting and talking to your audience via direct messaging.
Any big plans for the future?
I am working on a massive body of work and will unveil some of the works in progress soon. I want to become prolific by creating a minimum of 100 paintings all with the same signature style. I feel like my signature style is only just emerging in full. It’s been evident in small parts of older paintings for some time, and now I’m developing it even further.
So for now, my focus is on a consistent body of work that builds into a strong solo exhibition I can take to art fairs and beyond
Its time to up my game, put in the hours, and pour all my passion into art. My ultimate ambition is to have a solo exhibition in New York — a place I have always wanted to visit — but for now, the UK is my playground.
For any New York gallery owners or art dealers, here are links to a few of Ricky’s galleries. If you like his work and want to bring it to New York, get in touch.