What risks are you taking as an artist?
Currently, being a figurative painter is very challenging, as you’re truly following your passion and not the commercial marketplace. When you combined figurative work with a classical narrative, conceptually progressive critics cringe. By working in this style, I’m admittedly taking a risk, as I understand that decorative pieces, which require little engagement from the viewer, will surely sell more easily. Perhaps the average art appreciator would rather keep engagement with their artwork to a reasonable level when encountering it on a daily basis. Fortunately, I have been able to work for clients on private commissions with a great deal of creative freedom, allowing me to maintain my vision and aesthetic.
What do you read?
Typically, I listen to audiobooks while I work. Mostly non-fiction on the topics of on ethics, philosophy, history, and science. Always finding books on composition and technique to improve my understanding of form. In the evenings, I’m paying more attention to pop cultural phenomena or politics. This keeps me from becoming a studio monster.
What brought you to the path you are on?
Growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness in a suburban-midwest public school projected me into a sort of voyeur role, documenting life from an outsider perspective. Additionally, I developed a severe case of asthma that had me running to a ventilator almost daily, as I was waking up unable to breathe. Not doing things in school like playing sports, saluting the flag, celebrating birthdays, or participating in holiday activities led me to discovering the realm of imagination. Between my oldest brother’s comic book collection and the illustrations in my parents’ religious literature I had my first dramatic, narrative, and figurative influences.
In 2008, I left my smallish town of McHenry Illinois, and enrolled in The American Academy of Art. While there, I joined another separatist group; the goth community. There, I found my sense of humor for dark subject matter but not much else. Upon leaving school, I met a group of painters who made it evident that becoming a professional artist was a valid option.
The west coast’s idealism called to me. I moved to California for six years, and explored many outlets of creativity. Puppet making, costume design, art direction, stage construction, prop fabrication, mask making, 3D animation, tattooing.. you name it I wanted to learn it on the professional level. Ultimately I wound up back where I began, in Chicago painting figures from life.
Next, I went on to apprentice with painters I found especially influential. I studied in Chicago with Ryan Shultz, who helped hone attention to detail in capturing likeness, and North Carolina with David Molesky, where I picked up some highly functional studio practices. Most recently, my studies took me to Norway, learning the importance of philosophy in composition under the apprenticeship of Odd Nerdrum, through the winter of 2015.
Since returning to Chicago I have been building my current body of work, putting these findings into practice. When I look at the old masters it’s clear that it takes a lifetime to reach the level of understanding that myself and a growing number of painters are striving for. That prospect couldn’t possibly be more exciting!
Are you satisfied with your career in the arts?
It feels like I have absolutely found my purpose. There isn’t anything to do from here but create and exhibit.
Adam Holzrichter is a narrative and figurative painter. He approaches painting with an eye turned toward the best masterworks of the ages, and another fixed on his personal experiences. Adam paints primarily from life to wind up somewhere between direct representation and fantasy. Themes aim to elicit human emotion from viewers using scenes of intense drama, often based in various myths of the world.
Photo of Adam by Jason Fox.