Artist Feature #4 – Richard Bernabe

ART-IS-IN by Chriselda Barretto

About Richard Bernabe

Richard Bernabe is an internationally-renowned nature, wildlife, and travel photographer as well as widely-published author from the United States. His passion for adventure has been the driving force behind his life’s quest to capture the moods and character of the world’s most amazing places, from Africa to the Amazon to the Arctic and countless places in between.

Editorial clients include National Geographic, The New York Times, Time, Audubon, The BBC, The World Wildlife Fund, National Parks, Outdoor Photographer, and many others. Corporate clients include Canon, Patagonia, Orvis, REI, Apple, Microsoft, American Express, and more.

Richard was named one of the “Top 30 Influential Photographers on the Web” by the Huffington Post and included in the “20 Photographers Changing the World Through Social Media” by Influence Digest. Richard is a global influencer in the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than 1 million social media followers.

Richard is a highly sought-after teacher and public speaker who accepts many invitations from around the world each year in order to help educate others on matters of photography, adventure travel, and our natural world.

A group of Atlantic puffins (Fratercula arctica) huddled along a sea cliff at Dyrholaey, Iceland

Hi Richard, you are an internationally acclaimed photographer, book author, educator, and keynote speaker. Quite an amazing portfolio you have there! But tell us which one speaks to you the most and why?

I would have to say photography, out of everything mentioned above. It’s at the core of my business and my one true passion. In particular, wildlife and wild places are the subjects that inspire me most and speak to me as an artist.

I know that the current focus of your work involves Earth’s endangered species and African wildlife conservation. Could you tell us a bit more about this, specifically why did you choose this aspect and have there been any obstacles or interesting stories from this part of your journey?

Well, given the answer above about where I draw my inspiration, it’s heartbreaking to see our animals disappearing before my eyes. 70 percent of our African megafauna has disappeared over the past 50 years. Let that statistic sink in for just a minute. And I’m not going to speak out and lend my voice in trying to save what we have left? How could I not? I’m particularly disgusted by the greed and stupidity exhibited in humans when in comes to wildlife poaching and the barbaric nature of trophy hunting. It sickens and depresses me.

Alaskan brown bear in late evening light, Lake Clark national Park, Alaska

Your art and photography are stunning, dynamic, eye-catching and so “real“. Tell us about how you go about getting the still that you want and your art style or process.

Thank you. Well, I am trying to evoke some sort of emotion from my viewers. If I can make them feel something – tranquility, peace, power, awe, majesty, melancholy, sadness, ANYTHING really – then I feel I’ve done my job as an artist. In order to do that though, I need to genuinely feel something myself at the time of the capture. I need to be truly inspired when the image is created. It’s not something I can fake.  When I pick up a camera, my mindset needs to be receptive to feeling something so I can translate these emotions through my chosen medium, photography, where others can feel like they’re behind my camera as well, experiencing the scene vicariously through me. 

Where does your inspiration come from?

My gut level emotional reaction to exotic, wild places, and the wild creatures and people that live there. My initial, emotional response to a subject or scene is the core around which I build my image. That’s the heart and soul of the photograph. That’s the energy. Without it, I’m just making pretty pictures like the millions of others out there who own expensive cameras.

Giraffes reflected in sunset light, Etosha National Park, Namibia

Have there been other artists/role-models or books that played a key role on your artistic journey? 

There have been too many photographers who have influenced me to some degree to name here. The influence of the late Galen Rowell was at the fore when I was initially learning and growing as a young photographer and artist, especially his writing in books like Mountain Light and his monthly columns in Outdoor Photographer magazine. 

Now I find artistic inspiration in other places such as the works of master painters, music, writing, and other forms of creative expression. There are examples all around us in our daily lives if we pay attention.

What has been your biggest challenge so far?

My biggest challenge is staying focused and conserving my time. In addition to photography and traveling, I’m also running a business and its day-to-day demands can suck a ton of creative energy from my life. I have learned to say no to requests and impositions on my time that in the past I couldn’t or didn’t do. 

