Creators, Makers, and Doers: Randy Van Dyck
Posted on 10/25/16 by Arts & History
Randy Van Dyck is an artist first, but his diverse skill set has led him to cultivate a multi-faceted role in the arts community. His strong work ethic and detail-oriented personality have afforded his success as a painter and business owner; he also serves as an earnest patron of the arts. He finds creative time around the open hours of his downtown frame shop, which acts as storefront and studio. He also enjoys collecting works from other artists and frequently displays their work in his shop.
How do you describe your role in the community?
In the art community? I kind of have a three-faceted role. As a business owner, owning the frame shop—which is basically my day job—includes working with other artists, and galleries, and museums to provide a framing service. I am also an artist; I’m involved that way. And as a collector. I collect work from other artists. In those three different ways, they’re intertwined, but in some ways they’re separate.
In your personal artistic practice, what is it that you focus on? A specific media? Theme?
I strictly work in acrylic. I’ve done oil painting and I did a couple as a commission for somebody a few years back. I started in oils, transitioned to acrylics. I started in oils as a kid. Because then, when I was a kid, my parents saw my talent and wanted to get me in art classes. The only classes available to me at that time were oil painting classes. And I was in classes with people that were adults. I was the only kid in the class. So, it was helpful, but it also was odd. In high school, I started making the transition to acrylic, and then when I got to college it was all acrylic. I have never really gone back to oil. Except for when I did that commission three years ago, and I really—at first I really enjoyed oils again. Then about halfway through it was harder for me because I couldn’t layer it. It was fast and things turned to mud underneath, and it just got difficult.
What specifically do you like about acrylics?
The way I work, the kind of layering process I use, building from light to dark and being able to work right on top of something that I’ve just done after it dries. It’s a time factor thing for me, too, because, honestly, carving out time for paint, I have to squeeze it in in little windows all the time. You would think oils would work for that because the paint could sit there and be still wet when you go back to it, but, for me, having it dry so I can work on top of it is probably the biggest key.
Can you describe what themes, if any, drive your work?
My work is language-driven. I used to just paint images that compelled me. You see something that you think is beautiful or intriguing and you just want to paint it. I still have that, but picking the imagery that I pick is driven by language. The actual titles of my work come before the painting. It started really slowly, actually. The ideas come to me from conversation or watching something or whatever. I’ll hear a phrase or word and then just go, “Oh, that’s a painting,” and I’ll write it down on something. I started keeping all these little scraps of paper. Every time I’d come up with an idea, I’d just write them down on the paper no matter where I was, tear it off, throw it in there. I kept just tearing off these little pieces of paper. Sometimes I’d do a little sketch of what I thought it should look like. But, for the most part, I just write them down so I don’t forget, because they’re so fleeting, the ideas. I can think of one and if I don’t write it down I could walk away and fifteen minutes later I can’t remember what it was. Because it’s in and out that quickly. I learned to keep track of them this way. I started just throwing them in an envelope. But, I could see that pretty soon I realized I can’t remember which ones of these are good and which ones aren’t because it’s hard to sort through them every time I’m ready to start a painting.
In March of last year, I went through this thing and I wrote down the ideas that I thought are the good ones that I can see doing within the next calendar year. I realized after I’d written them down, there are more than a year’s worth of paintings, so I started to check them off and date them as I was getting them done. But, as I was getting through this list, I started thinking of more ideas. Rather than putting them back into the envelope, I started writing them on the bottom of the page. Then I went to another page. I started adding in little sketches as I was trying to figure them out. So, now this is just in the last year.
Conceptually, that’s how the paintings go. I don’t have any shortage of inspiration or ideas for them. Now, it’s a matter of slotting them and trying to figure out which order I want to do them in and trying to find time for them. Time is my biggest issue because my paintings are time-consuming anyway. They take me a long time to do. It’s not like I can just crank one of these out, although I do… about twenty-something a year, which, to me, it seems like a lot, but for other people, that’s not a lot. Once I have the title in mind, I will find the images that I picture in my head of the background of the subject and put them together that way. I try to create a piece of art that’s interesting and compelling to look at, regardless of what the title is. This is just a way for me to create the piece, that has a uniformity.
And in terms of your professional business, how did you get into framing?
Everything’s intertwined, really, when I got out of art school, I free-lanced and I did illustration. It’s difficult to support yourself strictly on your art. Most artists I know have some sort of other income, some sort of other job. I’ve worked in galleries and frame shops as that support, to keep my art going. Eventually, the pendulum kind of swung where I was not doing very much art and I was working a lot in the framing industry, and then I ended up getting my own business about nine years ago. It’s been even harder to find that time to paint. Now I’m trying to swing that pendulum back the other way. It’s a balancing act of trying to do both. I’m fortunate that I have my own space here, where I can come in the morning when it’s quiet and paint for two hours before any customers get in. I don’t have to answer to any boss or anybody like that. And it also provides me a great space to show my work.
Can you describe some of the similarities and/or differences between your personal art making practice and the framing business?
The worlds are similar, but it provides me an interesting viewpoint. Having worked in galleries in the past and now running my own frame shop, I get to see the different sides of the relationship. I mean, they both depend on one another. They’re co-dependent relationships: artists and framers, artists and galleries. To see it from each side gives you a bit of a unique perspective.
How about in terms of the skills involved between framing and your personal painting practice?
