Craig Rubadoux Interview by Pamela Beck

Craig Rubadoux has participated in over seventy exhibitions. Solo exhibitions have included the Ringling Museum of Art, the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art, the Lowe Museum of Art, and the Cornell Fine Arts Museum. His art is included in many public and private collections including the Guggenheim Museum, New York; the High Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale; the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Florida; and the State of Florida. He is currently represented by Dabbert Gallery in Sarasota, Florida.

ARTdart: There are as many ways to think about art as there are to create it. Join Pamela Beck in her column, ARTdart, as she explores and considers the different perspectives that define the art world.

Craig Rubadoux has participated in over seventy exhibitions.  Solo exhibitions have included the Ringling Museum of Art, the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art, the Lowe Museum of Art, and the Cornell Fine Arts Museum.  His art is included in many public and private collections including the Guggenheim Museum, New York; the High Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale; the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Florida; and the State of Florida. He is currently represented by Dabbert Gallery in Sarasota, Florida.

In the mid-twentieth century there was an active group of artists and illustrators including Craig Rubadoux, Ben Stahl and Syd Solomon among others, who lived and worked in Sarasota. They garnered both local and national attention and furthered Sarasota’s reputation as a thriving art community.

Craig Rubadoux still lives in this area and also has a seasonal studio in Nova Scotia. His home here is hidden away at the end of a dirt road. It’s nestled in the trees overlooking a bay. Inside, the walls are completely covered with art made by himself, his friends and other artists he admires. Fascinating books, adorable pets and music fill the house. His studio, surrounded by private land and fronted by the bay, is a huge screen porch that opens to the breeze on three sides.

In this setting, Pamela Beck talked with Craig Rubadoux about his early Sarasota days and what’s on his mind today.

Photo of Syd Solomon teaching art at The Ringling. Craig Rubadoux back row, third one from left
Photo of Syd Solomon teaching art at The Ringling. Craig Rubadoux back row, third one from left


PB: What was Sarasota like when you first moved here?

CR: I came to Sarasota in 1945 with my family, when I was seven or eight. Only 45,000 people lived here then. I joined the Sarasota Art association (now Art Center Sarasota) on Palm Avenue. They let me have a one-person show in their storefront when I was twelve.

At that time in Sarasota, there were Beaux Art balls and dances, but I didn’t go to things like that. When I was around thirteen, I took an art class that Syd Solomon taught at the Ringling Museum. I still remember how I spilled a bottle of india ink on the outside loggia floor at the museum during one of his classes. The stain stayed there for years until it came out. I liked watching it fade.

The Ringling School of Art, as Ringling College of Art and Design was formerly called, was only two or three buildings. There was a greater sense of camaraderie between everyone back then there is now. Activities and people from The Ringling School, The Ringling Museum and the Sarasota Art Association all were actively involved with each other.

I took a lot of high school art classes. My art teacher, Mrs. Clements, thought I was promising and took me to meet Ben Stahl at Hilton Leech’s studio. I was a senior in high school and Stahl asked me to be his apprentice. I thought I might be an illustrator like he was, so I could help support my family. But when I saw the hoops you had to jump through—well, let’s just say that I don’t like people telling me what to do or how to paint.

Apres Rodin, 2011, oil on canvas, 40" x 48"
Apres Rodin, 2011, oil on canvas, 40″ x 48″

Then I got a scholarship to Ringling for one year through the Scholastic Art Award. I enjoyed the life classes the best. They had those figure drawing classes three times a week. There was a nice group of teachers at the school, but I couldn’t afford tuition to finish studying there.

When Stahl and his family were getting ready to travel abroad, I was asked to go along as his children’s tutor (although I didn’t do any tutoring…).  We drove through Holland, France and Spain, stopping at museums. We saw a lot of great paintings and it was the first time I saw the Louvre and the Prado. When I saw the Goya paintings at the Prado, they knocked my socks off.

We went to Torremolinos on Mackinlay Kantor’s (the writer) suggestion. Ben Stahl completed his “14 Stations of the Cross” paintings and then he and his family left. I stayed and rented a room. Everything was cheap there. I put out a sign that said ‘Art Gallery,’ on the building where I lived, and had an opening in an unused upstairs space there. The landlady was sympathetic.

I stayed there about eight more months, teaching watercolor and designs for pottery to make money. You didn’t need much money to live. I got another room in the building and had an opening there every Sunday because it was very touristy and new people came to see my work every week. Hotels were just starting to be built.

