Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Interview with Johnny Ringo

Interview with the one and only Johnny Ringo.

This January we had our first annual Emerging Artists exhibit at Driftwood Salon, and featured sixteen brand new artists who are all really going strong, trying to kick start their art careers.

Johnny Ringo was one of the last applicants we saw for this show. Right when we thought we’d rounded it up to a nice 15, he emailed me the day before the deadline I’d posted in the original artist call for this show.   I had no idea what to expect as I waited for him the afternoon of our meeting. He showed up with HUGE rolls of paper, and kept going out to his car to unload more from the trunk! We immediately realized we had no tables large enough for them, so he carefully unfolded them on the gallery floor.

At once the larger than life smooth texture of them all captivated our attention to an echoing silence.
Graphite literally jumped off the thick, acid free paper and danced about our imaginations. His texture is so rich it seems like the blacks are deep wells of darkness. The pencil lines so intentional you follow them all around seemingly unimportant objects that somehow tell a story even in their stillness.

Johnny broke the silence and immediately started telling us that they’re just mere studies for the large scale paintings he wants to start really soon. The Boss’s Daughter is my favorite. A study of random house hold items including a hammer, a staple gun, a used crystal ashtray, some garden nippers, a single semi decaying daisy, and a snap shot of a beautiful black haired girl whose hair seems to be coming out of the drawing. It silently whispers of a story you know you want to hear. And that’s the magic of Johnny’s works; they have a way of enveloping you in their story, begging to be told.

We had the pleasure to catch up with Johnny this June at the gallery, and we got him to answer some of our burning questions. 2011 has been a busy year for him, after having shown with us here in January, he’s gone on to participate in numerous group shows all over the city, including with Chillin Productions at 111 Minna gallery and at Wonderland gallery. Additionally, he is also currently featured in a solo exhibit in Sacramento at Space 07 gallery. 
Driftwood Salon: Hi Johnny, I know this is really busy month for you, so thank you for taking the time to meet with us. First of all, we know you as Frank Medina, so tell us about this artist persona you’ve adopted. Why Johnny Ringo?

Johnny Ringo: Johnny Ringo is the idea that you are your worst enemy. 

DS:  When did you know that pursuing art was going to be your profession?

Johnny Ringo: Ever since I read the biographies of some of the Impressionist and Renaissance painters, I felt deeply on the way they lived and I fell in love with the idea of being a painter. Maybe it was glamorized in the books, like the gangster movies we have today but to me these were men I could relate to at that moment in my life.

DS: When did you read them? And what was your favorite one?

JohnnyRingo: I think it all started after reading a biography about Picasso when I was young. There was a part where he was in his studio with a girl and his girlfriend showed up and they started to argue. He calmly says, “Whoever wins a fight between the two of you can stay.” That had me laughing hysterically for some time and I think it was then that I envisioned myself being old, bald, and painting.

DS: Your still life drawings are dramatically large; tell us why the larger than life scale?

Johnny Ringo: I feel like drawing still life keeps my eyes sharp on the way things are and not how they could be. It’s really the movement from scaling the objects from their normal size to their larger than life size that I’m in love with. As long as the relationship between the objects stays true, then I can enjoy the physicality of drawing a hammer without actually using it.

DS: Where are you going with all this?

Johnny Ringo: The idea is to have a voice, so today I’m still working on aesthetics and technique but eventually I’m at a point where aesthetically I can draw you in with false beauty and technically you are not tripping around the composition, wondering “what is that” or is that a “fork or spoon”. I want to make sure to control my audience’s eye to a point where, “I’m the story teller and not the guy trying to make a pretty drawing”.

DS:  Most artists attribute style, technique and discipline to someone in their life who has been influential to the development of their work, do you have such a person in your life?

Johnny Ringo : It seems like in the beginning, artists’ take bits and pieces from people either from books, the radio and television but it really comes down to the people that are tangible. The people that have directly influenced you by taking the brush from your hand and shown you, “This is incorrect or this is strong.” The faculty at UC Davis, people like Troy Dalton and Wayne Thiebaud made a huge influence on me as far as drawing.  Mr. Dalton really gave me the idea, “There is no right or wrong way to draw”.  During, a critique in his drawing class, a peer of mine (English Major), decided to tell me that my drawings’, “Actually were not drawings”. To my surprise before I could respond Mr. Dalton said, “There is no right or wrong way to draw. Actually, his drawings remind me of Caravaggio.”  I guess you could say that about life as well. 

DS: Tell us something that your family and friends would be surprised to know about you?

Johnny Ringo: I’ve never eaten canned tuna.

DS: Ahaha! Neither have I! Oh come on, something more substantial!  I mean who eats canned tuna?

Johnny Ringo: It seems like everyone that invites me over for dinner.  

DS Let’s talk about “The Boss’s Daughter”, can you indulge me a little, I’ve imagined so many possible scenarios, but I want to hear the story, I mean a staple gun? Who’s the daisy for? Was that your cigarette?

Johnny Ringo: The Boss’s Daughter was intended to be a dark narrative from the perspective of the father or mother.  All the household items are intended to inflict psychological and physical pain on the employer/s that has stepped over the line and tainted the Boss’s Daughter, which is strictly forbidden.  The flower represents the remaining time in the lives of the culprit/s.  The ashes from the cigarette show a sense of satisfaction from all this.

DS: Why are female cartoon characters incorporated into your drawings?

Johnny Ringo: Every since I was young I’ve always had respect for strong female characters. Being raised by a single mother has had a huge impact on my life and it resonates in the majority of the drawings.

DS: What’s next for you?

Johnny Ringo: Probably going to do an animal series in black ink, a political series in graphite and a Brothers’ Grimm series with graphite and red ink. 

For more of Johnny Ringo’s works, please visit and ( /

His work was on display at Space 07 in Sacramento this June, as well as at Wonderland in S.F..

In July-August, he will have another solo exhibit at the Moxi Salon and Spa in San Francisco.  Opening Reception is on Thursday August 4th, from 6:30-8:30pm.

And in September, he will be featured again with our gallery for our 911 Realism group show, which opens Friday, September 9th at 5:00PM.

1 comment:

  1. I saw Johnny Ringo's work at Space 7 Gallery and you really need to feel the magnitude of his drawings in person. Very impressive. Looking forward to seeing what he comes out with for his next projects.