Monday, September 14, 2009

Mysterious Ray Donley

In January 2009, while on vacation, I decided to tour galleries on West 6th street in Austin. My first destination was the Russell Collection. I ran into originals of Mark Chagall the moment I entered the gallery. Impressed, I asked the gallery attendant to show me the works of local artists if any represented in the gallery. Ray Donley was the only Austin-based artist shown at the gallery at that point.

We met with Ray at the famous Driskill Bar on the 6ths street. Even if you have no idea what Ray does for a living, you’ll immediately sense his artistic nature. Ray always wears striped vest, black suit and a black hat. He likes to stop by Driskill Bar after a long working day to enjoy a glass of Guiness. He told me he works about twelve hour a day and treats the process of art making as a full-time job and a serious enterprise.

Nowadays, Ray’s work is on demand; galleries across the world compete for his art. His work was featured in the American Arts Quarterly magazine and his work is present in the galleries in the USA, England and Mexico.

Yet, it took years to get to the top. Ray told me about his first show with laughter, “It was in New Orleans in 1994, and it was a disaster – a couple gay guys showed up and talked all night long.” Then, he added, “But you have that feeling that your work is recognized.”

In our conversation, Ray emphasized that it is very important to have a message in your work. Artist needs to communicate something in his or her work. “I always wanted to say something about human condition. Anybody can communicate with another image of a human face.”

Even though, Ray lives in Texas, he refuses to paint bluebonnets and country landscapes. He says, “My art was always European. I want to create a cult audience who wants to own my art not for speculation but who really appreciates it.”

Ray also gave an advice to aspiring artists: “The longer you’ve been around, the better your artwork because you refine your imagery and sense of expression. Usually one’s latest work is better than twenty years ago.” He advised emerging artists to take small steps and increase prices as they gain recognition. “It is important to be consistent with your pricing strategy: price points should be equal across all galleries where your art is present, and, of course, your early collectors want to see appreciation of your art over the years.”