I studied at an eccentric and colorful university in the central of Virginia. VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University) has one of the best art schools in the country (ranked #2 in the States by U.S News). Richmond, with its famous murals and numerous tattoo shops, hosts some of the most boldest, splendid, expressive, and hard-working artists in the world. I was able to interview one such individual, a VCU alumni, Richie Pope.
Pope’s work drew me in with its beautiful detail and significant subject matters. To me, art should challenge and question you, while also charming you. Richie Pope’s work does all of that and more.
Black Nerd Problems: What anime or cartoon captured your favorite animation style?
Richie Pope: Ping Pong
BNP: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Richie: I’m a freelance illustrator and cartoonist living in Richmond, VA. I finished up VCU in 2009, became a caricature artist, then worked at an art store, then the art store closed down. After that, I decided to jump head-first into freelance illustration and have been doing that ever since. Recently, I’ve been jumping back into making comics, too.
BNP: Did you find your journey into becoming an artist typical? Or were there extraordinary bumps along the way?
Richie: Pretty typical. I grew up drawing. The artist in the family. My mom was supportive, always encouraging what I was doing. The bumps were more so financial and social. “How do I ever become a famous artist if I didn’t grow up with a lot of money? Not a lot of access to legacies and institutions?” That’s the main reason why I left to go to art school at VCU.
How do I ever become a famous artist if I didn’t grow up with a lot of money? Not a lot of access to legacies and institutions?
As a teenager living in low-income areas, I more so wanted to just get out and see the world beyond my city, even if it was only an hour and a half away.
BNP: Do you incorporate specific themes and messages within your art?
Richie: I like to cast my illustrations with characters who are a bit non-traditional in media, race-wise, gender-wise, etc.. I have access now, and experiences, so I try to be responsible with what I’m putting out there, and learning about things along the way. Thematically, I’m into the idea that, even with beautiful, cute, colorful things, darkness lies underneath or around it. Not surprisingly, I’m a huge David Lynch fan.
Thematically, I’m into the idea that, even with beautiful, cute, colorful things, darkness lies underneath or around it.
BNP: Do you usually stick to one style, or do you often branch out and experiment?
Richie: I like to treat style as something passive that just happens. There are certain tools or techniques that I use depending on different moods or ideas I want to help communicate. If I’m being true to myself, my personal voice will shine through no matter what medium or colors or technique I’m using. That’s the goal, anyway.
BNP: Do politics, history, or philosophy ever get intertwined with your work?
Richie: Yes, yes, and yes. My mind is always racing so it naturally comes out into the things I make.
BNP: What do you hope to take away from your experiences as an artist?
Richie: That the work I make made some type of difference. That a drawing or comic made someone feel alive, appreciated, and not alone. If I can rest my eyes at the end of my life knowing an impact was left, I’m good. Hopefully through my work, I can live forever.
If I can rest my eyes at the end of my life knowing an impact was left, I’m good.
BNP: If you could witness a showdown between two fictional superhero teams, who would they be and why?
Richie: Off the top, The 1990s X-Men from the cartoon and Power Rangers. They were probably the two integral teams of my childhood. It’d be ridiculous. Wolverine would try to take the head off the Megazord like it’s a Sentinel. Also, Professor X and Zordon would probably have an ego clash. Who assembles the best teams and who has the better bald head.
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