‘How long have I known Irving for?’ ‘Too long to remember’. Rikki smiles as he answers my question and tells me that he has been collaborating with Irving from Freedom Hair Experience for many, many years. They have worked on lots of projects and photo shoots together with Irving using the photos for Freedom Hair and Rikki often using them later for his art.
Rikki previously had an exhibition at Freedom Hair Experience in September 2012. Irving launched the initiative early in 2012 allowing local artists to exhibit their work within a busy salon environment. Rikki O’Neill was the fourth artist to participate. ‘Silent Communication’ was a great success, so much so he has been invited back to exhibit this month.
Here is an interview with Rikki by at his ‘Silent Communication’ exhibition at Freedom Hair Experience last year.
The opening night of ‘Portraits of a Dream’ is on Friday 20th June. Rikki describes the work featuring in the exhibition is him ‘stepping back to a life as a children’s illustrator, but now in photography’.
Rikki O’Neill is a children’s illustrator, cartoonist, digital artist and photographer. He has had lots of his work published and still draws two cartoons every week that appear in the Scottish Sunday Post under the pseudonym of “Macfarlin”.
Rikki will take a photo and alter it digitally to great effect. His works (to me) can be puzzling and perplexing, as well as being fascinating and other worldly. They really can draw you in. The pieces will often look hand drawn or painted, most certainly not a photograph of a real person, or city, or sky.
Irving has asked Rikki on many occasions to re-work photos for him to use for the salon, websites and other projects too.
I asked Rikki about any specific joint projects that stand out for him in particular and he talked about a Freedom hair and fashion show that was held in The Whitehall Theatre, Dundee some years back. He said that Lorraine Kelly hosted it and it raised a lot of money for Maggie’s Centre in Dundee. Rikki had been asked to take stage shots of the models.
When it was time for Face of Freedom to come around this year, Irving, Rikki and the Freedom Hair Team had a stand in the Overgate Shopping Centre to look for the next models for the show. Rikki talked about getting some great shots from that event and also from a photo shoot they did in the Westport Gallery. He showed me some pieces that he had created from those shoots, just fantastic! Here they are below. The top image is the original photograph and the lower the piece he created ‘His Master’s Voice’.
The first time I saw Rikki’s work was at his previous exhibition in the Freedom salon. I was having my haircut and one of Rikki’s prints was positioned to one side of the mirror. I stared at it for ages, trying to work out why it was confusing my brain so much, what was it that I couldn’t work out? I finally concluded that it was the eyes. They looked so real and alive compared to the rest of the image. It was almost like they were hidden behind a mask. Quite an amazing effect because it turns out that they were indeed real! In fact everything was real. I was looking at a very intriguing altered photograph.
Rikki splices together photographs, pieces of photographs, alters them and paints with them and more, all using Photoshop. Creating scenes and stories within images that are captivating and really very inspiring.
Irving described Rikki to me as the ‘Photoshop King’ and he is not far wrong. I am bamboozled at how these are created. ‘It’s really easy’ says Rikki when I ask him more about the process. ‘Easy when you know how’ I reply, understanding roughly what he is describing when he starts talking about making up brushes, using blur tools, creating shapes and painting, but it really is so far beyond my very basic Photoshop capabilities (they really are very beginner level).
Rikki often talks and lectures about the techniques he uses as he doesn’t believe in hiding how he creates his work. ‘The techniques are out there to find if you want to, so why hide what you use’. He enjoys giving talks about his work and stated that one of the best compliments he can get at the end of a talk would be that someone turns round and says that he has inspired them. Some of Rikki’s work could be viewed as a bit controversial and he admits that he loves his work to get a reaction.
You can tell how enthusiastic Rikki is about his work when he talks about it and describes different techniques and inspirations. ‘It’s fabulous fun’ he said smiling as we discussed his work over coffee and his tablet, which was a whizzing blur of all his hundreds of pictures, ‘it’s exciting!’.
In terms of inspiration, Rikki is inspired by many artists and photographer’s work. These include Catherine MacIntyre (a digital photographer who studied at Dundee’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art), Gabriel Pachecho (a painter from Mexico), David Hamilton (photographer), Sam Haskins (photographer) and Dilka Bear (artist). You can see Dilka Bear’s influence on some of Rikki’s work:
Rikki enters his work into photography competitions all over the world and often wins. He also appears as a judge in panels for such competitions.
‘Hen Do’ won a gold medal in a photographic salon in France in a competition.
Two things that Rikki said to me that I would like to take more into my own practice:
1: ‘I try to create one new image every day’. He usually takes about two hours to complete a piece.
2: ‘If I don’t like something I will put it to one side to look at again further down the line. I believe in re-vamping work.’
His current favourite piece is titled ‘The Guardians’
His favourite tools are Photoshop plugins such as ‘Silver Effects’ and ‘Colour effects’
I asked Rikki three questions set by Irving and here is what Rikki replied:
What is Creativity? ‘Creativity is anything that comes from your mind’.
How do you use it? ‘I use it to bring to life illustrative dreams’.
Describe creativity in three words: ‘simple, artistic, visual’.
The Royal Photographic Society wrote this about Rikki: “Rikki is a self-taught artist, and by profession an illustrator of children’s books, cards, and cartoons. He is represented by top London agent Bernard Thornton Artists Ltd. He works in a variety of media, but has come to master and enjoy the freedom, as well as the assistance afforded by working in digital format. He is also a prolific exhibitor of creative photography. Rikki is a fellow of the Royal Photographic Society (RPS), a Master of the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain (PAGB) and is on the Roll of Honour of the Scottish Photographic Federation (SPF). He has served on the L panel and the Visual Art for many years and is presently Chairman of the Visual Art panel.” (April 2014)
Rikki is the president of Dundee Photographic Society, a fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, Master of Photographic Alliance of Great Britain, Fellow of The Irish Photographic Federation, Hon. member of the Scottish Photographic Federation and the Chair of Visual Arts Assessment and panel of Royal Photographic Society.
Here is an example of one of Rikki’s digital paintings.
For more about Rikki and his work here is his website.
Don’t forget… the opening of Rikki’s latest exhibition ‘A Portrait of a Dream’ opens next week at Freedom Hair Experience, Dock Street Dundee. See you there!