I painted the fishermen who slept on the beach and the people who traveled by donkey.  At night, I went to the local cafes and had a cognac and sketched the flamenco dancers.

PB: Looking around your house filled with art from many cultures, there’s hardly an empty spot on the walls. What influences are important to you?

CR: Besides much of the art I’ve seen in museums and friends’ work, I also like masks, outsider art and primitive art. I have a lot from Mexico, Africa, New Guinea and Costa Rica and some local Florida work too.  It resonates with me and so I’m overrun with stuff that you see all around my home. I find this kind of art inspirational.

PB: What do you think of the current climate for visual arts in our community?

CR: I don’t get out that much although recently I went to St. Pete. I saw “Post Coital,” a show at Mindy Solomon Gallery I liked, and also the Philip Pearlstein show at the Museum of Fine Arts. But I find that I just have enough time to do my stuff and do my thing. I don’t know what’s happening in places like New York either, and I’m not sure if it would help or hinder my work if I did. But I do get together with painter friends of mine occasionally.

PB: Lately, you’re doing abstract rather than figurative work. Any particular reason?

CR:  I just suddenly felt drawn to explore abstraction again. I’d worked with abstraction in the 80’s. I might go back to figurative.  For now I like working on something I don’t have the answers to; I like the excitement that comes from not knowing how things will turn out.

PB: What’s your first memory of being a painter, even if you didn’t know you were one- as a child?

CG: I always drew, ever since I was a young child. My mother saved drawings of mine from when I was five yrs old. They were from my school class when we lived in Rochester, N.Y. before moving down here.  I remember one—it was of people on horseback seen from a window.

My mother and grandmother both drew and were very supportive of my interest in art. There were those “Learn How to Draw” Walter Foster books all around my house and when my family decided to move, they purposely picked Sarasota because it was known as an arts colony. They thought it would be good for me.

PB: Describe the feeling that makes you want to pick up a brush.

CR: It’s innate; I just have to do it, I have to make some marks in some manner. At this stage in my life, it’s a compulsion. I need to do it, but I like to know that at least one or two people respond to what I do.

PB: What are you thinking about as you paint?

CR: Depends on the mood I’m in or sometimes it’s something trying to get out, it has to get out. They’re not intellectual thoughts I’m having, but rather, how I’m feeling or what I’m experiencing in my life or with the animals or a walk along the beach or river. I think it’s like a diary.

Some of these thoughts could become something I will work on. Or not. It doesn’t matter; I just start sketching. I keep sketchbooks. For example, here’s a sketch I did that got me thinking about the painting next to it.



Rubadoux's notebook with sketch resulting in "Aurora" (Notebook is oriented correctly)
Rubadoux’s notebook with sketch resulting in “Aurora” (Notebook is oriented correctly)


PB: Which artists locally and abroad, dead/alive resonate with you?

Aurora, 2013, oil on canvas, 54" x 72"
Aurora, 2013, oil on canvas, 54″ x 72″

CR: Of people I personally knew, the painter Frank Rampolla was the biggest influence on me. People thought he was my teacher but we were really friends.  After I returned from Spain I took some life classes at Ringling School of Art, where I met Frank. He had a place in Sarasota where we could work. So we hired models and often drew and painted together. Then we would regularly discuss our work and for about ten years, even showed at the same gallery in Coral Gables, the Sindelir gallery. We helped put together a show in that gallery, “The 7 Deadly Sins.”

Eventually he went to USF/Tampa and taught printmaking there.  In fact, he got me a job at USF for a semester or two, but working in that setting wasn’t for me. Sadly, Frank had a heart problem and died at 40 in Tampa.

I like the work of my friends, the people I hang out with like Beatrice del Perrugia, Robert Baxter, Richard Mueller, Joyce Ely Walker, R.O. Woody—I really like so many artists; the list is endless. Of artists I’ve never met, here are some off the top of my head: Paul Klee, Willem de Kooning, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Pieter Bruegel (“Hunters in the Snow” in particular), Edgar Degas, Toulouse Lautrec, Odilon Redon, Paul Cezanne, Henri Matisse, Pierre Bonnard, Hokusai, Balthus, Egon Schiele. I just thrill when I look at the work of these artists. Standing in front of a Botticelli, you almost want to cry.

PB: Your art clearly resonates with a Michigan collector, whom I’ve heard has purchased many pieces from you. Could you please talk about that?

CR: They’re a couple that has bought 160 works from me. They are in the process of publishing a book about me based on their personal collection, which should come out within the next year.

PB: You’re a shy person. How does this quality affect your work?

