“Ceracolors can essentially imitate watercolors and gouache, and at the same time be built up into heavy impastos. Their water solubility makes them quick and easy to use, and their encaustic heating properties make them ridiculously versatile.”
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Alex Rydlinski is a self taught painter from Fairbanks, Alaska. He grew up with deep adoration of the Northland wilderness but was curious about the outside world. He spent his twenties living in Texas and traveling the country while writing and performing music, as well as making illustrations. As his interest in visual art grew he began learning to paint in oils by studying masterworks in books and museums. In 2017 he studied in Norway with the master painter Odd Nerdrum. Nerdrum’s lifelong dedication to improving his own talent made a deep impression on the younger painter. Rydlinski continues to be possessed by the aim of joining sincere ideas with sincere craft in everything he creates. In 2019 Rydlinski moved to Alaska’s Kenai peninsula, which he considers his ideal backdrop for dramatic narrative paintings. Despite the use of the grammatical third person, Rydlinski, like all painters, transparently writes his own bios.
When I was 12 years old I copied Raphael’s portrait of Pope Gregory for a school project. It was for history class, not art, and it wasn’t a good copy. I remember thinking, “it’s a shame people can’t learn to paint like that anymore.” A thought in my own head! Skilled painting is dead, all the workshops are closed, the birds are singing about it. After that, I didn’t give the old masters a second thought for another 12 years.
When I started teaching myself to paint in oils, never getting over my skepticism of becoming a great painter through the university system, I started with Van Gogh and worked backwards to Rembrandt, Velazquez, El Greco, and Titian. Everything I learned about the history of painting seemed to reinforce a clear pattern: as you go back in time, the works become more ambitious, more sincere, more impossible to emulate, more universal, and more miraculous.
But what crime have we committed that we should be deprived masters in our own time? In my work I’m reaching for that highest level of expression. I fail all the time, but I’m trying harder still. I’m focused on the vibrations and rugged shapes of nature, trying to eliminate all careful superficiality in my work. I always think about the big stories and universal questions of humanity and try to express them in intense and revealing ways. And, hopefully, I surprise myself along the way.
ALEX RYDLINSKI ON NATURAL PIGMENTS AND CERACOLORS
I first discovered Natural Pigments when trying to purchase calcium carbonate. My aim was to reproduce the colored oil grounds of Rembrandt and Velazquez but I had trouble locating the ingredients. I found in Natural Pigments a godsend for DIY painters who want to size and prime their own canvases, grind their own paint, and everything else imaginable. When I finally tried Rublev Colours Lead White it was a revelation: you cannot really emulate the old masters when your materials are so different from theirs. Rublev Colours have weight and body, they dry more quickly, and feel as though they were freshly ground straight out of the tube. They are a joy to use.
I have also found their Ceracolors line very exciting. Ceracolors can essentially imitate watercolors and gouache, and at the same time be built up into heavy impastos. Their water solubility makes them quick and easy to use, and their encaustic heating properties make them ridiculously versatile. I use Ceracolors for making preparatory studies or finished oil-like paintings in a fraction of the time.
The people at Natural Pigments are dedicated to supplying high quality, long lasting materials and educating painters about their use. Their large catalog of online articles and their traveling ‘painting best practices’ workshop have been invaluable to my own working methods.
Self Portrait, 2018, oil on canvas, 13 x 13 inches
The Offering, 2019, oil on canvas, 48 x 60 inches
The Picker, 2020, oil on canvas, 32 x 48 inches
Reflection at the Lake, 2019, Ceracolors on panel, 10 x 10 inches