Ballard Designs Exclusive Artist Rick Reinert

As part of our Exclusive Artist Program, we’re collaborating with a handful of independent artists whose work can only be found in galleries to bring their creative vision to our customers. They create artwork exclusively for us — you won’t find these pieces anywhere else — and you get to enjoy the next best thing to original art at an affordable price.

Charleston artist and gallery owner Rick Reinert‘s distinctive style has captivated us from the moment we laid eyes on his large-scale paintings. Featuring the iconic southern landscape and architecture of his celebrated city, his oil paintings exude warmth and energy, thanks to his signature quick, thick brushstrokes that mimic the great impressionist masters.

We got to speak to the award-winning artist from his Charleston studio on King Street about his work and how he got his later-in-life start.

Ballard Designs: Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you found your path to being an artist.

Rick Reinert: Growing up as a kid I was always painting, and I studied art in college, but I didn’t think it was feasible to make a break and become a professional painter. So when I started a family, I did what I needed to earn a living. I got back to painting about 16 years ago after having two businesses. I decided what I really wanted to do was to go out as a painter, so I started painting all night and working during the day for about four years until I could get enough clients and sales to justify being a full-time painter.

BD: So painting has always been a passion, but you never thought you could turn it into a profession?

RR: That’s right, but it turned out I could. I’m a full-time painter and I sell a lot of work. I started out in some co-op galleries, but now my wife and I own two galleries: one here in Charleston and the other is in Blowing Rock. It all worked out. When I got back into it, I decided not to take any lessons and to develop my own style.

Ballard Designs Exclusive Artist Rick Reinert

Rick’s studio is in a courtyard behind his gallery on King Street in Charleston. “It has a retractable awning, so when it rains, I can just hit a button and stay here and keep painting.”

BD: Your style is very distinctive. How would you describe it?

RR: I call it contemporary impressionism. I think there’s a little more expression in it than traditional impressionism. You put yourself into it more.

BD: Were you always drawn to impressionism and the masters?

RR: Yes, I’ve always liked impressionists. I like the broken brushstrokes and how impressionists depicted everyday life versus romantic or staged settings or using models and that sort of thing.

BD: Charleston looms large in your work. How does the city inspire you?

RR: I love the beautiful architecture of Charleston, and I like the light. The light is quite nice in the afternoon — you get a real golden haze on things. I also like painting the lowcountry type scenes.

Rick Reinert's Southern Oaks, printed for Ballard Designs

BD: Those oak trees are magnificent. How do you manage to capture on canvas those sun-dappled scenes so perfectly?  

RR: I take my camera with me whenever I walk around Charleston. I know what I’m looking for as far as lighting and subject matter goes. It’s become second nature that I’m able to pick out a scene that I know will make a good painting. I print out the photos and keep them in my studio. I have a stack of a couple hundred photos, and when I feel like painting something new, I go through it. It might be a year before I get to a particular photo I’ve taken, because I have so many.

BD: Would you say your style has evolved?

RR: Oh for sure, I think every painter does. After doing probably 2,500 paintings, you see differences. When I first got back to painting 16 years ago, it was a lot about light against dark or these really dark colors against light. As I’ve progressed, the midtones or values have become more subtle rather than having this stark dark and light contrast.

Ballard Designs Exclusive Artist Rick Reinert

Rick’s favorite place to paint is in his outdoor studio. “It offers the best lighting in the world.”

BD: Can you describe your creative process?

RR: I get up about 7 a.m. and go to my outdoor studio at the gallery and just start painting. A lot of times, I’ll paint throughout the whole day, unless I get customers in. It’s not all about just painting! But I usually get in a good five hours in the morning before we get a lot of people in. I typically paint until 6 p.m. at night seven days a week. I use my reference photos and I work on multiple canvases at a time.

BD: How many do you work on at one time?

RR: Usually about three or four pieces at a time. With oil painting, it reaches a point where it becomes a little too wet to really manipulate it, so you have to let it sit overnight or a couple days before you can start to bring in highlights. You can create a painting all in one sitting — they call it alla prima — but it can be a little muddy. I like a lot of drama and power and light, so it lends itself to painting in phases. I like adding thick layers,  impasto, and having lighter areas. I just let the paint take me where it wants to go. The best painting is when I don’t fight with it or push it. I just keep walking back and forth and looking at it to make sure it reads from a distance.

Artist Rick Reinert's prints sold at Ballard Designs

BD: You tend to have a signature color palette. Why is that?

RR: I use a lot of blues, yellows, greens and reds. On some level I guess it comes down to my work here becoming recognizable, because of the colors I use. I like to use complementary colors on the color wheel. So, for example, red is right across the color wheel from green, so those two colors I like to use together. I’m starting to use more grays now. Gray is a very powerful midtone.

BD: We are so excited to have you as an Exclusive Artist and the opportunity to sell your artwork. Why Ballard and how do you envision our customers using your art?

RR: I only have original work in my galleries. Ballard is the only place that sells any of my giclees or prints of my work. Normally, I don’t do that, but I just decided Ballard seemed like a great fit. It came about because the president of Ballard came in here one Sunday with his wife and really liked my work and asked if I’d be interested in the Exclusive Artist program. I like to do big works and I’m able to do that with Ballard, since they offer artwork in different sizes. Of course, you can scale down to a smaller size if you need to.

Ballard Designs Exclusive Artist Rick Reinert

Painting seven days a week, the prolific painter tells us, “To tell you the truth, I am all consumed with painting. That’s what I do. If I don’t paint every day I just don’t feel right.”

BD: As the saying goes, art is in the eye of the beholder. What kind of art are you drawn to and personally collect?

RR: My wife and I have a pretty good collection of works from all different people. It doesn’t matter what the color is as much as how well the piece is executed. I like a lot of contrast — I like dramatic works with bold colors that make a statement. Most of the works fall under contemporary impressionism, but they’re not similar to my work. I guess doing that type of work, every painter’s got their own feel for it, and it’s not all the same.

Browse all of Rick’s Artwork, or see more interviews with our Exclusive Artists.

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