Not right now, but when you finish this article, check out Thom Richart’s stop-motion video of him finger-painting a portrait of a dog.
It’s on YouTube. About six hours of work flashes by in one minute and 10 seconds.
No, really wait, because first there’s the question of why anyone would finger-paint pet portraits. For one thing, Richart answers, as art-making goes, the materials are cheap: basically his fingers dipped into house paint applied to Masonite board.
Also, it’s tactile, which personally he likes. And he’s good at it, which is important. Plus, might as well say it, cleanup is easy. No brushes to wash out: “I just peel off the paint when it gets too thick.”
But, OK, here it comes:
“When you make someone cry because you’ve painted their dog, that’s the best feeling ever. I’m like, ‘Yes, they cried. That’s awesome.’ ”
Richart is hoping to make a dozen or more portrait videos in the next few weeks so he can have three or four screens going during his First Friday art show opening March 2 at Slap-n-Tickle Gallery in the Crossroads.
The portraits won’t be the only thing on the menu. Richart is a painter and carver of intricate wood pieces, a furniture maker and an inventor. (Got wood rot? He can fix that, too.) Somehow this is all connected.
Over here in the gallery is a dog portrait in progress. Over there is a fainting couch Richart built and carved, with a mahogany dragon slithering across the top. Here’s a chest of drawers with leaves and vines carved into the drawer fronts.
Up there, that’s a mural, 12 feet wide and 2 1/2 feet high, of the new downtown skyline with the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts front and center. (He used brushes.) Richart loves how the city’s skyscrapers sit atop the Missouri River bluff.
“Whatever direction you come from, it rises up for you,” he says. “I’d like to make an even bigger one of these.”
Richart travels back and forth to California, particularly to Venice Beach, where he sets up his pet portrait shop on the boardwalk. For a time he stationed himself next to a fellow named Abraham, a boardwalk mainstay and mentor of sorts, who told him to just keep making stuff and good things would happen.
That message resonated with Richart. He grew up in Overland Park, spent a couple years in the Army, then got a degree in sociology and psychology at the University of Kansas. He once took an art course at Johnson County Community College — “the extent of my formal art education,” he says.
His training in woodworking? Well, there were those two tree houses he built as a youngster. But it was after college that he tried his hand at crafting a coffee table, took it to Temple Slug in Westport and got a seriously positive reaction from store customers.
Later he sold handsome, six-sided poker tables on Venice Beach. That’s where a passerby asked, “Is that a carom table?” No, wrong shape. But the word “carom” sparked an idea and an invention.
What if, Richart thought, you took a shuffleboard table, like the ones in bars, and reshaped it as a six-sided table, like his poker tables. Then you could play a similar but different game using shuffleboard pucks. The center of the table would serve the same purpose as the ends of a shuffleboard table. So he built one and created rules for “Ricochet.” The prototype is there at the gallery.
In his wood crafting, Richart likes the math: “the measuring, finding the angles, making it all fit together.”
In his carving and painting, he likes starting with a blob — paint, a chunk of wood — and transforming the mass into shapes. In his stop-motion short — titled “Brushes, I Don’t Need No Stinking Brushes” — Richart uses mostly his left hand to paint. He globs on some glossy latex with his thumb, then moves the paint around with the rest of his fingers.
So now take a look at the video (we’ve linked to it at
), even though we haven’t even talked about his beadwork, candle making, leatherwork
“A lot of people went to art school and got bored,” he says. “I don’t get bored.”