kRUSH: A Tribute To Rush

Written by: Frank Iacono

kRUSH-Head-Image

Have you ever wished you could experience the masterful voice of Geddy Lee, the craftsmanship of guitarist Alex Lifeson, and the proficiency and stamina of drummer Neil Peart? Then kRUSH, hailing from New Castle County Delaware, is a must-see experience for you!

kRUSH, consisting of three seasoned musicians featuring Ken Gildea, Andy Logue, and Bill Murphy, pays homage to legendary Canadian rockers Rush, the 2013 Hall of Fame inductees. With close to 100 years of combined playing experience, kRUSH brings the expert musicianship, the vocal range, the passion, and the precision of Rush to every stage performance.

kRUSH has been featured as “Tribute Band of the Month” for Canada’s RushCon, a worldwide convention for Rush fans. Additionally, kRUSH was also selected to play RatCon 2014, the US equivalent of RushCon. The trio is quickly gaining popularity worldwide. During their performances, the band plays a healthy dose of “popular” Rush classics as well as deep tracks. kRUSH is well on its way to achieving their goal as “The Best Rush Tribute Band…Anywhere.”

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ken Gildea, Andy Logue, and Bill Murphy from kRUSH and asking them a few questions about their musical influences, their career as a tribute band, their set list, and their past and upcoming performances.

Q&A Session

The Creative Spotlight: Can you introduce us to the kRUSH band lineup?

kRUSH: The kRUSH band lineup consists of:

  • Ken Gildea – Bass Guitar, Lead Vocals, Keyboards, Bass Pedals, and Adorableness
  • Andy Logue – Lead Electric and Acoustic Guitar, Backing Vocals, Bass Pedals, and General Silliness
  • Bill “Murph” Murphy – Drums, Percussion, and all things that can be hit with sticks.

kRush-Rush-Tribute-Band

TCS: So how long have you guys been playing together and how did kRUSH get started?

Ken: Andy and I had been playing together in various cover bands for over 20 years but kRUSH began in April of 2013.

Bill: Andy and I knew each other through the ever growing circle of musicians in the Delaware area and we had shared the stage a few times. He knew I was a big Rush fan and thankfully kept that nugget of knowledge in his hippocampus. A couple years ago he called me to see if I was interested in starting a Rush tribute. It took about 2.112 seconds to make that decision.

Andy: Murph is “The New Guy”. As he said we met through the common network of local bands and I even jammed a few tunes with his band one night. He then showed up at a solo acoustic gig I was doing and sat in most of the evening on a percussion instrument called a cajon, along with a friend who always has his bass with him. We had a blast! I knew Murph was a progressive rock disciple so I kept him in mind. Ken & I were playing in Sofa King Kool (SKK) doing cover tunes that were slightly off the beaten track of what other bands were playing. We did a few Rush songs and people really went crazy for them. We did a show at JB McGinnes with SKK and the “house soundman extraordinaire”, Dennis Brown, asked us after the show, “Why don’t you guys do a Rush tribute band?” Ken and I couldn’t think of a reason not to so we said…”Why not?”. Our SKK drummer, Bobby Jones, didn’t seem very interested so the search for our perkRUSHionist began. I remembered Murph and we arranged a meet/greet and beat at his home. As Ken and I were loading in we said to each other, “I wonder if his kit will be extensive enough to do this gig.” We walked into his music room and were pleasantly surprised to see the largest drum kit ever assembled. It literally filled the room! If you could hit it with a stick, it was in there! Ken and I smiled and squeezed our gear in there and had at it. Smiles bloomed instantly and kRUSH was born. Murph also had a kick ass selection of fine beer so that sealed the deal!

Individually each of us has over 30 years of playing experience and we all cut our teeth on Rush music. Interesting to note is that we all have the same favorite Rush album… the mighty Hemispheres.


TCS: At what age did you become interested in music? And, who or what inspired you to pursue a career as musicians?

Ken: I started playing around with guitar and piano when I was 9 or 10 years old but I really focused on bass when I was about 11 or 12. When I saw Geddy Lee, the vocalist, bassist, and keyboardist from Rush, during the Grace Under Pressure Tour, which is the first time I ever saw him play, I started focusing on bass, keys and vocals.