CR: It gives me more time to paint because I don’t go out to see many people. I have good friends but I enjoy spending a lot of time alone. I find that I can often express through painting what I find difficult to say.

PB: Please give an example of a work you find satisfying and discuss why.

Finn, 2012, oil on canvas, 24" x 24"
Finn, 2012, oil on canvas, 24″ x 24″

CR:  “Finn.”  It sings. I can’t go beyond that. Every stroke seems to fit and help the other one along. Music and dance do that too, when they work. I listen to classical music when I’m painting.

This past year I’ve gone to and enjoyed Momix, the Itzhak Perlman concerts and the opera.

PB: Do you have a conflict between living in world of creative ideas/feelings and living in the practical world?   How do you straddle it?

CR: My kids say not very well. I’d like to approach life the way my high school art teacher told us to: never hurry, never worry, never procrastinate. That’s a good maxim, so I’m trying to live by it more and more. Thing is, I’m having trouble with the ‘never procrastinate’ part.

Pamela Beck
Pamela Beck

Pamela co-owned Pannonia Galleries in NYC. There she was also an art appraiser, private art dealer, art fair exhibitor and catalogued paintings at Sotheby’s. Perhaps it’s not surprising that she is also a psychotherapist. She has a keen interest in the arts and supporting Sarasota’s future as a lively, diverse and forward thinking city for young and old.Pamela is a member of The Fine Arts Society of Sarasota, Curatorial & Acquisitions Committee & Acquisitions Committee and Institute for the Ages Volunteer.

Artists Who Made Sarasota Famous- Part II at Art Center Sarasota

October 18 –December 7, 2013
Art Center Sarasota, Sarasota FL

On view will be a retrospective of artists in Sarasota who rose to prominence beginning in the 1960’s and continuing on to those who are still actively creating new works today.

October 18 –December 7, 2013
Art Center Sarasota, Sarasota FL

Art Center Sarasota is opening three new exhibitions on Thursday, October 18, 2012.

In Galleries One and Two, “Artists Who Made Sarasota Famous- Part II”, will showcase the second half of an exhibition of Sarasota Artists in the galleries earlier this year. The exhibition is curated by Dave and Patricia Dabbert of the Dabbert Gallery in Sarasota.

“The Rehersal” by William Jerdon, Oil on Canvas, Courtesy of the Dabbert Gallery

On view will be a retrospective of artists in Sarasota who rose to prominence beginning in the 1960’s and continuing on to those who are still actively creating new works today. All of these artists have been part of keeping Sarasota noted as a destination for arts and culture. Their work is found in important collections locally, nationally and internationally. This exhibition is important not only visually but historically as a chronicle of visual arts in the community.

“Encounter and Remy” by Craig Rubadoux, Oil on Canvas, Courtesy of the Dabbert Gallery

Complete list of artists in the exhibition:
Joan Altabe, Jean Blackburn, Jorge Blanco, David Budd, Clyde Butcher, Jack Cartlidge, John Chamberlain, Robert Chase, Frank Colson, Jeff Cornell, Kevin Costello, Kevin Dean, Julee Docking, Jack Dowd, Frank Eliscu, Jerry Farnsworth, Patrick Fiore, Larry Forgard, Gale Fulton Ross, Tim Jaeger, William Jerdon, Steven Katzman, Dennis Kowal, Jill Hoffman-Kowal, Nat Krate, Leslie Lerner, Barbara Mc Cann, Joseph Melancon, Moe Mitchel, Florence Putterman, Vicky Randall, Dasha Reich, Anthony Rice, Craig Rubadoux, Helen Sawyer, Syd Solomon, Ben Stahl, David Steiner, Julie Trigg, Thorton Utz and Susan Zukowsky

“Coast” by Barbara McCann, Acrylic/Oil on Canvas, Courtesy of the Dabbert Gallery

Featured in the Main Galleries is the open, all media, juried show “It’s Political” which was timed to coincide with this year’s election. This juried exhibition invites artists to challenge themselves and create a special politically themed piece. Artists have always been the ones to hold a mirror up to society in an effort to bring about change and this exhibition is sure to hold true to that tradition. Jurors for this exhibition are Marty Fugate, Arts Writer for the Herald Tribune & Kim Russo Working Artist and Former Head of the Ringling College Fine Arts Department. Art Center Sarasota has invited politicians running in the current election to greet guests at the opening reception on October 18, which is free and open to the public from 5-7pm. Lite bites will be provided by Jimmy Johns and the DeSoto Beach Club. Confirmed politicians who will be attending the opening include: Liz Alpert, John Torraco, Ed Brodsky, Greg Steube, Adam Tebrugge, Doug Holder and a representative for Ray Pilon.

