|Russ Ball Interview - 2006 Albuquerque
International Balloon Fiesta Poster
We sat down with Russ Ball and conducted the following
guess is that as you get to know Russ you will sense the pride and
commitment that he brings to this project. He has created a poster that
gives us a distinctive look for 2006 and one that is sure to be popular
with all of our guests. Please enjoy the following interview:
Q. How long have you lived in Albuquerque?
I moved to Albuquerque, sight unseen, in 1971
after getting out of the
army. The son of a navy submariner, I had grown up on naval bases along
the east coast, Virginia, Florida, New England; the west seemed
romantic and different, and in fact, it proved to be wonderfully so.
Q. What are your personal impressions of Balloon
I was at the first Balloon Fiesta at the State
Fairgrounds with my
camera as a young man and have been here for every one since. I love
the excitement of the balloons but am not crazy about the traffic so I
tend to enjoy the fiesta from around the edges.
Q. Have you taken a ride in a hot air balloon?
I have photographed the balloons, been on ground
crews, have chased
the balloons but have never actually ridden on one.
Q. Do you have a Balloon Fiesta story to share?
One year, when my now fifteen year-old daughter
was a baby, I saw on
the news that Charlie Gibson of Good Morning America was riding in the
Miss Piggy balloon. As we drove out towards the park, there was Miss Piggy
settling down about a quarter mile south of us. I parked the car, and,
baby in hand, hiked over to where the balloon had landed. The crewwas
busy rolling the thing up. There was Charlie Gibson, the guy I
watched on TV every morning as I was getting ready for work, just
standing there, watching, alone. So I walked up, introduced myself as
fellow newsman, handed him the baby and took their picture. My little
brush with fame.
Q. What does it mean to be the poster artist for
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta posters have a long
and grand history, all
beautifully painted, and many memorable for their design. To be chosen
as the poster artist is quite an honor and a challenge.
Q. How will you "personalize" the 2006
Balloon Fiesta Poster?
This is a collaborative piece, Debi Kline being
the designer of the
Out of the Blue campaign. I have taken her wonderful design
included a rolling hill landscape across the bottom. The paint surface
is brightened and textured, and the gondola is detailed with a man
feeding birds in it. I also added a bird flying into the picture from
the bottom left which gives a forward plane to the perspective. A
painting takes on new meanings in the painting of it. This one is
painted with glazes, transparent colors over transparent colors so that
the color you appear to be seeing is actually a mixture of warms and
cools through layers. It is hoped that the "artist's hand" will
the painting to transcend its literal meaning.
Q. How long have you been painting?
There has never been a time in my life when I
didnt define myself as
an artist. I have been drawing and painting since I was five years old.
I was the school artist in high school, was pretty terrible but didnt
know it. I loved illustrators like N.C. Wyeth and Howard Pyle,
illustrators of books like Treasure Island and Kidnapped.
eighth grade, to my parents dismay, I discovered Mad Magazine and
began my career as a cartoonist. Art school was a big eye opener for
me. I majored in commercial art at a fine art school so I got all of
the drawing, painting and art history as well as layout, design and
typography. This was the time when Abstract Expressionism was in vogue,but
Pop Art had just started up. I was surrounded by art and artists, living
and breathing art. I thought I was in heaven. Then I got
drafted. When I got out of the Army, the family and I moved to
Albuquerque and I began painting watercolors of the New Mexico
landscape. I returned graduate school at UNM in printmaking, and began
painting in egg tempera, an ancient medium used before oil paint was invented.
I met my future wife, Nancy, in the UNM lithography shop. She would paint
these huge abstract acrylic paintings, covered with
texture, things glued it. Her work was so exciting and made my tight,
carefully rendered efforts seem anal as my wife puts it. I
intrigued with paper, texture, and exciting surfaces; beyond the
subject matter, the paint itself had to be exciting too. All of this is
reflected in any art I do now.
Q. Have you created poster art in the past?
I have been working as an illustrator for the
since 1978. Much of what I do there has become posters for Journal
projects. Some of those have been good enough that I made posters from
them to sell at Weems Artfest each year, as well as posters of some of
my more popular paintings. This, however, is the most prestigious
poster project that I have worked on.
Q. What do you do for fun besides paint?
I love to gallery hop in Santa Fe, look at art,
read about art. I love
old movies, and love to read about history.
Q. What else do you do in your spare time?
Spare time for me is like spare change. I dont
have any. My daughter
is in high school and I am her regular chauffeur. When I can get out to
my studio, I love to put on some good music and paint.
Q. What is your favorite piece of your own artwork?
My favorite piece is usually the one I am working
on at any given time.
But there is one in particular called Bad Dog that is my most
sold painting. It is ten years old and I still have it. It is a large
canvas, four foot by six foot, of a man in a phone booth with a yellow
junk yard dog tugging at his pant leg. I think of it as a
self-portrait, not that it looks like me, but that the dog represents
all of lifes little irritating things that demand my time and
attention. Being an illustrator I often paint in metaphor. Many
paintings tend to have meanings other than the literal subject.
Q. What makes your work unique?
My work is hard to put into a category. When people
ask me what I
paint, I dont know how to tell them. It is illustrative in that
tells a story; it is contemporary, in that it is stylized and composed
and painted in a modern way. It uses metaphor and requires thought,
since the real meaning of the art is something other than the literal
subject. And as I mentioned before, paint is textured and splattered
often with paper or flora embedded so that the surface is as
interesting as the subject matter.
Q. What would you consider the "Russ Ball"
I hope that what makes my work interesting is
the joy that I feel in
the making of it. There is an element of fun in every thing I do,
regardless of the subject.
Q. What are your tastes in art?
My tastes in art are broad. As a kid I liked the
Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth and Norman Rockwell. In my teens I discovered
Picasso and spent a lot of time pouring over his stuff, trying to figure
it out. In college I fell in love with Andrew Wyeth and Salvador
Dali. Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas and Matisse became favorites of mine.
But as an art student, had to ponder the abstract artists. What the
hell was that about? The first time I saw a real Jackson Pollack I sat
in front of it for hours, drifting in an out of the paint splatters.
Franz Klines big dynamic splashes of diagonal black against white
Helen Frankenthalers huge splashes of color became my mentors for
color and composition. Incredulous at first, I came to love the
Wow! Then came the Pop Artists. These guys could
actually draw! I cameto love Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Larry Rivers and
Tom Wesselman. I am intrigued by good artists who paint differently from
me. How do they do that? I dont know how to paint an abstract painting;
I think of an image, draw it then build an environment for it to live
in, but I use a lot of abstract qualities in what I do. I also love well-done
traditional landscape, still life and portraiture as well as cartoons.
John Trever, the political cartoonist at the Journal never ceases to
amaze me. My wife, abstract artist and teacher, Nancy Norman,
continues to be my hardest critic and biggest influence. She taught me
about texture and marks.
© 2006 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, Inc.