Featured In Shout Out Atlanta

Originally posted at Shout Out Atlanta.

We had the good fortune of connecting with Richard Perano and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Richard, how do you think about risk?
As far back as I can remember, I have been a risk-taker. While I cannot imagine living life any other way, it’s not a claim I make casually or soley out of pride. Many of the risks I took as a child, as a youth and in my younger years were impulsive and not well-considered. When I chose to chase a rival through the “no running’ zone of the playground and accidentally knocked over Mother Superior, that was rewarded with a leather strap in front of my class and was clearly not a risk worth taking. On the other hand, when I chose to major in English Literature at Villanova University, the risk of not knowing how it could possibly lead to a career was I think a prudent risk. I made the choice to focus on what I loved at the time which was reading and writing. I indulged my passion for certain writers and philosophers who were unlikely to be found in the curriculums of any MBA Program like Joyce and Yeats and Epitctetus. I clung stubbornly to the conviction that anything I needed to know in order to do my job to the best of my abiltiy, I would learn or teach myself. In fact, this became my sort of mantra growing up and has served me well since I have been working part- or full-time more or less continuously since I was 14. One hundred resumes and a few false starts later, I found myself in the stock-broker training program of Paine Webber Jackson & Curtis. At the “risk” of oversimplifying, I saw two roads: 1.) market and sell what the firm paid me more to sell; or, 2.) try to keep my head above water while I set out on the journey of learning how to add real value by making clients money. It was on that second road that I met a client who was that rare commodity in the world of finance – an investor who was both brilliant at judging risk versus reward and a scientist when it came to the allocation of capitol. He became both a mentor and a most valued client and, over a fifteen- to twenty-year period, he taught me everything I know about investing today, and then some. Let me just acknowledge that the risk I took in taking the second road was marked by company politics, family stress, scarey tests of moral courage and exhilirating victories. Like I said, I can’t really imagine living any other way, although I can readily envision being a little more diplomatic. Fast forward to the mid-2000’s, and I am in my daughter’s Art Class at Paideia School, filling in on Grand-Parent’s Day, when her teacher tells me that if I start drawing again, one of my real passions as a boy, then I would pick up right where I left off when I was 13. Needless to say, I tested her claim at my first opportunity. Before I knew it, I found myself self-educating and dreaming about creating my next career as a professional artist, without the benefit of a fine arts education, and while working full-time in my first career. Nothing whatsoever in my past had gripped my curiousity more than teaching myself by all means available how to become a better and better artist. For me, it was a noble, totally compelling pursuit that focused my attention fully and rewarded my efforts with endless and surprising discoveries. However, this journey wouldn’t be real if it wasn’t joined at the hip by the need to feed my artistic education financially and to be clever and careful enough to sustain my curiosity well into the future. So, it’s a risk that I am “all in” on passionately; and, besides being father to my daughter, it is the biggest adventure I can imagine.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?

The journey to where I am now, embarking on building my next career as a professional artist, has taken what many – not me – would consider a lifetime. But, in fact, the journey is brand new and I feel like I felt when I was a kid. Even though I am self-taught, I don’t believe I am taking any short-cuts with my education. While working full-time, I have been consuming every instructional art book recommended to me; taking individual lessons when I could from one of the best portriat artists in the South-East; drawing the naked human body and face from life when I can; making careful studies of the best drawings I can find by the great masters from the Renaissance; conducting my own careful study of human anatomy; studying the legendary and famous Charles Bargue Drawing Course published in the late 1860s; and proceeding methodically from working in graphite, charcoal, chalk and conte crayon to hard and soft pastels to professional, fine art colored and watercolor pencils. For me, the subject matter I am drawn to most is the landscape of the human face and body. Although i am in the process of completing one 12” by 16” commission portrait of a brother, sister and dog, and I am beginning an 18” by 24” commission wedding portrait set in the Tennessee Pickett Memorial State Park, both in layer upon patiently applied layer of the finest light-fast colored pencil pigment, I have also begun the process of learning the fundamentals and techniques of oil painting. Actually, I should say I was beginning the process at the Shane McDonald Studio here in Atlanta when sheltering in place began in earnest. Since then, I have been cranking up my work in colored pencil and taking advantage of Shane’s virtual classes, when they are offered, until we get back in the studio. I visualize the evolution of my artistic process as a commitment to creating the most arresting, engaging , organic communications my skills are capable of producing. I view the physical form of the person or persons before my eyes as the launching off point to interpretations that take my imagination much deeper into the intangible mysteries of the subject(s) that I must try to make manifest in my portrait. Since I am discovering new solutions to problems with every single work, I fully expect the commission I fulfill a year from now to be more successful at reaching these goals than the commission I complete now. But for me, the most important indispensable element to every new piece is the effort I put into trying to master the underlying drawing from which every other element follows.

