As a youngster growing up in New York City, Richard Asher’s early artwork drew attention from his teacher.
“I doodled on my test papers in elementary school and I got in trouble for it,” he recalls with a laugh. “I was not The Art Kid in my neighborhood.”
Asher’s family was involved in financing and banking, but he never had an affinity for those fields. But, ironically, after graduating from the University of Miami and a two-year stint in the U.S. Army, he worked in accounting for almost five years serving well-heeled clients in the Hamptons.
Seeking a change, Asher moved to Denver where he managed a restaurant for six years. It was in Denver that he began doing some illustrations. “I was mostly self-taught,” he explains. “I had taken a basic drawing class at Miami and got a B. I hated to study, hated to go to class. I mainly did (art) because I just enjoyed it. I enjoyed experimenting with different media and techniques.”
After moving to Michigan and spending a decade in Grand Rapids, Asher headed north to Traverse City 14 years ago. Despite having no teaching background, he spent several years as a substitute teacher for TCAPS.
Over the years Asher’s artistic curiosity has resulted in elaborate abstracts in acrylics, impressive watercolors and intricately detailed works in colored pencils.
“I think I like colored pencils the best,” he says. “It’s a medium that requires a lot of patience. It takes time, but the results can be marvelous. With pencil you can be very detail oriented.”
A few years ago, one of his pencil works was chosen for publication in “The Best of Colored Pencil 2” by the Colored Pencil Society of America. One of 145 entries published out of more than 1,000 submitted to the group.
At his cozy studio/gallery on Front Street in Traverse City, Asher provides framing services and sells both original works and prints.
“I’ve always been an advocate of prints,” he says. “I feel art should be shared by everybody. You have to make it affordable for people who, perhaps, can’t afford to buy an original.”
Several of Asher’s works reflect his love of history. He has created ornate works featuring Mayan gods, Samurai warriors, medieval knights and American Civil War scenarios.
CIVIL WAR RE-ENACTOR
The Civil War is one of Asher’s favorite historical topics and he’s an active re-enactor of the conflict. In 1993, during the 130th anniversary of the crucial battle at Gettysburg, he and several members of his Michigan unit were among the thousands of re-enactors in the film “Gettysburg,” which featured Martin Sheen, Jeff Daniels and Tom Berenger.
Despite being from Michigan, Asher and his pals portrayed Confederate troops, since the director decided he had more than enough Union soldiers. It was no problem for the Michigan boys to dress in their Rebel garb and take their place during the filming of the Battle for Little Round Top and the ill-fated “Pickett’s Charge.”
Civil War buff Ted Turner, who produced the film, had a cameo appearance as a Confederate officer who was cut down while leading his troops in The Charge. After the movie was completed, Asher used several photos taken during the filming to create a watercolor portrait of his fellow re-enactors.
Recently Asher has a couple of new projects to keep him busy. “I got bored with watercolors and am now learning acrylics,” he says. “I’m doing abstracts, basically patterns and shapes and colors.”
And he’s working on a series of colored pencil drawings for a book he is preparing.
“It’s an anthology of social groups,” he explains. “Sort of a guidebook for people watching.”
He’s finished about 30 drawings of different social groups, including bikers, park chess players, mimes, nudists, drag queens, re-enactors, parrot heads, Goths and others. He plans on using 80 of them in the more-than-a-little-humorous publication.
“These are all glimpses of American life,” he says. “I’ve been working on it for a couple of years and my enthusiasm for the book hasn’t diminished at all.”
To learn more about Asher’s artwork, stop by his gallery at 441 East Front St. in Traverse City or contact him at (231) 932- 8638 or firstname.lastname@example.org.