Living the Artists’ Life as Husband and Wife
Written by Genie Davis
Two artists, one couple. That essentially sums up life in the Heitzman household, where Lorraine and Ric describe their backgrounds and sensibilities, and what life and art are like in their Eagle Rock home studios.
Lorraine Heitzman earned her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and says that many elements present in her work today come from her experience there. “I was exposed to great architecture, Midwestern folk art, and the Imagists, many of whom I had as faculty or advisors.” She relates that her interest in sculpture gradually led into furniture design and decorative arts for many years, “but Chicago always remained fundamental to my artistic development. My current work still embraces many of the sensibilities and skills I absorbed there.”
Ric Heitzman began his art career with a performance piece: a radio show he co-wrote and performed in Dallas. Working in puppetry led to animation which led to comic books, narrative paintings, and finally, in grad school, to filmmaking and film festivals. “My first big commercial job was as co-production designer of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. After a career as a designer, director and teacher, I’m concentrating specifically on drawing and animating my personal vision.”
Their inspirations are mainly as different as their works of art, but equally relate to the art they make. For Lorraine, it’s architecture. “Domestic architecture, follies, vernacular architecture, churches, small businesses and modern masterpieces. I get inspiration from all sorts of folk art, nature, landscapes and the printed page.” Ric cites “comics, folk art, animation, nature, the Hairy Who, Big Daddy Roth, botanical illustration, and sounds and rhythms in nature and music.”
Despite the difference in their inspirations and technique, they feel the significant fact that they are both artists has led to a supportive, focused environment – because “our interests and priorities are aligned,” Lorraine relates.
Their work is quite different from each other’s. Lorraine says she deals in color relationships, materials, and composition; Ric’s humor and imagination take the foreground regardless of his medium.
Ric has only recently turned to art-making as a full-time occupation after ten years in teaching. Currently, he’s working on two major projects, a series of ballpoint-pen drawings and a stop-motion animated film.
Lorraine continues to develop a body of work about local architecture, a project she’d put aside while focusing on her craft in art writing for a few years. She’s now completing new paintings/assemblages.
Her work often resembles a mosaic, or stained glass. Her precise, dramatic images of structures and landscape are involving — both when viewed in entirety, and when taking in the individual components. They blossom outward, the method as riveting as the overall composition. Her use of color – as in the simultaneously bright and ominous “Storm Approaching,” is vivid and exciting. Other works, such as “Original Tommy’s,” are monochromatic silhouettes.
It is interesting to see the very-different medium and approach used by Ric, whose images also, in a different way, remind the viewer of a mosaic. His richly connected, puzzle-like colored pen work is a delightful mélange of the abstract and the surreal, sometimes tribal-looking, as with “Sunshine;” other times reminiscent of an early Cubist Picasso, in a piece such as “Ipso Facto.”
While the couple is close, they work in separate at-home studios, and according to Lorraine the only thing they ever collaborate on is “our Halloween displays.” That said, they do influence one another’s work to some extent, as any close relationship among creatives will. Lorraine says she values her significant other’s opinions and suggestions, adding “In that sense, I am influenced by his thoughts, but …we work fairly independently and follow our own muses with each other’s encouragement.” Ric says his wife’s “sense of color, composition and steady concentration have influenced me. It’s helped me frame my vision.”
As to their current work and process, Ric describes the pleasure of having the opportunity to work on his art full-time. The gift of time allowed him to find a medium that allowed for “maximum freedom. The process of making my stop-motion film is laboriously slow, and I wanted to express a lot of different ideas more quickly. I’ve always maintained sketchbooks, so it was natural to resume drawing in them. Eventually, Lorraine suggested that I work on these new drawings on larger paper. Most of these vivid images emerge from dreams.” He notes that his abstract portrait series of drawings is on-going; he is currently in process on editing his animated film. The combination of the two mediums – one slow, one fast, is uniquely liberating.
Lorraine describes her work as coming primarily from observing buildings in Los Angeles, her Eagle Rock neighborhood, and near-by areas. “I take pictures and use them as a starting point. The end-result is a portrait, but also a vehicle or excuse for playing with different materials.” She describes her collage process as integral to her work, and relates that she is continuing with architecturally-themed work today in a larger format.
They describe each other’s art with respect and admiration – key tenets of any relationship. “I am always amazed by Ric’s access to his rich imagination. I could not begin to think or make things the way he approaches his art, and I find it continually inspirational,” she says.
And for Ric’s part, “I think the work Lorraine is making now is very bold and well-observed, and since we share a love of architecture, I find her work continually engaging.”