Rick Midler is a collage artist based in Brooklyn, NY. His mixed media pieces feature worlds and characters made of clouds. He uses fine paper from Paper Source as his medium to help bring his work to life. Learn more and get an inside look behind his favorite pieces with our exclusive interview.  

What inspired you to work with paper? 

I grew up in the suburbs of Northern New Jersey in the 1970’s. My great grandmother’s house was always packed with cousins and an older generation who survived the Great Depression. They got through the poorest of times with humor and love and learned to take care of each other. I have fond memories of the antique wallpaper in that house as well as the modern patterns on the walls at Westmount Country Club where we spent our summers. When I get bogged down with self-doubt and feelings of isolation, memories of those places re-connect me with feelings of being accepted, nurtured and loved.

How did you make your way into the world of fine art?

I was lucky to have gone to college for art and enjoyed a fun, award-winning career in advertising. I was in awe of the artists and animators I hired for my projects and I committed to drawing one picture a day, eventually filling dozens of sketchbooks. My doodles were visual representations of my epiphanies about mindfulness and my sketchbook became my new comfort zone. Later, I showed a series of colorful oil paintings to a gallery owner and he offered to include my work in a show – but only if I had pieces like the black and white drawings in my sketchbooks. I successfully exhibited work in that style for years before returning to my passion for color and patterns. 

A Wander to the River by Rick Midler

How did you come up with the Cloudman Chronicles Series?

I’m obsessed with clouds. How they are always changing. How they spark our imaginations. Our lives are like clouds. We form, drift, take new shapes and eventually vanish. The new series is a record of events that occurred as a result of mindful awareness. Some subjects include meditating during a heavy rain, exploring a river with my sons and playing a djembe in the middle of nowhere, imagining the beats of the drum rising above the treeline. 

Out of all the mixed media pieces you have created using fine paper, which one is your favorite?

My favorite so far is called “The Isle of Calm.” The Cloudman is sitting on a small island in the middle of a lake. The trees surrounding him are majestic, each one different. I like to think that it’s part of a bigger story about people sitting in meditation at the same moment all around the world. I love the way the background paper creates a sky and its reflection in the water, and with the additions of the clouds the island seems to be floating in space.

The Isle of Calm by Rick Midler

Can you tell us about the inspiration behind this piece?

One of my favorite places in the world is Prospect Park in Brooklyn, NY. There’s a private spot by the lake where I like to sit in meditation. One day, there was another person meditating on an inlet across from me. The foreground pieces allow the viewers to feel as if they just discovered this scene as I did. I wanted to recreate the feeling I had at the time – noticing everything going on in a moment of nothingness.  

How did you choose the papers featured in this piece?

The Cloudman’s setting needed to be beautiful, magical and lush so I selected the colorful flowers on black fine paper. The mossy green and gold marbled sheet was chosen for its soft texture and swirls that felt like shadows and light through trees. Clouds and swirls cut from sparkle paper represent light and reflections and, when properly placed, entice the eye to move around the collage.

What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of creating mixed media?

The hardest part is working backwards. I create layer upon layer over the course of weeks and the pieces are constantly changing as I work. I don’t glue anything down until I’m happy with everything on the board. This makes it challenging to glue bottom or background elements first. And, since I use many different papers with various weights and textures in one piece, it’s not easy to know which adhesive will work best. I take time to test on scraps and learn as I go. 

Summoning Love Through the Skin of a Drum by Rick Midler

What direction do you plan on taking the series in the future?

The great thing about this series is that there’s never a lack of ideas to express. As long as I can twist a thought or moment into a positive feeling the Cloudman will be there to remind me of it. Stay tuned for a line of greeting cards that would also be frameable artworks. Of course, every artist dreams of working larger. A giant airport installation would be great. 

How would you like people to get in touch with you?

My full portfolio is on www.rickmidler.com. I also highly encourage people to follow me on instagram @rickmidler or The Art of Rick Midler on Facebook. I post a lot of content and works in progress. You can get show updates, schedule a virtual studio tour or request a private demonstration via email at info@rickmidler.com