Andy: I started guitar at age 6 after a failed attempt at drums when I was 5. My earliest musical exposure was watching “The Monkees” on TV when I was 4. I was quite smitten with music and the guitar in particular. It was just so cool looking. The Sears catalog became a major ornament at the kitchen table and I would swoon over a black hollow body electric called “The Big Boss”. Hinting with increasing fervor to my mom that if I had that guitar I would be a good boy from now on. Mom didn’t get that hint but Grandma did. She bought me a $50 Stella acoustic guitar from Kimball Music even though Mom told her “he’ll never stick with it…” I took lessons from a big guy named Ron DeNest (who I would see later in my 20’s and he was like 5’2″). Anyway, I learned my chords and read music from ‘The Mel Bay Guitar Book’ until I caught Ron playing ‘Stairway to Heaven’ before my lesson. I watched how his hands formed the chords and a light went on in my head. My brother played Zep IV all the time so I went home, dropped the needle on ‘Stairway’ and learned it by ear. After that I learned everything by ear… taking lessons only when I felt stagnant. I saw Rush at the Tower Theater when I was 13 and that was that. I’ve seen every tour since then. I’ve played a lot of music by other bands through the years but Rush was always the bench mark for inventiveness, originality, technical prowess and precision. Alex Lifeson is my guitar hero. We are not what I would call “Professional Musicians” in that we’ve all worked “real jobs” and played music on the side. kRUSH is becoming quite popular and it would be a dream come true to play this music full time… we shall see.

Bill: I started beating the pots and pans when I was about 5 years old and looking back I think I made a pretty mean Neil kit. If only I incorporated my Sit ‘n Spin to get the rotating drum set effect. Although it took me another ten years to discover Rush, I was quite busy playing to all my parents records which naturally began with all the great bands from the 60‘s & 70’s.


TCS: Early on, Ken did you think that you sounded like Geddy Lee or was it something that you discovered over time?

Ken: I don’t think I really sound much like him. His voice is so unique. I just try to hit the notes to be honest. I’m not a big fan of singers trying to sound like Geddy. It always comes off bad in my opinion.

Andy: Ken always had a high range vocal style. Not quite Geddy Lee but he killed songs by The Outfield and other soprano male vocalists. Geddy, particularly vintage Geddy, is a unique phenomenon. No one sounds like early Geddy.

Once Ken decided to take on the unenviable task of performing Geddy Lee his voice just blossomed. His range went through the roof and he can hit anything Ged did back in the day. Personally, I prefer Ken’s voice to Geddy’s (although I love Geddy’s voice, too). To me it is more “ear friendly”… less strident than Geddy’s was back in the day. Many people have dissed RUSH, sighting Geddy’s voice as a deal breaker. People have seen us and said, “I don’t/didn’t really like Rush until I saw you guys.” Girlfriends, in particular, seem to warm up to Ken’s pipes and don’t mind that their BF’s dragged them to our show.


TCS: Why do you guys think tribute bands have become so prominent in the past ten years or so? And, has kRUSH ever been criticized for being a tribute band?

Ken: I’m not sure, really. Maybe because there are far fewer bands now that people want to see? Also, the price tag for live shows is getting huge and tribute shows are a way people can experience a concert atmosphere, up close to the band way more frequently. I’ve never heard any criticism for being a tribute band. You’ll always get the idealistic opinion that you should play your own music, not covers, but this is what I love to play. This is where my heart is.

Andy: I think tribute bands are so prominent these days because (and this is just my opinion): A lot of newer music being played on the radio sucks, most cover bands all play the same songs (which suck), the bands that are being tributed are getting older and either don’t play shows anymore or don’t play as often as they used to and people are starving to see the music performed in a show. Rush is more popular now than they ever were so that certainly validates what we’re doing. We’re overjoyed at the response we’ve received since we started our little project. We have never been criticized for being a Rush tribute. Quite the contrary, we’ve been embraced and encouraged by everyone who sees us. We met the nicest group of Rush fans called “The Rats” who have taken us into their exclusive club and opened up all kinds of doors for us. Who are the Rats? Put it this way… we played at their annual social gathering called RatCon in July and Donna Halper, the Cleveland DJ who broke Rush in the states and helped them get signed, introduced us! How cool is that? The Rats know Rush!!!

Bill: I think that the tribute band surge of late is partly due to a generation of 30-50 somethings that are seeing some of their favorite bands start to fade from the limelight and call it quits. Rush on the other hand will always have a following catamount to so many bands that now no longer release new material and rarely have all their original members involved. We have gotten nothing but thanks and love from those fans who need their fix(while waiting for the 3 wise men to tour again). There’s those who can watch Rush in Rio for the 1,000th time. I think we are connecting quite well with those who decide to put off that 1,001st viewing session and come out a kRUSH show.


TCS: Let’s talk about the music for a moment. When you’re in a tribute band, obviously your music will be picked apart and compared to the original. So how did kRUSH sculpt its sound and its stage performance?

Ken: Well, Rush fans are always going to be critical, even of Rush themselves. They’re very intense and passionate. It’s not dance music, it means something to them. But I’ve said from the beginning, if someone picks apart two mistakes during a show that means they were paying close enough attention to notice the 1,000 things that went right and we nailed it. For that reason, attention to detail was huge when we started working on this. And, it still is.

