Who is Ricki Mountain?
©2000-2016 Ricki Mountain Studios
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I have good genes, caffeine, and sugar. LOL. Seriously. I am lucky to have been born with a gene for getting up early and another gene for lots of energy. That, coupled my daily coffee & twinkies fix, helps me to accomplish the goals I set for myself each day. If it weren’t for those good genes, caffeine, and sugar, I’m not sure where I’d be now. I’m pretty busy, especially now with my new business venture, Groove Press. I’m also a wife and mother. I’m fortunate that my husband is a very patient man and my children are off to college, following careers of their own. When I’m not doing something art or work related, you can usually find me doing something adventurous like exploring the back roads of California on motorcycles with my husband, or traveling. I wouldn’t say I’m an adrenaline junkie, but I really love adventure and new experiences which is probably why I’m able to keep my artwork pretty fresh – once I try something I like I want to master it and then move on to the next challenge. I can’t stand boredom or repetition – life is too short and I want to live life to the fullest. I probably inherited a gene for art and adventure from my grandmother and aunt who were both in Vaudeville way back in the day. My uncles were artists as well - one was a professional photographer, the other a fine art painter. My great aunt was a fan dancer at the Sally Rand Nude Ranch during the 1939 Golden Exposition on Treasure Island in San Francisco. She didn’t seem to care what anyone thought of her and she lived her life the way she wanted. I remember at an early age visiting her as well as my assorted uncles and seeing these people I loved so who were so highly motivated and passionate about art and the handmade movement really affected me in a positive way. Independent woman have been born in my family for as long as I can remember. Growing up, I was the fourth of 9 daughters who were all expected to work and contribute to the welfare of the family. I’m definitely sure that’s where my strong work ethic originated. From the age of 13 on I worked weekends selling antiques at flea markets and at my grandmother’s antique collectibles store in Port Costa, Ca. I met a lot of characters during that time, and I learned a lot! I still love vintage and cool, weird, unusual things – my house is filled with all kinds of curiosities I either picked up along my travels or made myself from ideas inspired from my adventures. I think running my grandma’s store at 13 made it easier for me to open my own cool, funky store in Benicia, CA years later. I learned a lot about art, and sales, and to be innovative and flexible, and how to work with almost anyone during that time. This experience helped me to transition into a fairly long career in corporate art at a young age, and I spent 25 years in that world - even though I wasn’t always comfortable working within the corporate “box” with all the rigid rules that usually entailed. Growing up, I was never the kind of kid who carefully colored within the lines – in fact, I usually made up my own lines and then colored over them, too.
I try to create something original each day to feed my creative flame, while managing my art and licensing sales in order to keep the revenue stream flowing so that I can continue to successfully manage and promote Groove Press, which is the creation I’m most proud of. Groove Press is the result of a LOT of hard work (think a year of 60 hour work weeks!) and the generous help of a few friends and genius programming engineers I was lucky enough to bring on board. Through a collaborative effort we recently launched Groove Press, which was designed to be an online resource for individuals to sell their handmade wares, vintage items, digital media and stuff like that- easily and inexpensively. It’s in the start-up stage right now, which means it takes a lot of my time and money to keep it running. It’s kind of like my little baby, though - I love it and I work hard to keep it growing, and I can’t wait for everyone to see the amazing online artist’s co-operative marketplace that it’s going to evolve into. It’s pretty cool seeing all the interest that it has already generated and it’s exciting to get up every day and see how many more people have discovered Groove Press and opted to join us by opening a store on our site. I love meeting our sellers – the majority are artists and they’re so interesting and creative and I love their cool crafts and I love that my company is able to put their products into the hands of people who want to buy those creations.
It sounds like a dream job – how did you get there?
