Interview to Rita Ria

19 10 2009

Rita Ria, as she chooses to be known on line, is an artist born in Germany. She works mainly in pastels doing fantasy portraits which she infuses with life, especially the eyes. But her main asset is her unconditional kindness and support to fellow artists. Hit by hard times, she has kept a positive outlook and has always had kind words for those in distress.

Rita, when did you start drawing?

I just can’t remember… I always had a pencil / crayon in my hands. I didn’t draw all the time — but often.

Why do you choose to do a medium perceived as “difficult” as pastels to work?

Actually I started with a pencil, but soon I wanted color. So I bought some colored pencils. I still had the feeling, that I miss something, so I bought some watercolors. Then I found the book “Painting animals that touch the heart” from Lesley Harrison. IMMEDIATELY I had to buy pastels, tried different kind of paper and stick now to velour paper. I love it.

One big advantage of pastels is that I always can immediately stop and start later again. This is very important for me, as I most time draw during daytime, when I have a little free time at the office (my husband owns it). But when there is a phone call or I need to type something, then office work always has first priority.

When I was in a museum and looked at original old oil paintings, there was another painting, which had no cracks and I asked why. They told me, this is as old as the oil paintings, but it is a pastel painting. It still looked like it was fresh done!

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres by Rita Ria

When did you start doing digital art? Why did you give it a try?

I am a curious person. I wanted to know if I could do something nice digitally and I always thought this “UNDO” button was something most wonderful, as pastels are not very forgiving when doing something wrong. And as I had Photoshop installed at my computer, I just needed to start and give it a try.

What is your preferred method, traditional or digital; and why?

First I need an idea. When I like this, I search for good reference, do the outline (most important with pastels, as I mentioned, it is not forgivable) and then color it. Digitally I still try: I do outlines, I try to block in colors, I do a speed paint and then refine it, I think I still haven’t found yet my best method for this.

You do portrait art with a twist. Why do you choose fantasy portrait over just copying the photo?

I just think it is more interesting. An artist did once a portrait of me and I was so very delighted, that I was changed into something mythical there, that I decided I would love to do the same. And I try to add the person’s character or love into that fantasy portrait. For example I know a man who just loves insects, so I added HUGE insects crawling on him: I had the idea, that he is some kind of druid and the kings/queens of insects visit him to show their respect.

Pierres Leadership Convention by Rita Ria

Most of your portraits involve fellow artists. Why do you choose this?

I “know” the artists — be it virtual or in real life. Therefore I like to portrait them; and because the artists usually like the twisted/fantasy idea in the portrait.
“Normal” people like “normal” portraits they often find it strange to be portrayed as a wizard/queen or something…

What is the process you use, from when you select the artist that you want to portray till completion of the portrait?

First of course I ask for some high resolution photos. I most time ask for more then one photo, to get a “feeling” for the appearance of this person. And I always ask them if they like the photos, because if they don’t like the photo, they usually don’t like the artwork. Then I ask them what is their favorite color, flower, animal or fairytale, to get an idea into what I could change them. Sometimes, not too often, I see a photo and know at once WHAT the person is and then I only ask if my idea is fine for them.

Then searching for reference, like in my example for insects, then I do a sketch — when I like this, I start with the outline on my paper and color it.

Lurking Titania by Rita Ria

I would say your biggest asset is how much life you give to eyes in your artwork. How do you achieve this?

Maybe because I always start with the eyes when I draw a portrait. When I don’t like how the eyes turn out, I stop and start new. I think the eyes are the soul of a person. When the lips or nose are not perfect this is not so very important for me, but the eyes must be perfect.

Any tip for pastel artists out there?

When you like to paint on velour (which is completely different then on other paper) I highly recommend the book from Lesley Harrison.

And what makes it also much easier: use pastel pencils! Gives you a lot more control for the details (like eyes ). And of course: NEVER GIVE UP when the first results are not as you wanted them. You should see my first drawings.