Andy: Like Rush fans, we are so passionate about what we do. We didn’t have to speed learn Rush songs to do a project to make money. That would be insincere and we are definitely sincere about playing Rush to the nth degree… “right down to the nuggets”, as Jack Black would say. We LIVE this music and have been playing it all our lives and it shows. Murph has a kit that Neil would feel at home on, Ken plays Fender Jazz & Rickenbacker basses to get the Geddy sound, plus all the keys and bass pedals, I play a Gibson 355, Doubleneck and other “Lifeson approved” guitars, my amps and effects have been painstakingly and lovingly set up for the ultimate “Lerxst Tone”. I get complimented all the time on my tone… never on my playing! WTF?

Performance wise we are very much Rush …if by accident. Ken & I are bonded old friends like Alex & Geddy… Murph is “The New Guy” just like Neil… we love to laugh and have a good time and it shows in our performances. It is impossible for us not to smile and have a great time while playing Rush music!

Bill: The ingredients were all there. We just needed to bake the pie. With the three of us already being so familiar with the music individually, it was kind of crazy how things went the first time we got together. It honestly felt like we had been playing together for years. I guess existentially (Neil would love that I used that word) speaking, we have been. Just not in the same room.


What do you guys feel is the hardest aspect of re-creating a Rush show?

Ken: Staying healthy for me. Some of it is pretty challenging stuff vocally and a cold or allergies is my biggest fear. It’s typically going to be the most critiqued aspect of a Rush tribute so I do my best to keep my voice as healthy as possible.

Andy: For me it’s the choreography of footwork needed to switch on effects pedals married with playing extremely complicated music with my hands and singing on key parts and still moving around and smiling and not staring at my shoes like a dork. As for our show, it’s all about playing the music with passion and precision but it would be nice to expand the visual aspect and have video back drops and enhanced lighting… all in good time.

Bill: We don’t have a laser show yet.

TCS: What do you feel sets kRUSH apart from other Rush tribute bands?

Ken: Sincerity, I think. When we play, we’re feeling it, not thinking it. We’re having fun on stage and not staring at our instruments afraid to make a mistake. Most bands will play the notes right but you can’t fake sincerity. It’s there or it isn’t.

Andy: The Rush dynamic. We act like them when we play. I have not seen a single Rush tribute band that interacts the way we do. Many of them are very good but they lack that undefinable factor that makes Rush… Rush. We have that and you can’t buy it at Guitar Center or learn it from a book or the internet. So. There. lol

Bill: I myself haven’t been too up on Rush tribute bands in the past mainly because I have been too busy following and listening to the real deal. But thanks to kRUSH, its opened up a really great dialogue with other great tribute bands around the country and with Rush fans all around the world. I think that following of glorious Rush fans has set up apart ‘a bit’.


TCS: How many gigs does kRUSH play annually and what and where are the venues?

Ken: It varies. Our first year we played about 20 shows, I guess. We’ve played in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland so far.

Andy: Like Ken said, since we’ve only been together since April of 2013 so it’s hard to answer that question! Our schedule is steadily and happily increasing! JB McGinnes is our ‘Home” and we love the big stage and our own “Terry Brown” soundman, Dennis Brown. Coincidence? I think not. We played a tiny room once. Once. kRUSH is expanding outside of Delaware to Baltimore, Philadelphia, New Jersey, and beyond. We have played outdoor shows with great success and the gigs just keep comin’. Amen.

TCS: Has kRUSH ever performed internationally? And, if you could perform in any venue in the world right now, national or international, where would that be and why?

Ken: Thus far, we have not performed internationally. I would love to play Massey Hall. It is where Rush recorded All The World’s A Stage. I would love to see the view from the stage there.

Andy: I would die to play the venerable Massey Hall in Toronto, Canada as that is the venue that Rush recorded ‘All the World’s a Stage’. Plus, we could hit the Orbit Room afterward and jam with Big Al!!!

Bill: Stonehenge..we had the gig booked but it got cancelled. I always look to play the next larger venue but I take every gig in stride.


TCS: What are the most requested Rush songs at your shows?

Ken: “Xanadu” and “La Villa Strangiato (An Exercise in Self-Indulgence)” I think. We also get a lot of casual fans requesting “Tom Sawyer”, because it’s the one they know. Haha!

Andy: Hmmm… tough one. Of course the average Rush fan wants to hear “Tom Sawyer” or “The Spirit of Radio”. Our audience is becoming increasingly die hard fans who like the deeper tracks. We love that! We are always adding to our setlist. I guess “Limelight” and “Closer to the Heart” are popular but songs like “The Trees”, “Xanadu”, “La Villa Strangiato”, “YYZ(ed)”, “Natural Science”, “Camera Eye”… oh … they ALL go over well!!! Come out and ask for one… we’ll play it!

