Original article by Raymond Johnson, Past President of National Turf Writers Association.
If Rick Rush had taken a foreign language when he was in high school, he probably would be a topnotch sports writer today instead of one of America's foremost sports artists.
Although Rick began painting when he was five or six years old, he had dreams of writing sports. One of his teachers thought so much of his ability that she suggested he apply for a Grantland Rice scholarship. There was one drawback. He was ineligible since he
had neglected to take a foreign language.
"I always enjoyed writing, particularly sports," said the 33-year old artist in recalling the change that took place during his teen years.
While Rush admits football is his favorite as far as viewing, he is fond of all athletic events. "I get just as excited over a painting I do like the horse race, "The Turn", as I do over doing one on the Sugar Bowl," he says, "I get just as excited doing one on a tennis match as I do a baseball game. I guess it is sort of seasonal."
Rush feels his best work to date is a silkscreen print entitled "You Better Pass, Sugar Bowl 1978". He captures vividly the split-second that enabled Alabama to gain a 14-7 Sugar Bowl victory over previously unbeaten Penn State with a magnificent goal line stand.
Rick labored over this painting for six weeks before it was finally completed. "That's where it takes diligence in going through with it, because I actually have the painting finished in my mind's eye
before I ever get started. I am organized in that I work out the color combinations before I ever start and I know where the forms and colors are going to be. After I get the drawings done and some of the first colors laid in, it's a matter of following
"The thing that adds some excitement after you get some of the basic colors in position is adding the highlights. Then it really starts coming around and I get excited about it in the last week after I
have labored over it for a month or longer."
One of Rush's latest masterpieces is labeled "The Turn". This painting depicts a huge field of thoroughbreds striving for a position as they approach the stretch where only those with indomitable hearts succeed. It might be the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness or the Belmont Stakes; the Triple Crown races. Or it could be any other major stakes.
Rick likes to be an eye witness to the event he will be recording for sports history.
"I remember vividly watching Nashua when he ran in the Derby years ago. I think horses are among the most graceful animals I have ever drawn or seen. I enjoy painting them. I also enjoy
watching them race."
"All that, plus the color and action that goes into a horse race, the color of the jockey's silks, the excitement built around a horse race just appeals to me. My sporting impressionism is sort of a
culmination of two things that are dear to me. That is, painting and athletic activity. Because of that, horse racing fits right in."
Why paint "The Turn"?
"That one particular spot sort of epitomizes the race," Rush replied.
"You've got the action of horses coming at you head-on, the dirt flying from their hooves, and they're all making their break for the finish line."
In "The Turn" Rick not only suspends a sporting moment, he recreates every ounce of its dramatics. Rush is a perfectionist. Anything less isn't good enough for him. He says he knows exactly when a painting is finished; one stroke before that moment,
the work is incomplete.
Exactly what is a perfectionist in Rick's eyes?
"Let me think about that a moment," he replied, pausing before saying: "It would be doing the very best with the ability God has given you, no matter what the circumstances or the time it takes to do it.
Rush has a distinctive style, one that is his completely.
"One of the things I am doing is making my work representational, although it is loose enough and impressionistic enough that the viewer feels all the excitement and action of the individual event," says Rick. "Yet it still is representational enough that they can
pick up some of the finer details."
Feather Press of Houston, Texas, one of the world's foremost silkscreen printers, is Rick's exclusive publisher and is now creating limited serigraph prints of Rick's work. His brother, Don, is his exclusive agent and handles all the affairs of business and negotiations.
Silkscreen printing has not changed in hundreds of years, since it originated in China. But Rush feels he has improved
"Most silkscreens are very loose," he explains. "They are abstracted. I have taken it a step further and am making it
representational. To do that takes a lot of really close registration. As a result, it comes off very similar to the way I paint."
Rush pointed out that twenty-three different colors were used in his print of "The Turn".
"Each one of these colors must have a separate screen," he said. "You put a color down and you have to wait for it to dry. Then you put down another. It's a building block process. So you don't know what the print is going to look like until you put all twenty-three colors down. It's a lengthy process, but by doing it, each print is an original because there are nuances of difference in each print."
That gives one a pretty good idea of what Rick Rush is doing for the serious art collectors of America's sports.