If you look at my work, it’s really detailed-oriented. That transfers directly into what I do in framing, because I’m really detailed-oriented in the framing, too. You have to be. There’s a certain standard you have to have to work to. The corners have to be sharp and perfect and the matting and the joints in the frame have to be smooth and no gaps. There’s definitely that attention to detail that you see in my work, in my painting work, that also goes right to what I do in the framing business. For me personally, that’s how I see the two things relating. Practice-wise, I would say that I use some of my skills as an artist in the framing. Sometimes you’ll get a frame that, the color doesn’t match. Doesn’t match the sample. I can mix a paint or something to tint that frame to make it match perfectly. I could get a damaged frame or a damaged piece of art and use the skills that I have as an artist to fix those things. So, yeah, I think that really attracts artists and a lot of the other people in the framing industry. It’s not uncommon that artists are attracted to that side. You’ll see, I’m not the only person that’s an artist and also a framer. There’s lots of us around.
How did you decide to make the move to your own business?
I’ve been told for years that I should have my own frame shop as I was doing it. I was always afraid to do it. I was framing for Stewart Gallery for a number of years, so I had this relationship with Stephanie and Lane, and it got to a point where it was getting difficult for them to manage the gallery side and the framing side of it. To try to keep track of both things financially, paying all the framing bills plus paying all their own bills and making those two things work together. Their accountant advised them to dump the frame shop and they didn’t want to do that because of our relationship. So, they offered me to buy it and take it over for them, which was perfect timing for me because it allowed me to do it in a way where I wasn’t taking a huge risk. I was able to slowly transition into owning the business without having to put forth a huge investment. We maintained that relationship together for five years, which was really great, because, again, it allowed me to grow the business to a point where it could stand on its own two feet without having to share a space, which we had done in the past. When our lease ran out at our old space, we were both looking for different type of places: they wanted a smaller place, I wanted a bigger place of my own. So, we went to different locations. We still work together. But now, it’s just grown leaps and bounds since I’ve moved here.
What are your opinions of the arts community here?
I think it’s got a really strong talent pool. I think there’s a tremendous amount of great artists around. I’m always excited when I go to a show and I see a younger artist or, you know, any artist for that matter, that I’ve not seen before, and I’m, like, “Wow, who is this person?” There’s a lot of really good talent in the valley. Also, for the most part, everybody’s very helpful with one another. I mean, I found it very welcoming and very supportive.
Do you think there are enough resources for the volume of artists here?
No, and I think everybody will agree that there could always be more stuff. It’s hard because everybody wants that. It seems like everybody wants that support, but not everybody’s willing to show the support that it takes to get those kind of resources. Look at Art in the Park and it’s packed with people for three days, right? A lot of those people are just casual art viewers. How do you get those casual art people to start supporting the things that are going on locally? I wish it was backed by the media, that the television and the newspapers would cover the arts the same way you are and say, “Look at what’s going on in our own backyard,” because there’s a lot of really cool things that people just don’t know about. I think if they did know about them, they would come out and support them. I mean, I know there’s artists around that are doing things nationally, getting attention, big attention, outside of Boise. And yet, it’s like a little secret almost because nobody knows about it.
More specifically, are there lacking resources that would personally help you be more successful?
Other than what I mentioned, First Thursday, for instance, I think is a great event. But, when it first started, it was strictly just a gallery walk. It was just for the galleries. And now First Thursday is a bigger event, which is also great, but you have fifty places competing for the public’s viewing time on a Thursday night. It makes it difficult for the galleries to get the crowds that they want to support the arts on that particular night. Even if you have four good shows, gallery shows, that makes it difficult for the viewing public, because you don’t get as many people.
When I do shows—I’ve been part of several shows of my own and then going to other people’s shows—I think it’s really important that they’re well-attended. Even if you don’t translate that into sales, you put a lot of work to have those shows and you really want people to come and see it. So, making it easy for them to see it is important. The idea is to have another event in the month that will stand on its own, just for the galleries. It will not be competing directly with First Thursday. Because there are times, also, when First Thursday falls on a terrible day. In July, it falls right on the Fourth of July. Nobody shows up for those things. There are times when you’re trying to plan an opening on that First Thursday and it’s just not a good day.
Finally, do you have any words of advice?
I think you have to really work at it. Being successful in art or business or anything you do is really less about talent and more about how hard you’re willing to work at it. I know very talented people that aren’t willing to put the work in and they don’t get the results that they should get from any given endeavor. Also, I’ve seen people that may not have the same chops as other people, but they work-work-work and they bridge that gap. Like an athlete, all the time you’ll hear them say they’re not the most gifted physically but they outwork their opponent and that’s kind of the same thing applies to art and business, too. Hard work will make up for a lot of deficiencies in other areas, so, I would say that’s kind of the biggest thing. It’s hard, it’s not an easy thing as an artist, because you’re vulnerable all the time and your work is really a personal statement of who you are in many ways. You’re always open to criticism and you have to be willing to accept that criticism and compartmentalize it and turn it back into the work or shed it away from you and just continue on with the work. But it’s part of the process. You have to be able to work, be prepared for that and work through that.
Creators, Makers, & Doers highlights the lives and work of Boise artists and creative individuals. Selected profiles focus on individuals whose work has been supported by the Boise City Dept. of Arts & History.