Bill: Anything and Everything. Yes, Freebird too. Ergh!


TCS: Of the songs that kRUSH plays from Rush’s extensive library which are your most and least favorite? Equally, is there a song from Rush that you guys really love that is not included in the set? If yes, then why.

Ken: Least favorite? Not sure there is one. I have never looked at the next song on one of our set lists and been disappointed. There are plenty that aren’t included but that is only a matter of time. Whether it is learning it and tightening it up or getting the necessary technology to pull it off live.

Andy: Anything off of Hemsipheres will make all 3 of us smile! “La Villa Strangiato” is my personal favorite because the solo is so emotional and intense. Least favorite? Sorry…I like ’em all! I look down at our setlist all the time and think…”Yay! Can’t wait to play that next one!” I would say that most of the Rush songs that I really love are in the set now. If I had to pick one that isn’t I would grab “A Farewell to Kings”. Once Kenny Lee gives me the green light on that one we’re money. Oh!!! “The Big Money”, too! That’s a sequencer issue that I’m sure we’ll conquer in the near future.

Bill: Least favorite: I echo Ken and Andy on this one. Most favorite: Whatever the longest song of the night is. Or whatever song my drum solo is hidden in. We are always looking to add new songs and have committed to that since we started. So, although there are many favorites that are not yet in the set, I look at those songs as just one show away.


TCS: Individually, what’s your favorite Rush song of all time?

Ken: “Hemispheres”. Unbelievable musicianship and meaning.

Andy: Anything off of Hemispheres … “La Villa Strangiato” in particular but Hemispheres/Cygnus X1 Book II absolutely kills! And to think it was written and performed by three 26 year old kids from Canada is beyond comprehension.

Bill: “Hemispheres” or “Losing It” (and yes, we play both). I added 2 since Ken also said Hemispheres so I wanted to give you some options.

TCS: What types of guitars, drums, and other musical equipment does kRUSH use?

Ken: Fender Jazz and Rickenbacker 4003. My keyboards are very old and dated. Fortunately most of our material is older so it hasn’t been much of an issue. I would love a Mini-Moog though if anybody isn’t sure about what to get me for my birthday.

Andy: Ooh! Gear question! Yay! For guitars, I have one each: Gibson ES355, Gibson Les Paul Premium Plus, Zion Bent Top Classic, Paul Reed Smith CE24, Paul Reed Smith Custom 24, Epiphone G1275 Double Neck, Epiphone ES355, Martin CE10 Acoustic/Electric. My amps are: VHT Pitbull 45 and a Fractal Audio AXE FX II. Effects are an Alesis Quadraverb, Fulltone Fulldrive II, Bad Monkey, Janglebox Byrds Model, Silver Machine AutoMagic Wah, Rocktron All Access (to control that mess) Boss Tuner and Ernie Ball Volume pedals to further keep things under control.

Bill: DW (PDP Series) with a Neil-friendly red/black-sparkle fade, Zildjian cymbals, Pearl, Yamaha & PDP hardware, Korg Wavedrum, Promark 5AN sticks, LP Percussion, assorted bells, blocks, chimes, effects.


TCS: As a collective group, the band, what has been the toughest challenge you’ve faced to date, and do you think it made you stronger as performers?

Ken: Getting into bigger rooms, I guess. I’m confident in our product. We just have to get the people who book these rooms to get confident in us as well. We’re working on it.

Andy: The biggest challenge, thus far, is… how far do we take this? We have no fear… our brotherhood and “Mutual Admiration Society” keeps us on point. Feedback from trusted friends keeps us both accurate and humble. We did a less-than-fun gig in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania a while back and even though it sucked we just shrugged it off… chalked it up to a lesson learned and carried on as usual. We remain undaunted. Another challenge is how to make the show bigger. I’m talking visuals… lighting… rear screen projection, etc. It’s a budget constraint but in time we’ll get there.

TCS: How do you market kRUSH songs, merchandise, and appearances?

Ken: We use Facebook a lot and word of mouth. We have some great people who come out to see us and they get as excited as we do when we play. It’s really very humbling. We have a website, too and Murph makes up flyers for us to hang in clubs prior to our dates.

Andy: We just send an “event invite” on Facebook to alert the masses, Murph handles the Murphendise (shirts, promo stickers and what not) Word of mouth is our advertisement, thus far.

Bill: The normal avenues: Facebook, our website, anyone who comes to a show, YouTube..and the kRUSH sticker on the rear window of our cars.

To stay connected with kRUSH, please visit the following:

TCS: Have you played with any other Rush tribute bands and what type of reaction have you received?

