C. Ford Riley is a nationally-known painter who operates a studio out of his Mandarin home.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN PAINTING?
HOW DID YOU MAKE A NAME FOR YOURSELF?
“I was painting primarily birds. I studied birds, made my notations and drawings just for my own personal benefit. People started buying my studies and it’s been non-stop ever since. I hardly paint birds anymore.”
WHAT DO YOU PAINT NOW?
“I like to paint the South. I paint what I know; what I can feel and smell and the things that are important to me. But I paint everything from out West too, you name it, everywhere. Our market is all over the country.”
“Life is great; that’s what inspires me. Sitting on the end of my dock in the evening or in the mountains where it is quiet. There is an endless amount of subject matter. I’m concerned with portraying what I see and feel.”
WHAT IS YOUR PREFERRED MEDIUM?
“Mostly oils. Oils and acrylics give you a wider expanse to paint on a larger scale. You can manipulate.”
HAVE YOU WORKED IN ANY OTHER FIELD?
“I used to tend bar at the beach but this was always my profession. It wasn’t what I thought I’d be doing all my life. I don’t know that you choose the profession when you become an artist. It is a God given talent — something I live, breathe and eat. It just pulls you into it. You just have to throw down paint. I have an unbelievable drive to put down what I see and feel, just express myself.”
EVER THOUGHT OF LEAVING JACKSONVILLE?
“I’m getting to that point. Jacksonville is a big wheel that can’t stop turning. The city I grew up in has changed so much. It’s changed for the better in a lot of ways, but in other ways, it’s changed for the worse. The subject matter, as far as what I like to do, is depleted. There’s too much traffic; there’s too many people. I like Thomasville, Ga. The fishing is still good and the population is only 100,000.”
WHAT’S REWARDING ABOUT YOUR WORK?
“To be able to create something out of your mind that you see. Spreading paint is something in itself. I can’t explain it; I just enjoy it.”
WHAT’S THE CHALLENGE?
“To represent something in the right light and the right form. To have it correct, yet to have a part of yourself involved in that painting. To be able to play with light in the real sense of what light does to colors and to forms. The biggest challenge to any artist is constantly striving for change. You can get very stale if you stay with the same format.”
WHO IS YOUR MAIN INFLUENCE?
“I like the American impressionists. I loved Edward Hopper, his simplicity. Most are not living artists. I think they took a much different approach to art than contemporary artists do.”
A graduate of Lee High School, Riley attended Shorter College in Rome, Ga. but the surf drew him back to the First Coast.
WHO REPRESENTS YOUR WORK?
Stellers Gallery. The company was originally formed by his brother Scott to promote Riley’s work exclusively. It has now grown into a full-service gallery.
WHO COLLECTS YOUR WORK?
“Mostly large corporations. Art has been very good to me.” At an average price of $15,000-$20,000, most of his clients are affluent individuals or big businesses. His work is typically created on a large canvas and ranges in price from $1,500-$100,000. He routinely paints eight to 10 pieces at a time. Those corporations with serious collections include American Heritage Life, 45 originals; PSS, 35 originals, and the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club. Riley’s work is collected mainly in the South, but he has sold pieces as far away as Australia.
WHAT SHOWS HAVE YOU DONE?
“I haven’t done any in a while; I just don’t care to do it. I have someone who takes care of everything. I just paint. From that point on, I don’t know where anything goes.” However, Riley does make a point of attending the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition in Charlotte, S.C. and the Plantation Wildlife Show in Thomasville, Ga. every year.
Outdoor activities — hunting, fishing and surfing — are most appealing. Riley enjoys classic television shows such as “The Andy Griffith Show” and “The Waltons.” He just read “A Land Remembered” and was quite impressed with the film “A Beautiful Mind.” When dining out, Riley goes to Bistro Aix, which is owned by his brother/agent.
—by Monica Chamness