In January 1941, Robert Daniel (Danny) Ricketts was born in southern Virginia. His parents and four older siblings soon left their log cabin in Pittsylvania County and moved back to the city of Danville, where Danny attended school and began painting.
He graduated from George Washington High School, where he won scholastic awards for his artwork, in 1960 and served in the Air Force in Turkey for four years, after which he returned to Danville and began a career with the U.S. Post Office. He married his wife Nancye in 1968 and the couple had their three children — Jo, Bobby and Paul — all by 1973.
Since that time, Danny has run an antique shop; done so much historical research that he’s known as a “local historian“; moved to Broken Arrow, OK, to attend Rhema Bible Training Center; traveled to India, Israel and Turkey (again); retired from the post office; and been blessed with six grandchildren. All along, he continued drawing, carving and painting.
An Interview with the Artist
Q: When did you start making art? What was your first piece?
Danny: It seems the first that I have were done in the fourth grade in 1951. Mrs. Hamilton Vass, my art teacher, encouraged me and my grandmother Jones next door always raved about my drawings and paintings. My parents bought me a set of oils, watercolors and tempera colors. I think my son Bobby has most of those early works in 1951 and 1952. I think the first work was the pink rose which my grandmother loved and kept on her bedroom wall until she died in July 1969 (the month before my daughter Jo was born).
Q: Who are your favorite artists?
Danny: Picasso. He was so original and used colors and composition to perfection. He produced thousands of works of all types over a long period, and there are not many that I don’t like. Actually, I don’t like all of my works. I have destroyed a few which were very bad. Watercolors and pastels are especially difficult to correct, especially it the work gets too dark.
Q: If you had to choose one (or several) of your pieces as your favorites, which would you choose and why?
Danny: The “Dolmabache Ferry Boat” is one of my favorites. In December 1961, the Air Force sent me to Karamursel Air Station in Turkey. Almost every weekend, I traveled to Istanbul. The Air Force had regular bus service to Yalova, a town about 20 miles east to coincide with the ferry service to Istanbul. From there the ferry trip of about 30 miles took about an hour and twenty minutes. The cost of the ticket was 35 cents. The second or third best hotel in town was only $2 a night. A room at the Istanbul Hilton was $7.50 or double that on the view of the Bosphorus side. Constantinople (Istanbul since the Muslims took over) was the capital of the world for almost a thousand years. I loved walking the streets.
Q: Who has inspired you most with your art?
Danny: At the beginning it would be Mrs. Vass. She was a very distinguished and kind lady who knew how to encourage people. Her husband operated a leading hardware store on Main Street. My family always helped with encouragement and support.
Q: Which form of art do you like most?
Danny: Most of my early works were watercolors and pen and ink drawings. Oil colors are very expensive and take weeks or months to dry. I have sold only a few of my original works, so the expense probably is part of the reason I never did my paintings. Then, too, my walls and closets have many of my works. I still remember the smell of turpentine and linseed oil from my few oil paintings during the early 1950s.
Q: What is your artistic process? Do you plan things out, or just go with the flow?
Danny: Sometimes there is a plan, but often not. And often the plan changes after I get into the painting. Especially the abstracts; I have a basic plan but the finished product is nothing like it started to be.
Q: What medium is your favorite to work with?
Danny: Acrylics is probably best for me. I like to quickly finish and go to another work. Often when I more time on a painting the over correction hinders the end product more than it helps. I like different textures. Recently I have used some burlap with a coarse texture and finely woven cloth glued to wood for a fine texture as compared to standard stretched canvas. On some of my abstracts, I used applications of burlap or heavy wire fence to extend the image and produce a three-dimensional effect. I have studied colors and composition for many years. I try to use pleasing and complementary colors and composition, which bring unity to the finished work. I try to used curved lines which lead the eye away from the edge of the painting and toward the inside or center of the work.