Becoming an Artist: A Matter of Persistence
Fulfilling his dream of becoming an artist was a matter of persistence and will for sculptor Richard Pankratz. He was raised on a farm in Kansas and attended a small, rural school. Despite his lobbying, art was not among the curriculum offerings. Still he always knew he wanted to be an artist, and figured he would one day become a painter. Painting was the standard artist thing to do in his mind. His formal studies of art would have to wait until after high school graduation, but this did not stop him from exploring his creativity. “I took my meager portfolio to an application interview for admittance into the Kansas City Art Institute and was accepted. I was not surprised at the time but probably should have been. It simply has never occurred to me that I might need a Plan B,” says Pankratz. Although his parents didn’t blatantly discourage him from pursuing his dreams, in time they asserted that becoming a full-time artist wasn’t a sustainable career choice. Pankratz transferred to Emporia Kansas State University to attain his art teaching certification. At about year seven of teaching, Pankratz felt unsettled about his career choice and he couldn’t deny his desire to be the one creating instead of teaching art. He began to hone his art skills in his spare time and by the eleventh year of teaching, after he reached his tenure, he embarked on the journey of a lifetime.
Minute Amounts of Clay Make a Huge Difference in Sculpture
Pankratz’ creative endeavors have led him to excel in furniture, vessels, fountains and sculpture, but he is most drawn to clay. The process of sculpting is intensive and the final outcome is a result of many steps, both methodical and creative. Pankratz begins each piece with a rough sketching of ideas or gesture drawings. He makes artistic decisions as he goes, feeling that the sculpting process becomes dull if all decisions are made prior to working with the clay. When sculpting, Pankratz has the ability to play the parts of both the active creator and the inquisitive viewer all at once, saying, “Details are added and emphasized or minimized depending on how my gaze flows across the piece or where I want it to just pause and behold.” He has learned that the smallest amount of clay can make a huge difference.
Vague Ideas Blossom into Expressions of Intention
Sometimes his sculptures take human form and as his process evolves from one- to three-dimensional, the subject’s vitality is undeniable. “As the face is flushed out, mood and attitude are considered – a subtle smile, a peaceful look, warm but loving eyes are given. How does one sculpt the life in eyes? Realistic portrayal of eye form looks dead and lifeless so just the essence of eyes, the gesture of eyes is chosen here,” says Pankratz about his sculpted motherly figure called, “Gift of Love.” About sculpting Pankratz says, “It all boils down to how my mind and my emotions are reacting to the developing form. I am constantly amazed at how one minute detail change will cause something else to need alteration. Eventually, everything will coalesce into a form that expresses the feelings and emotions that develop and held my attention or interest during the process. This is the part that keeps me coming back again and again, this process of refinement, when what started out as a vague idea blossoms into expressions of intention realized, and when the whole is suddenly a lot more than just the sum of its parts.”
Richard Pankratz lives with is wife in Colorado and they love to hike and ski as well as take trips to Mexico where they relax on the beach and also volunteer. They are big proponents of the ‘work hard, play hard’ mentality.