Our first retrospective tells the story R. Black, designer of the Foundation's logo and graphics, long-time gig poster illustrator for X-Sanguin Productions, and one of the first artists Kevin sponsored.
The origin of the R. Black style goes all the way to the rootstock memories of Rich's childhood. When asked about when he discovered art, he couldn't remember a time when he wasn't drawing: "I think art discovered me."
The characteristically bold, concise, compact, and razor-sharp R. Black linework came from working natively in digital, vector-based tools like Illustrator. Rich learned the tools of his trade from a co-worker at an office where he once designed giant custom inflatables. (Travis Smith, if you're out there, R. Black sends you props as "metal album cover artist extraordinaire").
As the R. Black style matured, it became clear that Rich's forte was his knack for layout, with a crisp, eye-catching commercial look. While he didn't grow up to become the comic book artist he intended, the R. Black look, overflowing with vixens, studs, sorcerers, and vampires, certainly drew water from that well.
Rich met Kevin through a client during a chance encounter at a night club. Thus began an arc of events leading from X-Sanguin event posters to commissioned prints to mini-comics (Featuring Kevin and his friends as characters) to patronage and a prime spot on the Con exhibitors floor selling prints. This, with Kevin telling everyone who'd listen that we really needed to check out this R. Black guy.
When asked what Kevin thought of his art, Rich speculated: "I'm not sure, I guess he dug it."
The R. Black look and feel expanded, transformed, and grew as Rich and Kevin developed a relationship of collaboration and inspiration. Said Rich,
"I think the [X-Sanguin] style progressed over the years... More and more polished, more professional looking I guess, and as I grew as an artist so did X-Sanguin's look, we kind of grew up together in a way."
A major R. Black milestone along this path was publication of his hardcover art book Futura from Dark Horse Books. Predictably, Kevin was at the center of this windfall, orchestrating it with the prescience of a Guild Navigator.
“I was fortunate enough to be able to be at the X-Sanguin booth at Con as a sponsored artist when Kevin introduced me to some of the Dark Horse folks, Katie Moody in particular, and magically I had a book all of a sudden, was really quite surreal really.
Other than Kevin and Katie, I was lucky enough to know Brian Ewing, who at the time I was bugging with a thousand questions about the professional side of the industry, he became a mentor of sorts on that subject and he graciously obliged my request to do the forward of my book. Pulling all the art together and laying out the book was a lot of work, undoubtedly the biggest project I've ever done.”
(More to follow on Brian Ewing, another artist sponsored by Kevin, in the next retrospective).
"I'd say 'art' serves the same role as it always has, a way to earn an income without having a job. Which is why I'd say I'm not a true artist as I'm doing it for money, fortunate yes, but I doff my cap to the artist that just does without any monetary gain or recognition...
Comic-Con was amazing and fantastic and opened my eyes to a lot of things. It helped me reveal what I care about in 'art' and what I don't, in life as well. 'Viva la boheme'
Rich now lives out of a converted cargo van, repurposed to serve as living quarters, an art studio, and a stepping-off point for bohemian explorations into the nature of a life lived simply. These days, the R. Black style dwells, even broods, on activism, community issues and support for the arts.
Instead of gig posters, you're more likely to find the R. Black signature on murals and street art decorating local theatres. Instead of pop and goth iconography, you'll find sophisticated references to religion and myth. And apart from a handful of prints on the Con exhibitors floor, you'll instead find a multitude of R. Black art on sale supporting the phoenix-like return and meteoric rise of the San Diego Opera.
"Kevin was the most generous, most true person I've ever met. A guide and a light that burned bright, too bright for this plane. He is the example, the metaphor of what a friend and genuine person is."
Thanks Rich, for supporting Kevin, his friends, X-Sanguin, and the Foundation. We'll look forward to the next time our paths cross, knowing that wherever we find a community embracing equality, individuality, and art, R. Black will likely be around.