There are a few humorous pieces that I just love, like the phoenix baby. How was that idea originated?

I saw that free stock photo of that little bird and it just SCREAMED to me, please draw me! I finished the bird and was not sure what kind of background I want for it. I wanted a fire red background, but was not sure about it. When I chatted with another artist, I asked for his ideas. We had a nice brain storming and together we found this idea. That red reminded us to fire and very soon we knew this is a phoenix bird. Sometimes it just helps to listen to other ideas, even when you don’t agree, you know what you don’t want, which also helps.

Queen of Sheba by Rita Ria

Any favourite piece?

Many. For example, I like my “Queen of Sheba” because she got so much expression. Or my “Tutanchamun 2005”.

But I also like my digital work, because usually I was bolder because I always knew I could change it anytime without ruining it.

Could you please tell us about your family project? How was it conceived? What challenges and advantages you find about working with your family?

The family Struchholz is doing books.

My husband writes it, my daughter is painting pictures of the story, I do the capital letters (for example, as trees) and some ornaments and my youngest daughter gives us support and ideas.

The first book is printed in German and already translated into English, but not yet printed.

The story for the second book is finished, almost all paintings done (except a few), the translation is running and I am working at the last letters and ornaments. We had planned to have it printed till fall, but we are not sure, if this is possible. The second book is a lot bigger then the first one, and the story is more exciting and has more adventure.

How it happened:

It’s often the many small details that lead by chance to something greater. That’s exactly how it was with our book project. First, there was an article in the FAZ (A German newspaper) about the 300-year-extinct bird with the title “Dronten oder Dodos” (Dodos or Dodos). Upon reading the description of the birds, Veronika our daughter let out a sympathizing cry, “I’m a dodo!” Afterwards, she continued doodled funny humanized dodo sketches on paper. Shortly before Christmas 2007, these sketches prompted my husband to think up a short story to go with them as a special gift for our second daughter Regina . Out of just a few pages and a pair of quick sketches a manuscript emerged. After the whole family had enjoyed the story, we decided to make the effort and take the risk of releasing it to a wider public full of imagination and humour. Our motto was: A long, long time ago, it could have been the case that dodos really were clever birds…! ]

(Something you should probably know: The dodo (Raphus cucullatus, “hooded night bird”) was an approximately 3 feet tall, flightless bird which lived exclusively on the islands of Mauritius and R´eunion in the Indian Ocean . The dodo lived off of fermented fruits and nested on the ground. It appears on the coat of arms of Mauritius . Unfortu­nately, due to human stupidity and imported predators, it died out at the end of the 17th century.)

Challenges and advantages working with family:

Of course it is easy to change things or ideas just as we work on it.

It’s a huge advantage that my husband can order just another painting or want a painting changed. The whole family can bring in ideas. And we have no real deadline. It is all up to us, when we will publish the book.

It is a challenge, because my husband and I have a fulltime job and our daughter Veronika who’s doing all the paintings started her exams at the academic high school. That means, she also is very busy with learning, homework and preparing for school.

Whenever I have a little free time in office, I work at the Capital letters for the book or make little paintings digitally, which will be printed in the book as some ornaments.

And of course, when we can’t sell the books, we have no money left for our daily bread – LOL – no, but it’s all our risk and we lose a lot of money when we can’t make it successful.

You get an idea about it when you read a little excerpt and see some paintings from the first book here:

Maned Wolf by Rita Ria

Lately you have been doing quite a bit of photography, and I must say that you are a great nature photographer. What brought you to start doing this?

Lately I had so much work at the office, that I didn’t find time to do any artwork and I had in family death and illness, which gave me some kind of art block. I couldn’t d any artwork, but missed it. And last year I got this wonderful digital camera. So I took it and “painted” with the camera instead with my pastels.

How do you deal with the hard times? Do they affect your creativity or willingness to do art?

