Russell Ratcliff

   Russell was born on July 26, 1963 in Bisbee, Arizona. His family moved to Montana where Russell was graduated from high school. His father was a geologist and that inspired Russell to study geology at Montana State University. In 1985 he received his Bachelor of Science in Geophysics. He continued on in 1987 and studied art at Montana State.

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   In 1988 he married Kendall Thompson (also a geologist) and they had three children. He worked seasonally as a geologist through 1992. Then he stayed home to raise his family. In 1995 he began creating pictures made of all varieties of rocks and minerals imaginable. He is totally self-taught and with a well-equipped workshop and the time to be an artist, he is currently one of the most prolific lapidary artists in the country, with over 100 pictures completed to date. His work is made for commercial art galleries and he has developed many of his own techniques, which enable him to create so abundantly.

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   "The use of rocks as a medium for producing two-dimensional images is challenging and very rewarding for me. Years of oil painting and studying rocks as a geologist has culminated in my combining geology and art. I would often try to duplicate rock textures in oil paintings, but realized the detail, variety, and optical properties were nearly impossible to reproduce with paint. Being so enthralled with the possibilities the rocks held; I turned to them as my primary medium.

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   Within each rock is beauty and a geologic history. Each rock type has been subjected to varying amounts of heat, pressure, recrystallization, deformation, alteration, and weathering. Many of the rock relationships I use in my art could never occur naturally due to their differing environments of formation. Yet the forces driving the planet expose a multitude of rock types that I can use to express an idea, place, or situation. I cannot compete with the rocks for variety and complexity, but I can use rock relationships to present my interpretations of the world, real or imagined.

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   The rocks cannot be changed or reworked easily; therefore I let the rocks take the lead on an idea. If they can't be forced into a situation, I change the image to fit the rock, or find a more suitable rock. Balancing what I want and what the rocks can provide is part of my creative process and often results in strange or surreal compositions. Ultimately, I want the rocks and image to work together in providing a literal bind between the physical and the artistic worlds.

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   In the five years plus I've been working with the rocks, I have learned many valuable lessons about the rocks, equipment, coatings, epoxies, and my own craftsmanship. I am very comfortable knowing the artwork I create will be around for many generations to enjoy."

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