In Honor of Ron Adkins
…. by Bill Hudson
“My artwork has only one excuse for taking up space in today’s crowded art world: I want very much for my viewers to be ambushed by a happy onslaught of high-energy fun. I want them to be drawn again and again to intelligent madcap narratives grounded in the simple idea that art can be, at once, both serious and a source of intuitive delight.”
On July 22, 2018 my favorite artist and good friend Ron Adkins died at the age of 78. His wife Suzy called to let me know that he died quickly, without long-term suffering from a sudden heart attack. The art world lost a great one that only a lucky handful knew existed, for Ron remained an unadvertised, lovable, reclusive, incomparable talent.
I met Ron about 15 years ago when I was volunteering for the Orange County Fine Arts association as a gallery director. For $100 a month, I rented Ron a studio next to mine and quickly realized he was a one-in-a-million artist, an undiscovered treasure. He knew what he wanted to say, how he wanted to say it, and never wavered in his unique style which was self-taught. It had to be, for no one can teach what doesn’t yet exist. His art is a complex expression of life’s joys represented in extraordinary, comedic compositions using pen, ink, graphite, and Prismacolor on archival paper. As I began to exhibit in local galleries, I proudly took Ron’s art with me to the delight of the gallery owners.
In some ways Ron reminds me of Picasso who symbolically broke individuals down into parts and rearranged the pieces to help viewers see into tortured souls. But Ron’s calculated approach is far more whimsical showing the contribution of many smiling individuals in a crowd of humanity. I never get my fill looking at any of Ron’s paintings. Sometimes I feel I’ve enjoyed more time looking at his images (I own two originals) than it took Ron to paint them.
So how does a rare talent like Ron Adkins go un-noticed? Ron was born in Long Beach, CA and worked for Lucky's Market until retiring in
1995 when he focused entirely on his art. He was very friendly in one-on-one conversations with people he trusted, but he was extremely uncomfortable in crowds. He could not bring himself to attend large social events such as an “Artwalk” or an “Opening Reception” even if it was for himself.
He painted everyday starting late in the evening and working through the early morning hours. For Ron, 3 a.m. was a good time to paint. It often required two or three months for Ron to complete a painting with much of that time mentally juggling the position of imaginary figures dancing in his head. He rarely accepted an invitation to display his art, would not sell his art to complete strangers, refused to bother with a website, and never made an edition (limited or unlimited) of any painting. Also, Ron left most of his works untitled believing, “As my aesthetic developed, I found it virtually impossible to attach arbitrary titles to artwork which is meant to be interpreted by only one individual – the viewer.”
Here are some paintings by an eccentric artist with an exceptional gift. Take your time looking through these, for you are now entering the fantastic world of my friend Ron Adkins.