Ron Rash has been drawing every day for 30 years, and it shows. His small ink paintings and above-the-couch-sized acrylics feature uncomplicated compositions, mostly of cartoon-like animals, rendered with efficient, confident lines.
In each of a group of vertical acrylics, Rash used a minimal number lines to convey the volume and shape of a bottle, the potency of the liquid inside it, and the drunken expression of a squirrel, giraffe, narwhal or peacock trapped inside.
Rash, now in his 40s, started drawing when he was in high school, and for a while he had a reputation as “the guy who draws drunk animals.”
“In the early days … being raised in Nevada, cowboys, booze, casinos, things like that were definitely a big part of my art for a long time,” he said, adding that those were a lot fun to draw.
“It’s funny,” he said, describing that work. “It’s kind of sarcastic. There’s definitely a little bit of animal in each of us. And I just find it humorous to incorporate a booze bottle with an animal of some sort. … I’m getting older and not out partying as much. I’ve found myself drawing a lot more coffee-related imagery than booze-related imagery.”
While it’s common for artists to say it took them years to learn to work in an uncluttered, pared-down style, Rash has worked that way since the beginning.
“I approach everything keeping simplicity in mind,” he said. “For my own well being, mentally, and I’ve approached everything that way since I was in high school.” He’ll often start and finish a drawing in one session, and that spontaneity fits well with his lifestyle. He’s a tattoo artist for whom a clean drawing style is essential, and he’s a father of three, which means he’s not long on studio time.
“A typical day for me is waking up about 6:30, taking kids to where they need to go, and then I usually start drawing for that day’s tattoos,” he said. “I start tattooing at noon, finish tattooing at 7, and then go home, do family stuff, and generally squeeze in a little bit of sketching time.”
Rash finds ideas in likely places such as pop art, surrealism or graffiti—and in everyday things such as a song lyric, a conversation about politics, or the paint job on a car.
The process of translating his tattoo clients’ ideas into finished ink has given him a lot of practice in converting thoughts into drawings.
“People will come to you with a saying or verbal explanation of what they want, and then it’s just a matter of translating it into a visual or artistic composition,” he said. “Generally when I hear something, I’ll pretty much immediately start seeing it as an image instead of words. … I like approaching things as if I’m doing a piece of art that they’re collecting on their bodies, rather than on their walls.”
“Making art or drawing is sort of an obsession or a compulsion for me,” Rash said. “It’s constantly on my mind, so it’s hard to go a day without putting pen to paper in some sort of fashion. It drives my insane if I don’t. It’s just necessary.”