As for the business side, so far, my sales have all been Premium Giclee Prints made at Digital Arts Studios in Atlanta (one of a small elite group of master printers of original artwork in the country) in various sizes of my original artwork and studies; and then my commissions which have all been single or group portraits. When my web-site goes live, hopefully by the end of September, I expect to launch an organized marketing campaign which will feature Giclee Prints of my original artwork in an array of sizes up to many times the size of the original and on an array of archival materials; then certainly on commissions which I am seeking; and then on my original artwork. Beyond that, I hesitate to get too far in front of my skies except to say that I get what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi means when he paints a picture of happiness as a side effect of total involvement in life in his 1990 classic, FLOW (one of my favorite books). However, real growth and improvement at any age encounters darkness and pain. Nothing of rel beauty is produced except by pushing through hellish irritation with grit and a relentless will. So my goal now is to model nature and strive for artwork that achieves the unexpected, magical beauty of the pearl.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I can concieve of several pandemic-free days that include the following in no particular order:

1.) A Saturday morning run from the San Francisco Roasting Company on Clifton Road where they could join in with me and my crazy Bootcamp friends followed by caffiene and endorphins;
2.) A mandatory trip to the High Museum to see whatever looks good;
3.) An equally mandatory relaxing visit to the Botannical Gardens;
4,) A visit and light lunch with me at what might be the largest urban residential vegetable garden and honey farm in Mid-Town cultivated by friends James and Ellen;
5.) A minimum of 3 different nights (speaking for myself) at whatever Cirque du Soleil Show is happening;
6.) 5-mile Trail Run at Stone Mountain;
7.) One or two 6 AM mornings of Operation Boot Camp;
8.) Dinner at each of the following restaurants: Bacchanalia, Floataway Cafe, Rathbuns and Wisteria.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I think someone said once: “Gratitude has a short half-life.” I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in underestimating or discounting the efforts, support and encouragement of others in our day to day lives. The insidious habit of dismissing praise and notice as somehow not genuine or honest is a trap that I have recently made a conscious effort to metaphorically slap in the face. Maybe pride or fear won’t allow us to admit that the simple interest or compliment from a friend was just enough to keep us from giving up and was, therefore, worthy of a ton of gratitude. The confidential client and mentor I mentioned earlier was someone who modeled doing the very best work he could do every day with a rare discipline that stood out in stark contrast to the powerful lure of chasing the only tangible reward in the high stakes game of global finance – money. It was the depth of the analysis, the endless research, the number-crunching, the accuracy of risk assessment, the emotional intelligence resulting in a successful investment that was the great achievement, the source of the most profound satisfaction that was then rewarded with money and justifiably received with open arms. I was privileged to be a witness and a part of the process and to occasionally make important contributions. I can tell you the emotional balance piece is a tough nut to crack. Today, I guard carefully and respect what was modeled and what I witnessed and I employ it daily in my artwork keeping my eyes on the real prize of striving to do the best work I can do, to be the best artist I can be. Still, there’s nothing like being cheered on by your friends. For example, I have been going to Operation Boot Camp in Decatur almost every month since July, 2011, There’s no way I could replicate those work-outs outside at 6 AM without Jo-Jo Gilbert-Ross, the owner, and the instructor-team: Jan, Nancy, Becca, Dave, Jeff, Raph, Danni & Steve. Since March, we have been doing the work-outs virtually on Zoom, some of us in our living-rooms, some in the backyard. Like I said, you could not duplicate the work-outs or the endless social benefits without the consistent community of these wonderful crazy people. My soul-friend, Aimee Welton, a real smart teacher, has worked diligently to convince me she’s objective when she says my artwork is awesome and I’m on the verge of believing her, especially when she backed it up with her wedding portrait work-in-progress commission. Plus, she says things like the portrait I just did in quarantine of my daughter, Kalli, shows how much I love her. That was nice! Then there are my siblings – Susan, my sister, who always tells me sincerely that I’m better than I am; and my younger brother, Jim, who was early in assuming the mantle of emotional benefactor and unofficial art critic and never misses an opportunity to say: “Keep drawing, Papi!” In the age of COVID-19, it was pretty cool to get my first work admittied to a gallery when Tom Zarrilli, director of the 378 Gallery in historic Candler Park, created a small exhibit to be displayed in the gallery’s fourty 5 1/2″ by 16″ window panes facing Clifton Road. When I had to make the original artwork conform to the size of the windows, I called Barry Glustoff, founder of Digital Arts Studios, who makes superior quality Giclee Prints (of all my artwork) in all sizes on a range of archival materials. His shop is one of a kind in Atlanta; is one of a small group of master printers of original artwork in the country; and routinely delivers service and a product that are both world-class. I hope to be working with him for a long time.