Coastal seastack formations of Reynisdrangar near Vik, Iceland

Which project/work has given you the most satisfaction from all your endeavors?

As I stated above, I try to make an emotional connection between my photography subjects and my viewers with me being the conduit. This is essential to creating a successful image, in my opinion. So when I do create a compelling image of a threatened or endangered animal, for example, and my viewers are able to connect emotionally and empathetically, I get satisfaction in knowing that my photograph, if even in a small way, might help in its ultimate survival. Our wildlife needs as many constituents as possible and if my images can help in that regard, it provides additional satisfaction above and beyond just the joy in creating.

How has art impacted your life?

It’s enabled me to see – to really see – the world around me in a different way. It’s opened me up emotionally as well and taught me how to express myself better on a personal level. That’s something that I probably wasn’t able to do very well when I was younger or before art became the central part of my life. 

Gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua), Paradise Bay, Antarctica

Tell us about your last work.

My last major piece of work was writing a book, Wildlife Photography: From First Principles to Professional Results. It’s basically a how-to book on wildlife photography with guides to traveling and where to travel for wildlife photography. It went on sale in October of last year and I’m told it’s doing well commercially. 

What is your current WIP?

My current personal projects involve traveling and pursuing wildlife that are threatened by illegal poaching and trophy hunting. That will be an ongoing project for many years and will, unfortunately, never end. I will also be doing speaking events, photography assignments and leading photo workshops and tours all over the world.

Gray langur monkeys (Semnopithecus entellus) Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka

What does the future look like for you and your art?

I just want to pursue photography subjects that inspire me. That’s my guide. If at some point my interests shift to other avenues, then my photography will follow those paths. It’s that simple. I have no desire to focus on anything that I am ambivalent about or doesn’t inspire me. For example, I have never photographed a wedding and no amount of money can motivate me to do it. 

Any words of advice to aspiring artists?

If you must choose a career in a creative field such as art or photography, do it for love – not money or fame or public recognition. 

Iguazu Falls and the Devils Throat, Iguazu National Park, Brazil and Argentina.

Richard you lead photography classes and workshops for photo hobbyists and fellow travellers. Could you give us some more information on this?

I lead photography workshops and tours all over the world. More information can be found here: https://www.richardbernabe.com/workshops 

How can our readers contact you and find your amazing art/books?

The best and easiest way to contact me is through my website, www.richardbernabe.com.

Richard Bernabe

An Artist Feature by Chriselda Barretto

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ART-IS-IN

Artist Feature # 3 – ALEXANDER RADTKE

About Alexander Radtke

Alexander Radtke is a young contemporary artist, with the main distinctive feature that he provides an unconventional approach to analyzing and interpreting art movements and directions. His story of the spiritual in painting begins with the series «Stillness Speaks» in 2016.

Radtke was born in Shadrinsk in 1989, graduated from Shadrinsky University, where he studied information technology. In 2011, after completing his studies, he moved to Yekaterinburg, where he started working, however after a while he decided to give up his career in this field and devote himself entirely to painting. Radtke began self-study drawing and painting, and was engaged in the theory of art receiving expert advice from local artists. After a while, he participated in the general exhibition of the English Museum of Everything, where he received a good response to his drawings with watercolors from curators. He traveled a lot looking for his own style of drawing and painting.

His themes are different: from portraits to landscapes, from phantasmagoria to realism, it was then that the familiarity with pastels and oil occurred. After a while oil became the main tool of the artist. By 2013, Radtke created 3 different themes for the development of his painting, but the main unifying key between them is expression. The painter considers classical painters like: Da Vinci, Rembrandt, Titian and Ingres as his teachers, but he also draws his inspiration from the works of Francis Bacon, Amedeo Modigliani and Edvard Munch. In 2014, Radtke received a proposal for a festival in Germany. Immediately agreeing, he moved to Berlin. There he got acquainted with a completely different level of painting, visited exhibitions of a huge number of artists (Picasso, Bacon, Van Gogh, Turner, etc.), he also faced enormous friendly competition and joined the community of the European Gallery group. After many festivals and exhibitions he got acquainted with Abstractionism.