In Gallery 3 is an exhibition by the Sarasota, Florida Chapter of the Sumi-é Society of America. This exhibit runs from October 18 – November 9, 2012.

(A new Exhibition, “The Curated Unknowns” will be in this gallery from November 14 – December 7, 2012)
The Sumi-é (or “ink painting” in Japanese) Society of America’s mission is to foster and encourage an appreciation of East Asian brush painting techniques and serve as a cultural bridge between East and West. This exhibition showcases the talents of Sarasota’s Sumi-é Society. As a part of the exhibition, artists involved in this show will also be hosting a special lecture about Sumi-é painting and its history, as well as a demonstration on November 2 at 2pm.

These exhibitions were paid for in part by the Sarasota County Tourist Development Tax Revenues
Art Center Sarasota | 707 N. Tamiami Trail | Sarasota 34236 | 941-365-2032 |

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Artists Who Made Sarasota Famous & The Story of the Sarasota Art Association

JANUARY 19, 2012 – March 10, 2012
Recognizing over 40 artists who established Art Center Sarasota as a dynamic and vital community art center, and chronicling the Art Association’s formative years through photography and unique memorabilia.

JANUARY 19, 2012 – March 10, 2012
Art Center Sarasota

Judy Axe in ACS galleries 1950s

Artists That Made Sarasota Famous exhibition will be on display in the Center’s Gallery One, recognizing over 40 artists who established Art Center Sarasota as a dynamic and vital community art center. These creative pioneers were the artistic force responsible for putting Sarasota on the map as one of Florida’s most vibrant cultural destinations. The exhibition offers a rich sampling of works by artists who settled into Sarasota and were active in the Sarasota Art Association during its early heyday. These works are on loan from the artists, their families, and local collectors. Among the varied subjects are portraits, landscapes, still life, non-representational and circus themes.

LBK Bridge - 1950s plein air classes instructor Robert Chase

The legacy of early Sarasota artists John Armstrong, Jack Cartlidge, Julio De Diego, Jerry Farnsworth, William Hartman, George Kaiser, Robert Larson, Hilton and Dorothy Leech, Frank Rampolla, Guy Saunders, Syd Solomon, Eric von Schmidt, Ben Stahl and others will be honored. Many of the artists on exhibit still reside in the Sarasota area today, including Beth Arthur, Judy Axe, Robert Chase, Fiore Custode, George Fox, Marty Hartman, Roy Nichols, Craig Rubadoux and Jan Silberstein.

Sarasota Art Association -Today' Art Center Sarasota 1964

The Story of the Sarasota Art Association 1926 – 1966 (today’s Art Center Sarasota) exhibition on display in the Center’s Gallery Two chronicles the Art Association’s formative years through photography and unique memorabilia. The focus of the exhibition is to tell the story of the vital connection between Sarasota’s Community Art Center, the artists’ community, the Ringling School of Art (today’s Ringling College of Art and Design), the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art and the Sarasota community, providing insight into the sensibility of the time. This exhibition will feature a series of bold and richly illustrated graphic displays telling Art Center Sarasota’s colorful story from its inception in 1926 through 1966. The exhibition includes an illustrated historical timeline and accompanying photographs. These exhibitions pay tribute to Art Center Sarasota’s success and spirit while celebrating its past achievements.

Sarasota Art Association- today's Art Center Sarasota -Original Building 1950s

This exhibition is curated by Heidi Anderson Connor, and co-curated by Mark Ormond. Connor is a certified archivist and Historical Collections Manager. She is a freelance archivist working with the Sarasota County History Center and the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. She studied at Ringling College of Art & Design in the 70s, and spent 12 years as assistant to the American sculptor John Chamberlain. Connor was the Curator/Archivist for the Museum of Television and Radio exhibition, The Gentleman Giant: Leonard H. Goldenson, and the executor of the estate of artist David Budd. She completed her graduate work at USF and has a BFA from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, FL.

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Mark Ormond is currently the Curator of Exhibitions for Ringling College of Art and Design, has over 30 years of experience in the art world, and has organized, coordinated, designed and installed numerous museum exhibitions. Ormond has also edited, authored and contributed to many brochures, catalogues and publications on artists including Robert Rauschenberg, Francesco Clemente, Robert Thiele and Yayoi Kusama. He has held positions at the Miami Art Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. As an independent curator, author, lecturer and consultant since 1999, Ormond remains engaged in a broad range of contemporary art projects.