Ken: We had a member of another tribute come up with us once for a version of “The Garden” that we played at RatCon, which is an amazing gathering of Rush fans every year. We had the honor of performing there in June. We’ve never teamed up with another tribute, though. There is a mutual respect between Rush tribute bands. We all know how challenging it is to do it right. Rush fans are generally the coolest people.

Andy: Nope. We are true to “us” but offers have been made to fill in and help out. We have a “love thy neighbor” policy for our tribute brethren and we consider them “brothers in arms”. Respect to all who attempt Rush music. The reaction has always been positive and respectful.

Bill: Nope. This will be the only one, ever.


TCS: Besides Rush, if you could play a set with any artist alive or dead who would you choose?

Ken: I’m not sure there is another. Playing with Andy and Murph totally satisfies my musical aspirations at this point in time. It just feels right.

Andy: Alex Lifeson. Duh?

Bill: Hmm. Too hard. I’ll pass on this one.

TCS: What’s the short and long-term future look like for kRUSH?

Ken: Just to keep playing and constantly striving to get better. I’d love to see us playing bigger rooms and maybe touring a bit but if it is meant to be it will happen. I think if we just keep trying to be our best good things will come our way.

Andy: More gigs in the short term and morer gigs in the future!

Bill: Funny, the short term and long term future goals are very similar: play a lot, play well, and play for a lot of people.

TCS: What advice do you have for new tribute bands trying to get established?

Ken:Stay out of our way. Haha. Just kidding. My advice would be not to start a tribute because you think it would make you money or because you happen to look or sound like someone. Do it because it’s in your heart. That is where the sincerity comes from. If you’re not sincere, people will see through it immediately.

Andy: Like Ken said if you love music… play it… if you love a certain band’s music… form a tribute band and play that music like your life depended on it…never do it for $$$. If you’re sincere and passionate the rewards will come to you.

Bill: Pick a band that you truly love because you never want the music to become stale and mundane over time. We got lucky since that will never happen.

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono - The Creative Spotlight

Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.

Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.

Robert C. Jackson: Contemporary Realist

Written by: Frank Iacono

Robert-C-Jackson-Artist
Photo By: Ned Jackson Photography

Robert C. Jackson, a resident of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, was born in Kinston, North Carolina. Robert is the oldest of 5 brothers that were each born in different states around and about the Southeast. This transient lifestyle followed Mr. Jackson into his career path as he worked originally as an Electrical Engineer, designing radio systems for Motorola, then as an Assistant Pastor for Cedar Ridge Community Church in Spencerville, Maryland, before settling down to his full-time and fulfilling career as a Contemporary Realist Artist in the mid 1990’s. Since then, all of these life experiences of his past inform and influence his creativity today.

Robert C. Jackson works from life; before he does anything on a canvas he sets up the actual arrangement in his studio. Then, with a pencil he carefully draws on the canvas the skeleton of the future painting. The entire canvas is then coated in a transparent acrylic, which allows him to work on the drawing without smudging. Then, he begins to paint. As Mr. Jackson paints, sometimes he’ll turn his painting upside down to allow his hand to access a certain passage of the painting and also to get a fresh view so that he sees something that might be off. Once he’s at work in the studio, he’s very deliberate about staying on task.

Robert C. Jackson’s artwork is well received across the nation, with gallery shows in Wilmington, DE, Southport, CT, Boston, MA, Denver, CO, New York, NY, and Washington, D.C. A compilation of more than 130 images of Jackson’s paintings can be seen in the book entitled Robert C. Jackson: Paintings by Philip Eliasoph. This beautifully illustrated book includes his paintings with details, photographs of the artist at work, sketchbook reproductions, and an interview with the artist himself.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Robert C. Jackson and asking him a few questions about his influences, his artistic style, his favorite artwork, his career as an artist, his past exhibits, and his upcoming event entitled “Tinkering With Reality” in New York City.

Q&A Session

The Creative Spotlight: When did you first become interested in painting? And, who or what influenced you to become an artist?

Robert C. Jackson: I was always a doodler, but never thought about what I was doing or about art in general. In college all of my notebooks were filled with drawings as I sat daydreaming in Electrical Engineering classes. Sketches of the professors, other students, and things about the classrooms cluttered the pages. My girlfriend (who later became my wife, Suzanne) decided that it would be nice to channel this energy and gave me a set of oil paints for a Christmas present during my senior year. Having no idea what to do with them, I enrolled in Painting 101 and discovered a class that I enjoyed more than anything in my previous years of college. I knew right then I was going to find a way to make art a career for me someday. So, I’d have to say Suzanne is really the one who unknowingly influenced me to take up this journey.

 

TCS: What did you do to gain so much knowledge about art?