Beginning of 2015 marked the transition to the Abstract. Inspired by abstract art — Kandinsky, Rothko, Pollack, Richter, etc. Radtke returned to Russia, and began to study formlessness and color, dominating the aphorism of Picasso: “Painting is a lesson for the blind. The artist does not paint what he sees, but what he feels.”

2018 marked his access to the international arena, joining the community of US artists and featuring at exhibitions in New York. He also cooperated with the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation in the presentation of Russian contemporary art at various venues worldwide.

Air and Fire (abstract landscape), oil on canvas, 70×100

Hello Alexander! Could you tell our readers a little bit about who you are in your own words?

Who am I…  A rather complicated question, not because I doubt how to answer it – on the contrary, my sincere full answer may seem confusing. I will say this: I am a space of awareness, but the line of my activity is painting and this is the main business and passion of my life. I’ll also add this: the artist has the ability to see the invisible, touch the intangible and draw something that has no appearance. And I am completely immersed in it. Speaking in more exact terms, I can say that I’m just a person with my own life attitudes and principles; I love listening to music and contemplating nature, so I travel a lot.

Olfusa 1, oil on canvas, 60×60

Tell us about your art style or process.

My style is alla prima, I make pasty brushstrokes on the canvas and from chaos I try to create a holistic story, emerging from somewhere in the background of thought in a space of shapeless emptiness.

But the process itself is very difficult to describe in words. The moment I find myself in front of the canvas, I try to completely disconnect from the world – although there is always a connecting link in the form of classical music in the background. I always paint standing, I fix the canvas on the wall and never get distracted, never leaving until I finish the painting. It’s quite a strange custom of mine, once I spent 31 hours painting non-stop.

Fly’ja the Escape (abstract landscape), oil on canvas, 60×60

You work with different themes from portraits to landscapes, and phantasmagoria to realism! Which style speaks to you the most?

Portraits and realism I still paint sometimes, mostly to revive the very rules that I break :). But in fact, I find the biggest response and satisfaction working in the style of abstract expressionism in landscapes – my newest series of paintings are in this genre. I really like to show the landscape from a point of view that people don’t notice, barely perceptible moments of colors, transitions, the intangible inner silence – especially precious in our age of technology and constant fuss. 

Tomorrow’s flame, oil on canvas, 60×80

Where does your inspiration come from?

Inspiration comes from many different things, mainly from travel, nature, ocean. Sometimes from people, often from various forms of art – music mostly, sometimes books, etc. Inspiration is always with me, and I never really lose touch with it, because the world is so huge and wonderful; we all are surrounded by translucent air, the ever-changing face of the sky. The artist after all paints not because he wants, or because he can – but because he cannot do otherwise. Painting is a whole separate world, expressing its own multiverse with its own physics, that’s why it attracts people. That universe wants to be contemplated, and the artist is the very instrument to perceive and then transmit it to the viewer.

Time, (abstract landscape), 60×80

Tell us about other artists/role-models or books that played a key role on your artistic journey

I will name the few main figures whose work greatly influenced me. First of all, Vasily Kandinsky and his books – “Point and line on the plane” and “Spirituality in art”. Then, William Turner, who is probably my favorite artist to date – I consider him the first abstract landscape painter in the world, under whose brush the abstract style first emerged on canvas; his reflections on light are also very helpful for my work. Then comes Ilya Chashnik and his paintings based on the book of Kazimir Malevich – “Shape, color and sensation”. Last and most importantly – Francis Bacon who broke and twisted the form like no other in our world. To be fair, the list is much longer, but this is the basis upon which my own style has developed.

Himalayas, oil on canvas, 60×60

Considering you had a career in IT, what made you decide to become a full time painter? How did you learn/acquire this technique?

I wouldn’t say I made a career in IT 🙂 In fact, while still studying at university I tried myself in various creative endeavors, for example, I played as an actor at drama theater – and I did well, but then decided to go farther. I pursued the production of my own plays for a while, but then my play turned into a small novel, on the basis of which I was shooting a short film. I may come back to writing sometime 🙂 I also played guitar in several bands, etc. I came to painting by chance, led by an internal state, when something is lacking in the soul. I was suffering a long depression at the time, and on one of my birthdays someone presented me with a canvas and oil paints. After a while, on January 13, I accidentally wrote a portrait of Edgar Allan Poe, and this was my beginning of becoming an artist.