I know I’m incredibly lucky to be able to do what I love. It’s been icing on the cake to actually make a living at it along the way. Before the Internet came along (and changed the business of art and how it’s managed) I had the privilege to work for a number of nationally known top art resellers and art publishers. Working for those companies literally put me in the same room with highly successful artists, designers, buyers, and accomplished business people who gave me invaluable information on how to succeed in the art world. I learned from them as much as I could and one of the invaluable things I took away from that experience was that I could be successful, too, if I tried hard enough and was willing to deal with rejection. They say that for every “yes” there are a hundred “no’s” but I think it’s more like a thousand. That’s when I learned how to thrive on rejection. Rejection meant at least someone had to have looked at my work. I remember seeing a couple of abstract art pieces created by another artist that not only got published at the company I was working for, but it also made the artist and the company lots of money. The ridiculous thing is that I knew I could create something like that very same piece, so I thought I would try. The first time I submitted a piece of artwork for publication to that same company where I worked, many of the people who worked there laughed at me – some of them to my face – after all, I was just a salesperson to them at that point, what did I know about art? I laughed too, but I was confident that I had just as much knowledge and art savvy as the artist who had made $50,000 from an image that literally looked like an oversize tic tac toe. (It helped that he had painted it with colors that furniture designers had already projected to be de rigueur for the upcoming year.) So, after working all day I would go home and then work in the evenings and weekends on my submission pieces. I kept working on my technique, trying different things and using as a guide my knowledge of what I thought would sell. As a salesperson, I had a fairly well developed instinct at to what buyers wanted and what would never sell. Eventually, through sheer persistence and my fondness for rejection, I got a couple of my pieces published which were eventually offered for sale to framers and big box retailers. It was a big deal for me (I am published! I’m a real artist!) but the best part was the surprise on the faces of the people who watched it go into reprint over and over again. After that, there was no stopping me – I submitted anything and everything to the art review committee. If they rejected a piece for some arbitrary reason, I’d just take it home and paint over it and resubmit it the next day. Fortunately for me (unlike most artists at the time) I worked at the very place where I submitted my artwork, and even though I never received any favoritism or special treatment I also didn’t have to pay for expensive photographers to create digital images of my work or pay exorbitant shipping costs to get my stuff to the company. At the time, those costs kept a lot of talented artists from ever being considered for publication. The technology we employ now has leveled the playing field for all artists, which is great.
After Internet came along it changed the way business was done – especially business in the art world – and it opened up doors for me in ways that I would never have expected. On the negative side, I lost my corporate job in B2B art sales. But on the positive side I could now work from home to build the business that I always knew I could create. Sales of my artwork went way up - with Internet connectivity anyone and everyone can see my entire portfolio of artwork and I’m no longer dependent on a publisher who may or may not pick a handful of my images that they believe will appeal to the designers and framers who keep them in business. Now I can represent myself and sell my art by utilizing online marketplaces like Groove Press, and use a print on demand company that is able to print one or more high quality prints in the size that I specify from my digital artwork files that I’ve e-mailed to them. I am no longer out of pocket thousands of dollars for printing and storing a huge collection of artwork on the off chance that I might sell a single piece. I can also work and design from the luxury of my home office studio, which is invaluable.
I am truly inspired by other artists, especially newer, obscure artists within a range of mediums. I just love it when I find really cool work or see a great artist emerge from an MFA or local craft show. I also religiously scour the World Wide Web looking for creative art that I’ve never seen before. I pretty much live, eat, and breathe art. The Internet allows me to more easily seek out and find those people and images that move me. That’s something that I do daily - I set aside a chunk of time each day to mine the Internet for new ideas and inspiration. I also consciously surround myself with other creative people. I enjoy life to the fullest each day, and most importantly, I learned to thrive on rejection. You can’t take rejection personally.
About 10 years ago, I was introduced to Photoshop. I was hooked on it from day one. I saw a million possibilities that Photoshop could do for me that I couldn’t do for myself. So I began to teach myself how to use Photoshop and Illustrator. I used them daily. I made lots of mistakes, but I also made lots of happy accidents that were serendipitous. I have found a few techniques that work for me. For instance, when I work on a commercial abstract for art publishing, I create artwork on paper or canvas, usually no larger than 11x14. I then scan it at 600 dpi and flip the art work using Photoshop layers and then add some more of my own photography and other eclectic organic elements to create a digital file that I eventually upload to sell on a POD (print on demand) site like Artist Rising or Image Kind. I also use the same technology to send my digital files to prospective clients. I eventually upload all of the final digital files to other appropriate venues to promote my artwork. It’s incredible how much the Internet has opened up and changed not just the way I work, but how the entire art publishing industry now works.
