Interview by Robert Cavuoto
Rick Mapes Unveils his 2021 Collection of Rock & Roll Digital Illustrations!
Artist extraordinaire Rick Mapes previews his upcoming 2021 collection of digital illustrations featuring musicians from bands like Aerosmith, KISS, Iron Maiden, and Alter Bridge, to name just a few.
Veteran artist Rick Mapes has a unique outlook on art and brings his vibrant digital illustrations to music fans and art lovers alike. Rick’s medium is a branded genre called “Digital Illustrations,” where he starts with a line drawing of a photograph then paints in layer upon layer over the line drawing on the computer. The result is a stunning and unique interpretation of the original photo. You can view all his digital images at www.rickmapesdesign.com
In my conversation with Rick, he discusses his passion for art, his joy in creating it, and why he loves to illustrate the musical heroes he grew up with.
Robert Cavuoto: Tell me a little about your background as an artist.
Rick Mapes: I grew up surrounded by art, music, and sports. I can remember going on vacations as a child and watching my mother sketching everywhere we went. My father kept introducing me to different sports as a kid, and I fell in love with pretty much all of them. As for music, I can remember, at five years old, sitting on our front porch listening to the radio and hearing rock and roll for the first time and falling in love with it. All of these things stuck to me like glue. When I got older, I drew all the time, played a variety of sports, and always had music on the radio whenever I could. Through high school, I thought I would pursue something in the world of sports as a profession until my senior year when suddenly sports were taken off the table because my doctors thought I had a heart problem. I met a good friend who played in a band, and they were looking for a lead singer. I auditioned and got the gig. I was in the band for several years after high school until I realized that we would never be the next big thing, so I was left with art, which turned out to be my future. Four and a half years of art school later, I graduated from the Columbus College of Art and Design with a major in illustration.
Robert Cavuoto: What drives your passion for creating these unique illustrations, and how long have you been creating them?
Rick Mapes: I was in advertising for most of my career but always illustrated when I could. After years in the business world, I decided to do my own thing. At that time, I would create my art by hand. As age kept creeping in, arthritis took over my drawing hand and my ability to create the way I had always known. I was left to figure out what I was going to do next. That’s when technology stepped in and gave me the chance to keep creating in a different medium. I started by dabbling with the computer and, over time, discovered that I could create art that was similar to what I used to create by hand. My first real illustration was of Todd Kerns, the bass player for Slash and the Conspirators. I have continued to hone my art and have been creating my illustrations now for about five years. My love of art, music, and sports drive my art these days. I generally focus now on musicians and athletes, along with the occasional landscape.
Robert Cavuoto: Do you have a name for your style of illustrations?
Rick Mapes: I guess the best way to describe my art is a “digital illustration.” They are created on the computer, but I rely on my traditional learning and illustration background to come up with the art.
Robert Cavuoto: What is your artistic process for creating these pieces?
Rick Mapes: I am fortunate to have met some awesome photographers that allow me to work from their images as my reference. When I find a certain image that I like, I create a line drawing of it like I have always done and then paint it in layer after layer over the line drawing with the computer. The nice part of it being digital is that if I don’t do something I like, it’s a lot easier to fix it until it looks the way I envision it.
Robert Cavuoto: How long does it take you to complete one of these works?
Rick Mapes: From the time I lay down the line drawing, a finished piece will generally take 2-3 days.
Robert Cavuoto: Art is created in different ways and for different purposes based on your frame of mind. Do you find yourself creating something adequate one day, then suddenly creating something very special the next?
Rick Mapes: The art I create I almost see as therapy for me. I love to see them come to life during the process. Sometimes these illustrations almost create themselves as the image jumps out at me. I also love to see the reactions from fellow music fans like me and how they make them feel. I would call myself “retired” these days, so they are usually created for my love of art and merely keeping myself occupied. Given the world we live in at the moment, I often work on them late at night when I can’t sleep. I have always been the most creative late at night. I suppose that goes back to those all-nighters we used to pull at art school.
Robert Cavuoto: What catches your eye in a photograph that makes you want to create a digital illustration of it?
Rick Mapes: What attracts me to illustrate a photo of a musician is their expression. There is nothing that motivates me more than seeing someone doing what they truly love to do on stage. As for sports, a certain pose will hit me. That harkens back to my own days of sports and being able to identify with what that athlete is experiencing at that moment.
Robert Cavuoto: Do you have any favorite musicians or athletes that you enjoy creating illustrations of?
Rick Mapes: My most favorite musicians to illustrate are Slash & Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators, as well as Alter Bridge. I love doing other musicians as well, but their music is what draws me to want to create an illustration of them. I like to create illustrations of musicians that influenced me when I was young, like KISS, Alice Cooper, and Guns N’ Roses. As for sports, I grew up in Ohio and tend to be drawn to my Ohio sports teams like the Browns, Indians, my beloved Buckeyes!
Robert Cavuoto: Do you know what you’re striving to accomplish before you start an illustration, or do you just start designing and see what happens?
Rick Mapes: I will sit and look at a photograph and sometimes will try to see where I might go with it ahead of time. Other times I Iike for it to take me along for the ride and see where it ends up.
Robert Cavuoto: Your illustrations truly enhance the original photo’s clarity, color, and brilliance that doesn’t exist in the original photograph. Tell me about finding the right color pallet to accent the photo and make it pop?
Rick Mapes: Thank you. I will often pick up on a couple of colors I see within the image and use those as my starting point. Sometimes I like to see a lot of different colors, and other times I like to keep it almost monochromatic. When we were in art school, our illustration gods were Bernie Fuchs, Mark English, and Bob Peak. Their styles still resonate with me, and will often see them in my mind’s eye as I am creating.
Robert Cavuoto: Can people commission you to illustrate their photos?
Rick Mapes: I am always available to take on commissions for individuals. I can work from a personal image they provide or work with my photographer friends to find something that will suit their taste.