Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Rick Allen: Hardest Working Artist in the "Paris of the North"?

Proofing a print

Some great Rick Allen climbing and ski art
The Occasional (Rick is second from left).

When I was at the Universitiy in Madison, WI there was a guy there named Clyde Stubblefield.  He called himself the hardest working drummer in show business.  He most likely was (and still is).  Clyde seemed to be in every band and at every venue on any given night.  He had also played for many famous acts including James Brown.  Clyde was honest in his opinion of himself, he called himself the hardest working drummer in show biz not because he was always working, but also because he felt he had earned his talents and worked extremely hard to become as accomplished as he was.

I think if Rick Allen had to pick a label, it could be something like the hardest working woodblock engraver in the "Paris of the North".  I have known Rick for over a decade and in that ten years I have had the pleasure of drinking much Scotch with him, climbing with him and hearing his philosophy on art and being an artist.  It basically goes something like this.  We are not all born with a god given talent to be artists, but we can learn to become artists and we can work hard at doing so and eventually create art and perhaps even make a living at it.  Rick has done and is doing just that, but it should also be noted the guy has a lot of talent to go along with that hard work!

I wanted to shoot Rick and his studio for several reasons.  First because I am trying to learn how to become an artist myself and his studio was a great and challenging chance to futz with lighting and flash.  It is a really hard place to light and shoot and to be honest I learned a ton, I did not totally succeed but I did come up with some good images for this post.  (and a whole bunch of bad ones too!)

I also wanted to spread the word about Rick and his studio because not only is Rick an awesome artist, but because he is one of the great places where Art and Culture collide with outdoor adventure and sport.

Rick used to put on a great event called the "Occasional"which was a festival of ice climbing and culture.  There was a great party in Ricks studio (that was a huge loft at the time) and at that party, there was a poetry reciting contest, talent show and Scotch tasting in the tradition of Robert Burns day.  The next morning, a core group of folks would then scale Nightfall a large frozen waterfall on the North Shore in period dress.  Rick even had me up there in a kilt and wool jacket (to bad for the belayer!).  I wish I could have seen the persons face at the Kilt rental shop when they unwrapped their kilt smelling of sweat  and blood with crampon marks on it!  It was at this same event where I witnessed a wool clad climber fall directly into a raging bonfire.  A few of us quickly grabbed him and watched amazed as he looked at his smoking garb only to realize that after literally laying the fire, he was unscathed.  Try that in a bunch of poly and nylon!

These experiences are translated in Ricks prints and images.  I think that folks who are into art and are into the outdoors need to investigate and experience Ricks work.  Here in Duluth, MN we have a lot of opportunities to do so.  In fact this spring Rick will have a show at the Sivertson Gallery.  To me folks like Rick tell the story of the outdoor lifestyle and it is up to us as outdoors people to support him and other artists because of that!

Great work Rick!
Portrait of the artist...

Early 1900's technology

Brain Rats!!!

Tools of the trade

More tools of the trade!

The workshop


A color for each pass on the press

Steampunk at its best
Late nights mandatory

Final product


marian said...

Thank you, Hansi, for a beautiful photographic essay about the love of my life!

rna said...

I recall Dave Pagel's comment as Al was plucked from the flames with nary a smolder: "Quick! Throw something on the fire-- something old and dry that'll burn."

Thanks for the wonderful photos and kind words, Hansi.

monty j said...

Thanks Hansi...Loved the photos and the article. Rick's art looks awesome..Next time I am home I will have to try and find some around Duluth...His stuff remotely reminds me of a buddy of mine out in Bend here..His name is Adam Haynes..Great guy and great art...check him out at the way, I gotta say it has been fun to see you develop as an artist yourself..

Jeremy Kershaw said...


samh said...

Back when W-Trek Outfitters was alive and well in Duluth, Nodin, the owner had a t-shirt made up with an superb print on the front by Rick of an old-timey climber clad in a kilt and holding an ice axe in one hand and a bottle of the good brown stuff in the other. I get complimented on that art just about every time I wear that shirt.

the Goodmans said...

I've always admired Rick's work so I really appreciate this behind the scenes peek! Nice photos!

Aaron Peterson said...

Very cool, thanks for sharing.

Vito said...

Thanks Hansi for introducing me to Rick's artwork. My wife and I both love it!!