Rikki Niehaus is a fabulous painter, known for her portraiture. She captures people in a moment and is not only inspired by the sitter, but the setting and a play of light. I met Rikki several years ago, as she my neighbor at the Brewery Arts Complex. Rikki asked if I would sit for her to do a portrait as part of her latest series of people in their chairs. In January, she painted an art deco inspired portrait of me. What struck me was how simple it looks but how complex it was to do with the pose and lighting. Rikki’s stunning work draws the viewer in. I find myself wanting to know more about the people she paints. It is an intimate process seeing yourself reflected on the canvas through the artist’s eye.
As we are both gearing up for Brewery Artwalk Spring 2017, we are honored Rikki took some time to sit down with me to answer some questions about herself. Enjoy the interview and please join us on April 29 & 30 for Artwalk!
What inspired you to start portraiture?
I have loved art, especially painting, all my life. There is something magical about looking at portraits, and when it occurred to me I could attempt that sort of thing myself, it was a revelation.
What do you want to see reflected in your work?
Ideally, the portrait should have a sense of life to it, to actually look back at the viewers to come. I want the subject and the viewer to engage.
What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do?
It’s rewarding on many levels, but I think one of the greatest experiences is watching the sitter see the completed portrait for the first time. I’ve had some wonderful reactions, it’s really, really special.
Who or what inspires you?
If it’s a portrait, obviously the sitter will be a huge source of inspiration, but I also take a lot of energy from other artists; I love to quote old master paintings, and I have shelves and shelves of painting books. Looking at a painter I love is like visiting with a friend. Visually all sorts of things inspire me, even bleak landscapes and brutalist concrete architecture, but painting always brings me somewhere new.
What is your favorite place or thing to do in Los Angeles?
Other than the inside of my studio, and LACMA, I enjoy seeing the bits of silent-era Hollywood that are still around. I love Cinecon, the atmosphere in Musso & Frank, etc.
If you could pick a place to teleport to right now, where would you go?
London, walking around the National Portrait Gallery!
What’s your motto for life and why?
“Who Dares Wins” my husband introduced me to the SAS motto. I battle doubt constantly, but this reminds me to be courageous and take chances.
Is there a piece of jewelry or some other personal talisman that reflects you, gives you strength, or tells something of you?
I have a lucky French coin, with a little dab of paint on it. It reminds me of traveling, and seeing great museums.
For a better view of these and other wonderful portraits, visit rikkiniehaus.com .
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