At first, I painted portraits of writers and musicians, and later I began to paint shadows, or states of soul as I call them. As I immersed myself in this world and became acquainted with artists, I realized that this is the passion of my life; I quickly achieved solo exhibitions, and subsequent participation in the Berlin festival.

The Distant Blue, (abstract landscape), oil on canvas, 55×60

How has art impacted your life?

Positively. For me, the canvas was like a personal free psychotherapist, initially a very natural inclination. I became very calm, learning to immerse myself in the practice, transferring my feelings to painting. I realized what great power I had. In fact, each of my paintings contains a clue in the title.

Olfusa II, oil on canvas, 60×60

Tell us a bit about your last work.

My most recent work is called Trick of the Light. In it, I emphasize the interrelation of the visual (landscape) and the spiritual, inner world (consciousness), which results in an abstract composition. A lightning strike may be blinding, but it also gives the opportunity to perceive something beyond, in its brief flash. And just like that in this painting, initially you pay attention to the lightning only, it blinds you to its surroundings – but eventually disappearing, it allows a completely different landscape to emerge. Buddhists call this “fiery vision” + there are other key symbols, such as the rainbow etc. 

I won’t give out all the secrets – the main principle of my art is to convey its message wordlessly, for the viewer to look at the canvas without interpretations, just stand and watch giving all their attention. It is at this moment that the picture will tell everything about itself and begin to come alive.

Sleeping waves, (abstract landscape), oil on canvas, 70×70

What is your current WIP?

At the moment I am starting to work on a series of paintings. To be honest, right now most of my time is spent stretching & preparing canvases. I make canvases for myself so that the stretch is individual, also finely tuning many other aspects important for me – such as priming, preserving the grain of the canvas’ texture and so on — these are the technical issues that I’m currently solving. But as soon as I finish this, I will continue to paint 🙂 !

Running to the Edge of the world, (abstract landscape), oil on canvas, 60×60

What does the future look like for you and your art?

This is a very interesting question. I can’t say exactly, but I can share my dream that I’m working very hard to achieve: a dream that the Louvre would once again break its rules and host my personal exhibition during my lifetime (this happened only once in history, with the artist Mark Chagall). But in general, I think everything is going well for me so far, I’m moving forward at a good pace – soon an exhibition in New York, hopefully before and after that more offers of personal exhibitions all over the world will follow. I also have an ambition to exhibit at Tate someday 🙂 !

Talking of my artistic output, I’d say I’m very productive; for example, during a year I write about 100-150 paintings.

Any words of advice to aspiring artists?

If you already started, then win. Do not stop. Break the walls of space.

Tell us about your concept/journey based on a book named «The Power of the Now» by the German philosopher, writer, and spiritual speaker Eckhart Tolle?

The concept itself is difficult to convey without quoting the whole book, especially since I’m not a spiritual speaker or Eckhart Tolle himself. I will say that his teachings and practices that he offers in the book “The Power of the Now” are very close to me and my worldview. In my artist’s statement, I quote some of Tolle’s words about silence, form and essence of a person. This is a philosophy of seeing the world happen now, in the present moment, with a clear unclouded look, without egoism, without concrete thought, as Eckhart writes – with the “inner consciousness”.

Here is my favorite line from the book – “Is stillness just the absence of noise and content? No, it is intelligence itself — the underlying consciousness out of which every form is born”.

Eyjafjallajökull, oil on canvas, 60×60

Would you like to share any more information with our readers?

Bring to the world only kindness and happiness as far as possible.

How can our readers contact you or find your art?

I can be found on Instagram (@alexander_radtke) – all the contacts are in my bio. I also have a website (art-radtke.com) with all the series of paintings and links to all social networks where you can ask any of your questions.

Alexander Radtke
Video – Making “A trick of light”

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An Artist Feature by Chriselda Barretto