Community Spotlight: An Artist for the Ages

By Kayla Bayens

All of us here at Monroe have always been great fans of the arts. Our fearless leader, Debra, is a singer in several groups including the Supper Club Six! Our always hardworking bookkeeper, Michael, was and still is a musician. I was in a choir for 10 years, played the alto saxophone, and have been working in photography for many years. Heck even some of the robots I’ve created made art as their function.rich_close-up

So when I say that we know true artistic talent when we see it, you should believe me. Or don’t and look at the gallery below for yourself. Either way you should be well informed about Richard Sigberman. He is an amazingly talented artist that has graced San Francisco with his presence for many many years. I’ve had the immense pleasure of getting to meet him through my membership with the Chamber of Commerce’s Business Alliance group (check out the Friday group, its the best!).

Now you might be asking why is an employment agency doing a post about an artist? Well I would think it boils down to this. No matter your business you need a way to reach more customers, to maintain your current customer relationships, and to expand your network. Something that Richard has proven extremely gifted at doing through his illustrations. So, a not so shameless plug, you should really check out his website and talk to him if you are thinking about doing anything from an image for above your front desk to holiday cards or graphics for presentations.

But we understand that getting to know an artist and their process is very important when making the decisions of, not only if to use them, but what would be the best way to use them. Since for most of us the art we use for our business needs to be functional and pass a message across. To help with that some I’ve recently spent some time with Richard Sigberman and tried to help peel back a few layers of the veil of mystery, I hope it helps lead you to the right decision.

Tell me a little bit about when you decided to go “pro” in the sense of when did you decide to dedicate yourself to your art. Give us a little example of what that meant to you. (What pushed your artwork from amateur level to professional?)

I had wanted to “go pro” since I left college at age 20 , but was shackled by a lack of courage. Still, I kept making art while I had other types of jobs. At age 31, in 1983 , I got a break: a sort of position as a newspaper illustrator at the Peninsula Times Tribune in Palo Alto. There I happily worked for 3.5 years illustrating articles for all five editors in any style I wanted, as long as it was in black and white. The Business section in particular appreciated my art. This is when I knew I wasn’t going to look back, and art would be my full time career.

Was there an artist you admired when you were young that inspired you to be an artist yourself?

The artists I admired were mostly illustrators and comic strip artists of the early twentieth century: Aubrey Beardsley, Alphonse Mucha, Windsor McCay as well as Rick Griffin and Victor Moscoso of the late 1960’s San Francisco “underground ” cartoonists.  I sort of combined those influences.  

Do you remember the first painting you did that you were really proud of? That painting that made you say, ‘Yes, this is my calling; I am an artist’

The first picture I did that made me realize I was serious was created at the end of my freshman year of college in Albany, NY.  I had mononucleosis and had to rest, so I had a lot of time and few distractions.  I created a pen and ink psychedelic mandala, putting much more time into it than I had any previous piece.  I knew i had stepped it up a few notches.  I am, incidentally, self taught. 

Was there a moment or a decision you made in your career that you feel was a personal success?

The moment when I felt personal validation if not great success was getting that job at the newspaper. This was the type of work I felt I was born to do.  

What memorable responses have you had to your work?

Early on, when I was 22, I showed two acquaintances a goofy, highly cartoony piece. They looked at it and then broke out into hysterical laughter. I remember thinking , “wow, my art affected them this way. My art has power “. I was astonished at this revelation. I’ve also done some very personal art that has moved the recipients to tears (in a good way).

What are you working on right now, or what are you currently obsessed with?

A lovely children’s book by a woman that is all about LOVE. Naturally, I have to put all my love into the illustrations. Also, abstract pieces are never too far from my thoughts.

Can you describe a single habit that you strongly believe contributes to your success?

A single habit that contributes to my success is simply taking good care of my body to maintain the energy necessary to create my best work.

What role does the artist have in society?

There are a lot of ways to answer that. Mine is to say that artists of all kinds strive to access the ephemeral divine, and share it.

What has been a seminal experience of yours?

When I was 7, my aunt opened a drawer in the basement and said, “take them “. The contents of the drawer were comic books.  The colors of the covers blew my mind….and I have never recovered.

How has your practice changed over time

I have a daily practice, “Integral Transformative Practice (ITP), that involves movement, meditation, affirmation. It helps keep me focused and of a positive spirit. I warm up often by painting beautiful hearts on scarp pieces of watercolor paper, and then personalize them eventually.

 

*AP classes are classes in high school you can take for college credit that are based off of college criteria and testing

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