RCJ: Once painting, I became somewhat passionate about art in general. I’d visit museums, galleries, art fairs, anything I could find where I could see more. At least 4 times a year I’d run up to New York City and walk as many galleries as I could just taking it all in. I’m actually surprised at how few artists actually do that and basically only look at their own work or a handful of artists that they really like. I also have a pretty impressive art book library and thumb through them constantly. You’d be hard pressed to find me out at lunch without an art book keeping me company.

TCS: For those not too familiar with your work, please describe your specific style of art?

RCJ: I always find this the toughest question to answer. Artists are visual folks; talking and writing are so tough! I often want to say, “let me show you,” as I find my work hard to describe. The easiest thing to say is that I paint realistic still life, but that conjures old stale images in people’s minds. I suppose I could say that I’m trying to paint still life for a 21st century person. My work is colorful, narrative, playful, and attempts to engage the viewer. I like to use objects that speak of our collective nostalgia: balloon dogs, soda crates, grapes, apples, Oreos, donuts, toys, and even iconic art. Right from the start, I was drawn to still life. In a way, it lets the artist be a sculptor, arranging and setting up before immortalizing on canvas. I feel a lot of control in telling my stories using still life.

Robert-C-Jackson-High-Stakes
Artwork Shown: “High Stakes”

TCS: Tell us about your upcoming exhibit at Gallery Henoch in New York entitled “Tinkering With Reality” from November 6th through November 29th? And, what other galleries across the country could we go to see your work?

RCJ: I didn’t realize it until I saw a press release for this show that I have had 27 solo shows – egads! But maybe it’s because I just turned 50 last week and I always looked up to artists that were 50 that I am really feeling strongly about this show. It’s probably the biggest show I have done, both the size of the work, and having 23 paintings. For the last year I have been focused on that 50 number – so I really think this intense focus on the significance of this year caused me to put together a cohesive show that I am quite proud of. Continuing to ponder, it’s funny to sit back and think for a second of all the places I’ve been represented by that I can remember: Washington DC, Richmond VA, Chapel Hill NC, San Francisco, CA, Santa Fe NM, Scottsdale AZ, Tulsa OK, Knoxville TN, Fort Worth TX, Denver CO, , Chatham MA, Southport CT, and others I’m sure I’m forgetting. Still work with quite a few, but locally one could check out Somerville Manning Gallery in Greenville, DE. Besides Gallery Henoch in New York City, the other gallery that I primarily count on is Arden Gallery, in Boston MA.

TCS: Describe for us the background behind “The Thinker”

RCJ: I really enjoy conversing with art history. So there are often nods to other artists all throughout my work. This piece certainly fits that category. Maybe it is from being alone in a studio for so long but my apples are always alive. I’ve always had fun with them because they are the quintessential and normative still life props. Before this painting I had done one of apples having a water balloon fight and really enjoyed messing with the water. My mind wandered to ice, and I wondered what I could do with it. That evolution eventually began with apples knocking out Rodin’s “The Thinker.” I suppose it is like the theorem we’ve heard of where a monkey on a typewriter should be able to randomly knock out Shakespeare if given infinite time. Maybe apples could knock out “The Thinker.”

Robert-C-Jackson-The-Thinker
Artwork Shown: “The Thinker”

TCS: Can you remember one of the first things you drew/sculpted/painted etc.? And, what makes it so memorable?

RCJ: In that Painting 101 course in college, one of the first things I did was paint a still life of a paint brush, a bottle of solvent, and a paint tube on a piece of gessoed cardboard. I still have that painting tucked away somewhere in my house and I remember being so excited and satisfied working on it. Such dull objects became alive to me and I was hooked from that point on.

TCS: Tell us about how significant the exhibit entitled “Reality Check” held at Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania was for you both personally and professionally?

RCJ: Well, Luke in the Bible said “no prophet is accepted in his hometown” and it is especially hard when you are in the same hometown as Andrew Wyeth. I thought for sure that giant shadow would keep me hidden here. So I was having shows all around the country, museum exhibitions, and somewhat not even trying here. So, when the Curator, Audrey Lewis, asked me to show in the “Reality Check” exhibit that was held in 2010 right there in the heart of the Wyeth legacy I couldn’t have been more thrilled. The museum contacted me right near the end of the exhibit and asked if they could purchase my painting “Target the Artist” for their permanent collection. And not only that, they hung it and it has been on display there for years.

Robert-C-Jackson-Target-and-Pranksters
Artwork Shown: “Target the Artist” and “Pranksters”

TCS: What is your most favorite artwork that you’ve created? And, can you describe its creation in regards to location, lighting, composition, etc.?

RCJ: Ok, that might be the second hardest question as it is so hard to be objective about one’s own work. They are all my creations, so probably the one I am most excited about is the most recent. I actually hope I keep feeling that way as I would hate to think my best work is behind me. Basically the last piece I created for this show at Gallery Henoch is a piece titled “Props.” I probably saved the toughest for last. “Props” is 72” x 80” and I really wanted a piece that was large enough that you started to feel like you were standing in it. I think the internet and digital imagery has been weird for art. People are used to seeing a painting on their screen. A piece like this suffers as people really can’t imagine the magnitude – that all the objects are life size and it really is a visual feast in person.

