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Portraits and Landscapes and… Altoid Boxes

Rita Salazar Dickerson: Painting in All Sizes

Tell us a bit about your background. How did you get started as an artist?

I was interested in creating art as soon as I was able to hold a pencil. My dad, who was a professional artist, encouraged me and later became my mentor. By the time I was six years old, I was telling everyone that when I grew up, I was going to be an artist. I drew constantly on anything and everything. The white cardboard backing from my mom's nylon hosiery packaging was my favorite.

What drew you to oils?

My dad worked in oils, so I was very familiar with them. Although I am comfortable with other mediums … my first love has always been oils. They are the most forgiving of mediums, archivally they have longevity and when applied correctly the painting glows and changes with the light.

What are your favorite subjects to paint at the moment? Has that changed over the years?

I have a wide range of subject matter that I truly enjoy painting. My first commission in high school was a portrait of a little girl. But as the years rolled on and my reputation grew, along with traditional portraiture I was asked to paint portraits of houses, mountains, favorite places, and pets of all sorts and sizes. I always felt confident in saying "yes." 

Tell us more about your commissioned work.

A commission begins with an idea; perhaps it will be a gift, honoring someone or their pet, or maybe it's a favorite place. Each time I receive that phone call or text, I get excited in anticipation for this new painting. If necessary, I will do preliminary sketches for approval before I ever begin the painting. Each stage of the painting is then shared and discussed during the "work in progress." My goal is to work with the client throughout the entire creative process so that they are completely happy with the final piece of art. I like to think of my portraits as family heirlooms that tell a part of a family's history.

How did the Altoid Box painting come about?

I am constantly inspired by life around me and so those are the paintings that just flow out of me naturally. In a sense, I commission myself to have some creative fun. And this is how the Altoid Box paintings came about. I love little things, and miniatures in art have always intrigued me, so this was the perfect challenge. I decided that these … tiny paintings should be approached academically in the same way as any of my larger paintings by practicing composition, values, color temperature and drawing. Classically trained, I have a lot of satisfaction with that approach.   

You use all sizes of canvas. How does the size of the rectangle change what you paint?

Painting in all sizes frees me up to have a variety of choices when it comes to the composition. When working with the rectangle/landscape shape, I understand what my limitations are for subject matter and choose from there. The same goes for the little Altoid tins; I realize that not every painting is going to work or read well in a rectangle, especially a miniature rectangle. Regardless of its small size, my goal is to entertain the viewer with a strong design. The end result is a beautiful little conversation piece of art that shows the journey of creativity with the mini paint palette still attached.

What do you do when you’re not creating art?

One of my favorite pastimes … is cooking and baking. Creating good food and presenting it beautifully is another form of art for me. My other favorite pastime is travel. I have so many rich memories of painting or sketching on location: the sandy beaches and small villages of Japan, beautiful women living in the settlements in South Africa, the lush green countrysides filled with sheep in northern England, the vineyards of Tuscany. I also travel locally. I am the in-house artist for a resort dude ranch above Deckers, Colorado … and I never tire of plein air painting all that I see and experience up there. 

What else would you like for our readers to know? 

I wake up each morning intentionally thankful for a new day with new opportunities to do what I am blessed to do... create art with passion–remembering that the chief business in life is to discover.

Facebook: @rita.s.dickerson
Instagram: @ritasalazardickerson