We recently connected with Jack Ragland and have shared our conversation below.
Jack, thanks for taking the time to share your stories with us today What did your parents do right and how has that impacted you in your life and career?
I owe a lot of credit to my parents for whatever success I have achieved. They instilled in me concepts of what “wealth”, “success”, and “happiness” are. Dickens quoted in David Copperfield about living within your means. Expenses of a few pennies less than you earn equals happiness, a few pennies over your income is misery. At three years of age, my dad lost his father from a bite infection from one of his livery stable horses. The stable was sold. From an early age, he had to work odd jobs to help support his mom and sister since there was nothing like welfare then. He was a bright student and a natural athlete, but worked all the time. He didn’t have time to develop his talents. He worked hard much of his adult life supporting my mom, my three sisters, and me. He used to paraphrase Confucius, “Do what you enjoy and you will never have to work a day in your life.” He wanted me to be able to develop my abilities. Both he and my mom were always encouraging. Dad was an accomplished professional sign painter back when lettering was done by hand. He painted a harbor scene on the back of a big radio with a man and boy looking out to the sunset. However, to my knowledge, it was the only oil painting scene he ever did. It definitely inspired me. My next Christmas, Santa brought me some oil paint tubes and brushes and a set of pastels. I constantly drew pictures of our horse, goats, pigs, chickens, ducks, dog, and cats on our one acre farm in El Monte, California. I drew imaginary cowboys and Indians and other characters plus objects like boots, saddle, flowers, trees, cactus, rocks, and hills when we moved to our 10 acre rustic home in Rainbow. I saw a man with a van that was covered with dairy cows and a barn in the background that the artist had painted. When I met him and found that he made a living painting pictures, signs, and murals, I decided I wanted to be an artist.
I painted my first oil painting about 16” x 20” of an old barn using my own style perspective at age five. The painting is lost unfortunately. My Aunt Martha was a hobby-artist who loved painting “horses in action.” When I was five, we went by train to visit her. I got to ride her feisty pony Bluegrass, who tossed me off and broke my arm. She gave me a photo of the great race horse “Man of War.” When I returned, I did my first pastel of his head while my left arm was in a cast healing. I had no instruction, but it turned out well and I got a lot of raves about it from nearly everybody who saw it. In middle school, I saw a movie in class about a watercolorist Elliott O’Hara, which perked my interest in water color. My ever-supporting dad fashioned a light weight easel in which I could carry everything to go plein air painting (outside). I always thought I wanted to be a cowboy artist like Fred Harman, the author of “Red Rider.” I had grown up riding a horse that belonged to my sister, and later I got my own horse who had a little filly named Firefly. I trained her with horsemanship from taking the Jesse Beery Horse Training correspondence course. They put a freeway right by our house, which made horseback riding much more dangerous, shortly thereafter. We sold the horses. My Uncle Bob and Aunt Ruth Ellen, my mother Dorsey’s sister, had a ranch in Colorado. When I was 12, they invited me to visit one summer to see what ranch life was really like. I participated in the roundups, attended two rodeos, and helped with hay bailing and other chores. The life of the cowboy didn’t appeal to me once I realized what it was like. I ended up painting watercolor portraits of almost all the cowboys. One of the older ranchers I painted bought his portrait. That made me feel validated. I won some awards in high school which further encouraged me.
In my junior year of High School, my parents sold some property so we could travel, seeing relatives in the midwest and the National Parks and Mexico. We met an entrepreneur resident artist at the Grand Canyon (“Smokie” George Frederick). My parents hired him to come to our home in El Monte and tutor me and another student privately in art. After High School, my parents moved to Arizona and I attended Phoenix College and then Arizona State, where I majored in art.
Jack, love having you share your insights with us. Before we ask you more questions, maybe you can take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers who might have missed our earlier conversations?
When I demonstrate or critique students’ work, I show them principles of design and ways they can correct and resuscitate their flawed paintings. Sometimes I go by “The Dead Painting Doctor”. I am a romantic. I tend to idealize my subject matter and make my painting the way I wish it were. I also like to keep things light and fun. I like to bring out the essence.
Are there any books, videos, essays or other resources that have significantly impacted your management and entrepreneurial thinking and philosophy?
I have listened to motivational and entrepreneurial speakers: Brian Tracy, Earl Nightengale, Anthony Robbins, Zig Zigglar, Deepak Chopra. In art, Robert Henri, William Carlson on Landscape Painting, Richard Schmid, Ted Goerchner, Marilyn Simandle, David Leffel, Joachim Sorrolla, Nicolai Fechin, Ramon Kelly, Kent Wallis, Kevin MacPhearson, John Singer Sargent, August Renoir, Pierre Bonnard, I have never sought out an agent, but have talked with others who have with mixed results. I attended two seminars with Calvin Goodman, a famous art consultant, who had many suggestions for marketing and promotion. The first path I chose was college teaching, but there are fewer jobs now, and benefits are less common.
When my dad had a heart attack, I came out to California to be with him for his last week of life. One year later, I met my soulmate, Marilee. We went to Europe for a sabbatical where I had a successful one-man show in Vienna, and then we had 2 daughters, and I decided we should share them with my mom before she died. I quit my college teaching position, and moved out to California, built a house and started doing my art full-time while my wife taught school.
The internet has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for marketing your art. Teaching via zoom is also something new for reaching an international audience, with which I have had little experience and need more know-how. Anything that adds to your credentials, such as getting into prestigious shows or winning awards, are advantageous to getting representation in galleries. There are so many local, regional, and national, and international societies and organizations that can be helpful. Self-publishing is another avenue. The ideal goal is to have others doing a lot of the work marketing you so you have time and energy left to do your creative work. Creating by oneself can be lonely, so being in a group and working with other artists can help fulfill the need of comaraderie. Organizations such as the California Art Club are very good if you are lucky enough to be juried in at the artist membership level. The dues and energy from the much larger base of sponsors (which is open to anyone) help to support the shows, prizes, and programs offered. The core base at artist level or master artist level does not keep expanding, so getting accepted is increasingly more difficult. Doing teaching on TV is a great way to become famous, but not necessarily rich. I was shocked to find out how little money Bob Ross made during his long career on TV.
I had one teacher, Bill Bowne, who said, “Picture yourself being very successful and wealthy. Create a daily affirmation and repeat it often.” He said, “Imagine you are creating a work that was worth ten thousand dollars or more.” Since my works were only fetching modest amounts each at that point, that was a big stretch to even say with a straight face. Within a few years I achieved that goal. I am a strong advocate of setting goals, writing the setting date, and then noting the date when they are achieved or manifested, and making a habit of giving thanks and counting all blessings daily. It helps create a cosmic vacuum cleaner drawing good to you and others.
Is there mission driving your creative journey?
I feel like my art is fulfilling a need in the world to create beauty and wholeness that prospers everything in the universe. I have never regretted taking the path I have chosen, and enjoy the healthy balance and relationships in my life. To me that is true wealth and happiness. I am not a celebrity-envy-er or worshipper. Helping others achieve their potential through being a good example and mentor is also important instead of being just self-absorbed. We all want to help make this a better world.
- Website: www.raglandfineartsatelier.com
Jack Ragland with Balboa Reflections at Sunset Jack Ragland with Marilee in Venice Jack Ragland with La Raspa Jack Ragland with King Charles Bridge Jack Ragland with La Lechuga Jack Ragland with Natasha and Roxanne Reading Jack Ragland with La Seinne at Sunset Jack Ragland with Gallos Jack Ragland with Romantic Winery Visit Jack Ragland with Santa Margarita Egret and Heron