But back to explaining the painting. Whenever I go places I get asked about my props all the time. Since I use food items, people ask if I eat them all, how high I actually stack the objects, how long they sit in my studio, etc… So everything becomes fodder for my paintings and I thought it would be funny to paint somewhat of an impossible situation, a collection of my props sitting together just waiting to be used and becoming part of a still life in themselves. I do set up most of my still life’s though of course a painting like this one had to be set up in phases. I work in a rented studio in an American Legion building in Kennett Square PA. The members often peek in and laugh at crazy arrangements like this one. Set ups are against the same wall and my window is to the left. Rarely do I turn on lights as I prefer the shadows from the window. People often tell me they dropped by but didn’t knock because my lights were off. But I’m usually there.

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Artwork Shown: “Props”

TCS: One of my favorite from your collection is entitled “The Feast,” so can you share for us the inspiration and story behind it?

RCJ: “The Feast” began as a response to classic Dutch still life with elegant food scattered all over a table. I found it funny to modernize this thought and intermix American junk foods. I continually try and create action in people’s minds from an immobile still life set up. My paintings are always still, but people always come up and describe the action happening. I like that my work becomes a conduit for their daydreaming. “The Feast” is no exception and we are at the moment waiting for the balloon dogs to “dig in.” Maybe they are saying grace or waiting for a host or hostess to come back in. I’ve set up act one of a play and happily let the viewer work out the rest of the story.

 

TCS: Where do you draw your inspiration from and please describe for us what your typical painting process is like?

RCJ: I think there has to be a marriage between craft and concept in a painting. And leaving either out leaves the painting lacking. Unfortunately a lot of realist painters think so much about their craft they forget to come up with a good idea. So, maybe I am overly sensitive to that and am always thinking of new ideas. I have a stack of sketchbooks full of ideas. Some of my ideas come from whatever environment I am in and I jot ideas down on everything: school programs, church bulletins, the newspaper, etc… Other times it is more purposeful and I set out for a coffee or beer and just sit and brainstorm as much as I possibly can. I’ll go back through my sketchbooks later on and star ideas I think still hold water and are worth pursuing on canvas.

Once underway, since so much time has previously been invested with the idea I can now just have fun painting. During this time, I run Netflix, music, podcasts, anything to keep me company during those 8 hours a day alone with just a brush!

TCS: Why do you think painting became and remains so important to you?

RCJ: It’s funny, I have a bunch of friends that dread it now (though plenty that love it too) so I often wonder if it was good for me that a passionate hobby became my profession instead of it simply being my training and only option for a profession. I feel like I get to do my favorite thing every day. It’s where I feel most myself and where I am most comfortable.

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Artwork Shown: “Nothing Is As Abstract”

TCS: Share with us the background of the triptych of “Dinosaur Feeding Frenzy”?

RCJ: A couple of times a year I get asked to do a commission where someone missed out on a piece that they wanted or they want to run an idea past me. “Dinosaur Feeding Frenzy” was an ideal scenario where the collector asked me to visit and see their space and wanted to know what I would come up with to fill it. They have adorable sons with a fun sense of family and I decided to go with that vibe. I roughed in a sketch with all of my own son’s dinosaurs attacking a pile of desserts. Fortunately they loved the idea and really gave me free rein. As a nod to the boys I hid a Tauntaun in with the dinosaurs since they were fighting with light sabers on that initial visit. The only constraint I fortunately discovered at the onset was that they live in a condo with an elevator and the painting had to be painted as a triptych and assembled once with the frame in their unit in order to get it there!

 

TCS: Do you have a favorite artist? If yes, what draws you to that person’s work?

RCJ: That’s an interesting question and I’m going to go real personal with it. Of course there are hundreds of artists from Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn and Vincent van Gogh to Wayne Thiebaud and Jasper Johns that I simply adore. But when it comes to what has impacted me the most, it would have to be my closest peer, Scott Fraser. As said, iron sharpening iron, this is that in my life. I laugh and am mesmerized by his work. And I’d like to think we have each pushed each of other to go further, he has certainly done that for me.

TCS: Tell us about the concept of your latest book entitled Behind the Easel: The Unique Voices of 20 Contemporary Representational Painters?

