By Al Parker
Gaze on the evocative works of Rick Daigh and you might wonder who his
early artistic inspirations were.
The Old Masters? Perhaps the Impressionists?
When I was about 9 years old, I got Mad Magazine, he says with a wry
smile. My heroes were those artists Jack Davis, Wally Wood, Mort
Drucker. I loved those guys. By the time I was in high school, I wanted to
be an illustrator.
After a year and a half as nt art major at Sacramento City College and a
tour of duty in the U.S. Air Force, Daigh found work at a number of print
shops and ad agencies in Southern California. He gradually got more
art-related jobs, working as a cartoonist at a greeting card company and
for several design studios where his detailed illustrations were featured
on brochures, print ads and publications.
MAKING A MOVE
After 20 years in California, in 1992 Daigh, his wife Barbara, a talented
artist in her own right, and their sons moved to Traverse City, Barbaras
hometown. Working each day in SoCal as a full-time illustrator, Daigh had
little creative energy left over for more creative painting until he made
the move to Northern Michigan.
I really didnt accumulate much work of my own til I got to Traverse
City, he says. The first painting I sold in TC was at the Medici Gallery
on Front Street.
Eventually word got out about Daighs compelling works at the Medici,
attracting the attention of at least one visiting celebrity. I sold one
of mine, a city scene, to the comedian Gallagher, he says. He was
walking through there (the gallery) and liked it. I never met him, but I
understand its hanging over his fireplace at his home on Lake Tahoe.
Daighs works are often nostalgic, dappled with a sense of romance. He
doesnt like to name his works, letting the viewer use imagination to
unlock the story behind the painting.
I like to think my works have a bit of an edge, he explains. Theyre
more than just a landscape over the fireplace.
Whether a wistful likeness, a provocative African scene or a light-hearted
50s city streetscape, his projects are almost always done in oils. A lot
of my favorite illustrators worked in oil, he explains. Oil has the most
weight to it. Oil and real turpentine, which is getting harder to get,
gives me the wash affect I like most.
Daighs paintings can be seen at the Kuhlhaus Gallery in Harbor Springs
and in Traverse City at Gallery 50 and The Good Work Collective. In May,
several of his diminutive works were included in the Small Works Sale at
the Dennos Museum in Traverse City.
The Daigh family features three generations of artists. Ricks father,
Marvin, earned a fine arts degree from the University of Illinois. Unable
to find work, he opted for a military career. Ricks son, Eric, has earned
wide acclaim for his compelling portraits with push pins and duct tape.
Some 15 years ago, Daigh began working at Britten Banner. Hes still there
as a graphic designer. I love my job at Britten, he says. Its very
Despite his workload at Britten, Daigh still finds time to paint,
sometimes having several works going at once.
Im not really a prolific painter, he explains. When theyre ready,
theyre ready. Every one of them is a labor of love.