NAVARRE — Finding the art gallery of Lonnie Rich by accident would not probably happen. To go there, one needs to plan on it.
The studio-gallery is located at the end of Santa Clara Drive on the first floor of Rich’s home. There Rich listens to wood and stone and presents their stories through his new form of artwork. He says nature is his main inspiration.
The unique pieces won him “Best in Show” at the 2012 Destin Art Festival. Rich has been participating in the festival for six years and finds the organization of the event excellent.
“I have always painted,” Rich said. “I was also an art educator for many years and as one I had to know so much about different techniques for the sake of the students, that sometimes I was feeling I might loose focus.”
For guests who stop by, he is more than happy to share how he creates his art.
“I have always collected little stones and wood in small boxes,” Rich said. “As my collection got bigger, the boxes got bigger too.”
Cleaning the pieces is the first step in the process of creating Rich’s distinctive form of art. The artist has been learning to use dental tools lately because he finds them more precise. Then, it is a matter of finding the correct orientation that gives the wood the ability to speak.
“It is like the clouds,” Rich said. “You see one thing, and then you look away and you see something different.”
Most of the wood that Rich uses is hart pine from the area and the stones he gets through a landscaping company. The exact location of the stone might change the attitude of the whole structure and Rich finds his job most challenging when the weight of the piece is an issue.
Rich does not use paint to color the pieces. Instead, he discovers the story of each one of the rose knots he works on as he goes carefully through the layers. At the end, everything is sealed with acrylic base.
“There is a narrative that goes along with each particular piece,” Rich said. “One of the woods took more than a year to dry out after we had to flow it for about four miles to get it out of the water.”
Rich believes nature repeats itself over and over again once it finds a successful design and hopes the art appreciators could finish the story of each individual piece through their own imagination.
The artist says his doors are always open to everyone who wants to see his work, if they only call to make sure that he is not somewhere in the woods.
“Find what you love to do and do it all the time,” Rich said. “Then you will never have to really work.”