RCJ: Being that I didn’t go to art school, I learned so much on all those visits to NYC. Over the years there have been artists that whenever they had a show, I’d drop my own brush (which is seldom something I like to do) and rush up to see what they had done. In the ensuing years I started showing with some of these artists, or would meet them through various contacts and decided that I’d pick 19 of these artists, interview them and make a coffee table book. I’m thrilled with the result. These are representational painters from all over the country (and Canada) that show with about 15 different NYC galleries and all have uniquely signature work. I signed with a publisher for a 12” x 12” coffee table book and did 12 pages on each artist (and decided to interview myself too!). In effect, out of the hundreds and hundreds of art books I have on my shelves, I was able to create my favorite book. These are the artists that caused me to pursue this career and I’ve had their posters in my studio since the start.

The book can be purchased at:

What was the inspiration behind “Icons”? And, what was the selection process in determining which legends would be included?

RCJ: This one is kind of interesting. I painted a piece called “Looking at Art” first in which I tacked up bunches of paintings that have inspired me. Serious art – works that are all over a million dollars with artists like Auerbach, Basquiat and Freud. But I found people looking at the piece and thinking it was cool but wondering who the artists were or if I made them up. Made me realize what a small niche art is, and especially what is familiar or have become written in our minds and have become icons. So I did a 2nd piece that I titled “Icons” of the images that people know, that have been etched into the public consciousness. Along with these I threw in other “icons” such as the Nike and McDonalds logos, as well as an Oreo. I find it interesting that these images or reproductions are probably even more well-known than the paintings themselves. They were chose simply by being the most famous or recognizable. Whereas with “Looking At Art” I chose work that I’ve been taken by personally.

Robert-C-Jackson-Icons-Look
Artwork Shown: “Icons” and “Looking At Art”

TCS: How do you market your artwork, public appearances, and books?

RCJ: I value more than anything good relationships with my galleries. They have space to show my work, advertise, take work to art fairs, etc… Art is still a very tactile experience. Collectors need to see the work in person – at least initially. Once they know your work, they are probably safe buying off an image from an ad or on the internet. But that initial purchase comes because they stood in front of it. I find that a necessity. Like I mentioned before, unless you stand in front of “Props” you just won’t get it. I’ve found that I enjoy painting way more than selling, so I am happy to let galleries do that for me. Social media and a good website let me keep those collectors informed with what I am up to but rarely does a new contact come from those. I’ll also do print ads, but those too are in association with my individual galleries.

To stay connected with Robert C. Jackson, please visit:

TCS: As you’ve developed your skills over the years, how has your perspective as an artist changed?

RCJ: This might hearken back to what I said before about craft and concept. Early on I was just concerned with honing my craft and really wasn’t too sure what to paint. I just wanted to do it well. In those days I’d just grab something from an antique shop and paint it. Over the years the idea behind or contained within the painting has become much more important to me. I’ve also become way more comfortable in just painting what I feel like painting as opposed to what I thought others wanted or expected me to paint. Fortunately people have walked that path with me and have enjoyed where my work has gone.

TCS: What qualities do you think all great artists should possess?

RCJ: Focused determination with a strong work ethic. The notion of an artist laying down a paint stroke then sitting back with a cigarette and staring at it for four hours just doesn’t cut mustard. One has to work hard at this. It is also important to have a signature that your work can be recognized from across a room. There are lots of painters out there; it is invaluable to have a unique voice.

Robert-C-Jackson-Drum-Roll-Please
Artwork Shown: “Drum Roll Please”

TCS: For you, what is the best and worst part of being an artist?

RCJ: The best part is being my own boss and just painting whatever I feel like at the moment. I get such satisfaction in completing a painting. The worst part is that in working for oneself as an artist, there is no regular paycheck on Friday. Could be that you get nothing for many many Fridays in a row, and then it can turn the other way and you feel like you are on top of the world. I guess that is a way of saying that the business side is the stress of it. Would be nice to just paint and not have to think of that, but that is simply a pipe dream.

TCS: What, in your opinion, role does the artist have in our society?

RCJ: Darn, I know some people speak really magnificently about a question like this. I, on the other hand, see it a little less so. I’m pleased if my art can bring a little smile to someone else’s life and make their journey a little more enjoyable. I’m not sure what else I can expect. I do like that people tell me my work dialogs with them and demand conversation. I hope the conversations are enriching.

TCS: If you weren’t an artist what would you be doing instead?

RCJ: I suppose I’ve already been there and done that – I’m set with this. I originally was an Engineer for Motorola designing radio systems for 5 years, and then went into the Ministry for 5 years at Cedar Ridge Community Church in Maryland before becoming an artist. This is a hobby and passion that became my career so there is nothing that anyone could do to pry me from it now.

Robert C. Jackson Books

Behind the Easel: The Unique Voices of 20 Contemporary Representational Painters

Hardcover– October 29, 2014

Robert-C-Jackson-Behind-the-Easel

Robert C. Jackson: Paintings

Hardcover– March 28, 2012

Robert-C-Jackson-Painting

About Frank Iacono

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