Updated: Apr 20, 2020
Art that is truly expressive and not just a little bit outside of the norm we see today is, in my opinion, hard to come by. That’s why recently I’ve become totally enthralled with the work of Adam Riches. Whether through soft and subtle oil paintings or with manic drawings, Riches shows incredibly heavy and raw emotion in all of his work. His paintings consist of gentle tones that barely reveal themselves through the black background to form a smokey image. The loose but deliberate brushstrokes add a motion to the image that draws the viewer’s eyes around the canvas and builds the image and its nuances the longer they look. But while his paintings are soft, his drawings feature bold, heavy lines that continuously loop or slash through the page to build up and reveal an image. Again we see a subtle motion in his work but this time much more wild and fast, it’s almost as if his drawings exist in static, a factor that adds to the emotion and weight of these drawings.
Riches’ work is one of the truest presentations of raw emotion that I’ve found recently. His work is a representation of his dedication to the processes that he’s developed and I was thrilled to get to speak with him about it all. He gave a great interview that’s short and sweet, but reveals a lot of details about his process and work development. It’s a great read, and I hope you enjoy.
1. To begin, I always like to start by asking about an artists background. So, what got you started in art? Any schooling? What helped form you into the artist that you are today?
I used to draw with my father when I was a child. I have very early memories of us copying figures from history books. So I guess that’s where my interest started. I didn’t really do much drawing after I left school. I rediscovered it in my mid twenties and eventually decided to study fine art, at university when I was thirty.
2. Diving right into your work, what inspired these extremely gestural drawings and paintings? How did you develop this style?
I used to make drawings from imagination when I was a child, that are quite similar to what I make now. When I began to rediscover drawing, I was making photorealistic drawings in pencil. I became quite bored of doing these as they are time consuming and quite creatively constrictive. So I think the drawings that I’m making now are a way of breaking away from that constriction and going back to something I did many years ago.
3. You've got a few process videos of these drawings being made and it appears that they're made of one line (or if not, very few lines). So how do you go about developing and refining a drawing with so few lines? Are you varying pressure to alter line weight? Or do you maintain the same pressure and just build up the spots that need more weight?
It depends on the type of pen really. The lines made by some pens (Rollerball types) are just one width and darkness. With other pens (Biro types in particular) the marks can be varied depending on the pressure that’s applied. Both types of pen have qualities that I like to use and I usually drift between the two.
4. Your paintings have a similar gestural quality, but made with soft shades as opposed to hard lines, so how does the painting process differ from your drawing process? How is it similar?
My paintings are usually on a much larger scale than the drawings. Oil painting is also much more forgiving than drawing with pen. The paint can be relatively easy to remove or alter. But when you make a mark with a pen, it’s much more permanent.
5. Some of your imagery is fairly representational (as much as a gestural drawing can be) but some is much looser and more surreal. So are you ever using references? How does the imagery choice, and work process differ between these two styles?
Most of the drawings that I make are from imagination. I occasionally use photographic references if I’m drawing someone in particular. I feel that drawing from life or from a reference has given me the tools and knowledge to be able to draw from imagination.
6. Most of your work is made up of a single color, typically black, but you occasionally use an alternate color. What goes into selecting an alternate color for a drawing? Does have any narrative meaning, or is it strictly an aesthetic choice?
I generally use different colour pens as a way of making me look at what I’m doing differently and keeping it interesting for myself. I’ve learned that make in small changes in the way I work can larger differences in the result.
7. Your work is created from a lot of different, but very deliberate movements (varying lines and brush strokes), so how do these movements play into the image? Is the process as important as the final piece?
For me the process is the most important part of making the work. When I’m lost in the process and am lucky enough to make something that I think works or that I’m satisfied with, then that’s a bonus. I make lots of work that I take too far, ruin or am just not happy with.
8. Do you find that oil paint, as opposed to something like acrylic, lends more towards your process and style?
I think oil paint is much more suited to what I’m doing at the moment because I’m able to manipulate it for a much longer period of time. I have made work with acrylic but obviously it dries very quickly.
9. Any new experiments of works coming up that you're excited about? Or does your work happen kind of spontaneously?
My work mostly happens spontaneously. But I’m beginning to realise that my practice could benefit from some self imposed structure. So I’m intending to give myself some projects to work towards in the near future.
10. Finally, Plugs! Where can people find your work? Any shows coming up? Anything that you'd like to share with our audience, let them have it!
I will have work being shown at Pulse Art Fair in Miami next month. My work work can be found on
Facebook: Adam Riches Art
YouTube: Adam Riches
and can be purchased from NadiaArnold.com