Yes it does. Never thought it would do.

Especially in the last year, when my nephew died by accident at age 18 and several members of the family got some serious illness, I couldn’t be creative.

I have some great ideas what I would like to paint next, but I don’t know when I start.

Are you open for commissions? Where can we contact you?

Of course, I always feel happy, when somebody loves my art that much, that they order something may it a book cover or a portrait.
Contact me at my website:
or visit/note me via
or just write an email: elfeura(at)web(dot)de

Rita by Katerina Koukiotis
Rita is one of my favorite pastel artist and a good friend

I love her pastel portraits, through her work you can see all the dedication and devotion she puts in her work,i love the fact she’s not afraid to try new and different things with her art ether be her traditional art , her digital or photography, she always tries something new and challenging.

Not only is she an amazing artist but a very humble person who always is there supporting her fellow artists, Rita is one of the few artists i know that takes time to post a comment or offer support to fellow artists galleries.

I had the pleasure doing a portrait of Rita a few years ago , she also makes a good model and vice versa she did a beautiful pastel portrait of me which i have hanging in my house every time i see it I’m reminded of her beautiful work

Jenny Dolfen
Rita is probably the most tireless commenter on the entire internet! She knows everyone, everyone knows her, and she has such a friendly way about her that, just by knowing her, you’re led to put off losing your faith in the goodness of mankind. 😉

James McPartlin
I’ve known Rita both as an amazing artist and a friend for quite a few years now, and she is one of the loveliest people you could ever wish to know, as well as being a gorgeous and talented lady she also has the sweetest nature imaginable!
Her superb pastel creations range from intricate still life and nature studies to beautifully realistic portrait compositions often with a fantasy or historical twist, her incredible accuracy with likeness is plainly evident in the many celebrity portraits that she displays amongst her artworks!

Ha it doesn’t end there with her though, as well as her pastels she also creates wonderful digital paintings that push the boundaries of her skills to even greater heights! … she can even turn her hand to artistic photography as shown by her many beautiful floral and wildlife photographic compositions.

Another wonderful side to this lovely Lady is here never ending support and encouragement to all the artists and people she comes into contact with…you can almost feel the kindness and positive vibes that radiate from her words!

A remarkable Woman, a remarkable Artist

October: Breast Cancer Awareness Month

5 10 2009

I always feel that I have so many blessings that I should be doing something to help those that have been hit with bad times. October is the breast cancer awareness month, and I have been trying to do some art about it for the last 3

Venus Amazona (c) Constanza Ehrenhaus 2009

Venus Amazona (c) Constanza Ehrenhaus 2009

years. However, due to poor planning, not remembering on time and lack of time, I am never able to do that. This year I remembered early enough and I started drawing in late August. I thought I was going to be done well in advance, but the truth is that I have been so overloaded with work that I could only work on my Venus on and off during short periods of time about one day a week, if at all. So I just finished her (Click on her to see the full size image)! And I am rather happy with her, she is not perfect, but I wanted to keep a lot of the anatomy errors of the original Venus, and she still looks elegant and graceful.

I recently read a very sad and bitter comment from a woman who had survived breast cancer and had a mastectomy. She was absolutely enraged about this Barbie doll that was beautiful and honoring breast cancer survivors. Her point was that the doll was beautiful and had her breasts and she did not, and did not feel beautiful.

This is my tribute to all those women that have gone through mastectomy. I chose Venus by Botticelli as my muse, since she is a representation of ideal beauty. Even having gone through a mastectomy, a woman is still a woman, and she can be beautiful. Beauty is more than breasts, she can still be elegant and graceful, still womanly and gorgeous. It is in each of us the choice of feeling pretty regardless of having lost a breast. Do not give up feeling like a woman, being a woman!

This illustration is available as a print, and all the profits will be donated to foundations that fight breast cancer. Besides, the digital file has been donated to the Susan Komen Foundation for them to use as they see fit.