My mentor Roland Reiss sadly passed on December 13, 2020, at the age of 91. He was an amazing man and artist, leaving an indelible painted mark on the lives of so many. I would not be the man or artist I am today without him. I was blessed to apprentice under Roland for a semester during my undergraduate studies at LMU. Though he was not a teacher at LMU, he was the mentor to my very first mentor and painting instructor, Jane Brucker. After seeing how serious I was about painting, Jane connected me with Roland and I was approved by the university to do an independent studies course with him. I would visit Roland on the weekends at the Brewery Arts Complex in Downtown Los Angeles.
It was so cool to be able to work beside Roland and help him with his pieces...to learn from him and even just watch him in his element. He treated me like an equal even though he was so far beyond me. You would never know it though by how he would speak to me...like a peer. It did wonders for my confidence, something I have long struggled with. He always told the most amazing stories over lunch about his peers, pivotal figures in art history. At those moments, I knew I was a part of something special, something that I would treasure for the rest of my life. The experience of simply being in his loft was absolutely surreal and I was blessed for the opportunity.
One of the most valuable things I learned from Roland was what it means to be an artist...that it could mean whatever I wanted it to mean and that I didn't have to take a particular path...that I could create my own. I also learned that the value of time is not in quantity, but in quality. I can confidently say that Roland, in even a short period, was one of the most influential figures in my life. For everything Roland, thank you. You will be missed and I will continue to work to make you proud and keep your memory alive through my creations.
Over the past couple weeks I've done several live feeds sharing pieces from "The Lost Shepherd" collection, the work I was creating at the time I was apprenticing under Roland. These pieces date back to 2005-2006, and haven't been shared for a long time...many aren't even familiar with this collection. I would bring these pieces to Roland's loft for critiques on my weekend visits to the Brewery Arts Complex. At one point I remember someone telling me that I couldn't paint dogs forever. The thought weighed heavily on me at the time and when I talked to Roland about it, he comforted me and told me I could do whatever I wanted. Roland had a comforting energy and calmness to his presence, things I have struggled to find in my own life (both within myself and those in my life), and he put my mind at ease.
The tool you see here is a burnishing tool that Roland gave me over 15 years ago. I still use it on a regular basis and treasure it dearly. I shared it on one of my live feeds around the time Roland passed, talking about how much it meant to me, not even knowing at that time that he had. In learning of his passing, I dedicated my latest major creation to him, marking it as such on the side of the painting. The piece was started before his passing and completed after. I think that this is the best way I can honor his memory. I hope to debut the completed piece, the hex panel, within the next week.
I recently completed my first commission of 2021 and it is, in part, a tribute to Roland. I've been utilizing the tool that Roland blessed me with and including a variety of techniques that remind me of Roland in my current works. I intend to continue this with a collection of works to be debuted in the near future, continuing to learn from Roland, even in passing, in the process.