The Beard Artist
From the moment we saw Travis Ridlehuber’s painting of Beardbrand Founder Eric Bandholz, we knew there would be a great story behind the work of art. Encouraged in his artistic endeavors from an early age through private drawing and painting classes, Travis Ridlehuber has been making art for most of his life. Having taught for over a decade, he chose to leave the classroom in midlife and return to school to pursue his passion for the visual arts. While studying oil painting at the University of New Mexico, he began photographing his models and developed a love for photography that continues to inform his creative process.
Ridlehuber had previously worked in large scale watercolors and inks, but knew once he’d relocated to San Francisco that he wanted to begin a new body of work. “Moving to San Francisco was about getting myself healthy and happy. I was changing the way I eat, reconnecting to life, exercising; everything about my life was open to question and improvement. It seemed natural to reassess the way I approached my painting process.”
Through trial and a lot of error he ferreted out his current process. Partnering with a cabinet maker that custom builds the panels for each of the paintings to his specifications, he then hand finishes the wood, and prepares it for the portrait. “It’s a labor intensive process with multiple levels of meticulous work that take place long before a brush stroke hits the surface.” The beauty in the finished product speaks for itself.
Art often serves as a historical document that illustrates the popular fashions of the day. This is no less true with Ridlehuber’s work which beautifully illustrates the current movement of the urban beardsman.
Beards in art have represented power and wisdom such as that of Michelangelo’s Moses. The beards illustrated in Ridlehuber’s current body of work are a clear visual depiction of this beardsman’s own impassioned convictions on the subject of to ‘beard or not to beard’. “We are currently experiencing a renaissance in the way that the modern man can present himself. It’s once again acceptable for him to be human and male; to embody both bearded mammal and professional businessman. That’s a huge move culturally away from the idea of “clean” shaven. Suddenly we find ourselves at a place in history where we no longer have to scrape away our manes in order to be taken seriously in a professional environment.”
As for the trajectory with his new works, big things are on the horizon. “People have a really visceral reaction to the oil and wood pairing of the work.” Ridlehuber is feverishly cranking out work for his one man show coming up later in 2015 and commissions are starting to roll in.
Having grown up in the rolling hill country of central Texas, and lived, hiked, and camped his way through Alaska, Hawaii, New Mexico, and Oregon, this artist and outdoorsman is a dyed-in-the-wool beardsman. “It irks me when people make cast off statements like beards are trendy, lumbersexual, or hipster; as if once today’s label passes so will the beard. Beards are classic, timeless, and as old as the species and will last as long as we do.”