Jim Rabby – A Conversation

Photo by Bill Worrell

Jim Rabby – A Conversation

Q: What inspired this painting?
A: Waking up and breathing each breath, having a powerful work ethic, being my hero each moment, justifying my existence. It’s life itself. Painting is accessing and practicing consciousness. It’s a portal. I love bringing passion and fierceness to the space – creating great value.

Q: What prep work and painting techniques went into it?
A: I always keep my supplies collected as far out in advance as possible. I stretch all of my own canvases (Fredrix #190 primed Belgian linen) on beautiful heavy duty finger-jointed wooden stretchers. I make a sketch on the canvas with Conté #2B charcoal and pound the paint for hours working my palette up. My days start at two o’clock every morning, seven days a week. I’m never warming up, I simply fry and I back off and I fry and I back off, it’s a flutter, that’s my range. I am pretty much a pure worker. A string of paintings is a string of breaths.

Q: What was your greatest challenge?
A: Being that the bar is set real high, I’m always moving to center and performing my best – it’s all fierce. The commitment is to give it everything it calls for and refine and deepen that commitment. It calls for great discipline to gain great freedom.

Q: What is your favorite part of this piece?
A: The elasticity, complexity and relationship of colors. Its qualities – powerful, strange, compelling.

Q: Why do you consider it one of your most significant works?
A: I consider each painting, each moment in each painting very significant – as it should be. Each and every moment operates on different levels; it’s exhilarating, challenging, wrenching, exuberant, euphoric.

Q: How does it relate to, and differ from, all others you’ve done?
A: Each painting stands on its own. I’m interested in performing in velocity, personal growth and that degree of engagement. My desire is always to have a quality, exciting, composed experience with the act of painting – hopefully the residue of the experience (i.e. the painting) will reflect those qualities.

Q: What does this painting mean to you?
A: It is a statement of my intention and the result of my intention: to make a piece of artwork that’s really wonderful, that I can connect in such a powerful, emotional way. I’m auditioning this moment for the next moment.

Q: What do you feel (or hope) it says to the viewer?
A: That the viewer is touched in a powerful way, on such a deep level, that they have to possess it, own it and visit with it. These paintings for many people offer an access or portal to growth, comfort, joy. For something as sensitive and personal as artwork to have a prominent place in their life. Each painting is a love letter.

Jim, about yourself:

Q:  In what area of New Mexico do you live, and how long have you been a resident of the state?
A: I’ve been living in Santa Fe for 32 years, living in my dream 1912 adobe studio and gallery, in an old downtown neighborhood of Santa Fe.

Q: How long have you been painting in general?
A: I’ve been painting professionally, continually, for a living for over 50 years.

Q: How did you get started?
A: Volunteers at the Shrine Crippled Children’s Hospital, where I had a series of polio operations as little boy, brought art supplies for the children and I made some work with those supplies. In 1956, my parents opened a storefront, a mom and pop shop, that sold art supplies and made picture frames so I was around a bunch of artist collecting their supplies. Through the sixties I was exhibiting in dozens of alternate spaces at a time: dinner theaters, beauty boutiques, bank lobbies, restaurants, outdoor art shows. It was experiential, getting a lot of feedback, building a collector base from grass roots. I’m self taught, I’ve tenaciously worked at it.

Q: What mediums do you work with?
A: Gamblin Oil Colors, great paint, beautiful paint, with palette knives on Fredrix #190 Belgian linen.

Q: What, in general, inspires you to create?
A: Painting for me is life itself. To me, success is living to my potential. My life is an extraordinary personal triumph and these paintings are a celebration of it. I am an ordinary guy with extraordinary potential – and my goal in life is to reach my potential.

These questions and answers included courtesy of Art Journey New Mexico: 104 Painters’ Perspectives by The Editors of The Collector’s Guide, a hardcover book including Jim Rabby available at

Photo by Bill Worrell

Materials and techniques used to create Rabby’s work:

Canvas:  The finest primed Belgian linen is hand stretched over heavy duty finger-jointed pine stretcher bars to ensure stability.

Oil Paint:  Pure professional Gamblin Artist’s Oil Colors of the highest quality and light fastness are used; allowing high light refractive and luminosity of color.  No extenders or adulterants are ever employed.

Framing:  Gold or Silver leaf mouldings and fine Belgian linen liners of the highest quality are custom cut and fitted to your painting at the Rabby Studio & Gallery. Each frame is individually selected to create a unified presentation of painting and frame. Click here for frame samples.

Final Glazing:  Hand applied Damar Varnish protects your painting from the harmful affects of air and light.  This final application ensures the color will remain at its highest peak of resonance.

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