It’s pretty much just what it sounds like - I seek out and identify trends before they’ve hit the forefront mainstream so that buyers and publishers in the interior design trade can optimize their opportunity to take advantage of that trend by modifying their final product to appeal to buyers so that they can sell their product if (or when) it does become the new, hot trend.
What this means for me, as a trend consultant, is that the textile industry is usually at the forefront of creating trends, since they design and build their textiles and furniture at least 24 month out. So if, for instance, an influential major furnishing design house has pink poodle couches and pink poodle rugs in the works, chances are you’re going to see a lot of pink poodles in various forms in the coming future. Interior designers want their decorative artwork and home décor items to “play nice” with the big ticket furniture that the consumer will inevitably buy first, so if some big box store Buyers have already committed themselves to buying a ton of mauve & blue teapot pictures they probably won’t sell a lot of that product if most of mainstream America has already purchased a pink poodle couch. Pink poodle couch owners will be looking for pink shag rugs, not mauve & blue teapots. So it obviously helps the Buyers for these stores to have some foreknowledge of future color schemes and trends so that they don’t have to sell a ton of inventory at a loss later because it was not the hot (or even lukewarm) color of the season. I’m probably making it sound more complicated that it is. I also work with art publishers to create artwork sets for them that are based on these trend forecasts, so that they are more likely to be able sell their product line of images to these big retail Buyers who are looking for similar product lines. Trend identification is difficult, because you have to predict 24 months out what people will be buying and people’s tastes are not always predictable, but if you are good at it, it can be very lucrative and rewarding.
I usually try to create at least 4 images for the art industry a week. I don’t always come up with something new but because I have been creating art for almost 15 years I’ve built up a quite a large portfolio that I can pull from. Sometimes if I’m stuck for something new I take something I’ve already made and manipulate it into something new by using photo shop. Did I mention I LOVE Photoshop?! Inevitably I manage to create something. When the economy was better, there was a much higher demand (and budget) for originals in the hospitality and design industry and I probably sold an average of 20 large format paintings a year. Now I’m seeing higher sales of Giclee and POD (print on demand) canvas to that same industry and less of the more expensive originals.
I also make sure to create artwork that gives me personal satisfaction even if it is not as lucrative as my art industry images. I have an art studio where I like to relax and try new things with collage, which is my favorite art style at the moment. I do it daily, and it is peaceful, like meditation - I find myself messing around with the bits of paper and ephemera until I like what I see. Sometimes this process can take six months before I find the right composition. Then I glue it all together to compile the collage or turn it into an ACEO art card. Oh yeah, ACEO art cards is another addiction of mine. I also make and sell them, and also collect them myself. I find them fascinating and beautiful.
your art has bright, bold colors, and expressive lines in an almost illustrative style. Did you study illustration?
Great question. No, I’ve never had formal art training but I do have a huge love of illustration. My daughter has inherited the family art gene and is an incredible artist. She’s currently attending a great art college and majoring in illustration and is seeking her MFA to teach illustration.
Ooh gosh, have ya got all day? I love the elements of ceramic art, and sewing, sculpture, design, furniture design, you name it. One thing I tried recently is making glass tile jewelry...it turned out great and I can tell that I’m going to be making a lot more of them in the future. I love pop surrealism at the moment and the underground art movement which some people call the Lowbrow art movement. I love lowbrow art because it often has a sly sense of humor. One of my favorite sources for lowbrow art is the magazines Juxtapoz. Speaking of art magazines, I also love Hi Fructose for a refreshing dose of contemporary art. Even with the Internet at my fingertips, I love the tactile feel and look of images in a magazine, which means I have piles of them because I can’t bear to throw them away. It’s difficult to find time for outside interests, though, as more and more of my time is being consumed by managing and growing my Brand - Ricki Mountain -- but that’s a good thing!