|Times-Mirror Staff Photos/Beverly Denny
Leesburg artist Rick Tracy can make a painting in a few hours using both hands. Dozens of pieces depicting mostly people and animals adorn his walls. After studying art in college and pursuing careers first as a gym owner and bodybuilder, then as a computer systems analyst, he is following his dream of becoming a professional artist.|
Leesburg resident and aspiring artist Rick Tracy has separation anxiety.
After a stint as a business owner and now working as a computer systems analyst, the 55-year-old has come back to his life's passion – art.
He's created more than 70 paintings since April, crafting intricate portraits of animals, landscapes and people out of acrylic – his medium of choice.
But letting go of these works of art is another story.
"There's something weird about it. I feel like I'm in those paintings. I get into my zone and there I am," Tracy said. "… I can't even begin to describe it to you."
A Purcellville native, Tracy majored in art at Longwood University in Farmville while playing basketball.
After a year, a knee injury put Tracy out of the game, so he got into weight lifting.
For three months while he in a cast, he began to work on his upper body strength – an endeavor that paid off in a big way years later.
From 1992 to 2000, Tracy was the co-owner of Rick's Fitness Plus. At its peak, Tracy's gym had six locations in Frederick, Md. and Germantown, Md. In 1995 he won the Maryland State Bodybuilding Championship (master class, over age 35). He could bench press 440 pounds. In 1997, he self-published a book "Mind and Body."
Through it all, Tracy's love for art never died, but was put on the back burner as life – and the need for a steady paycheck – got in the way.
He left the fitness industry during the dotcom boom. Inspired by others who worked to fix computers, he called the transition into computer systems analysis in 2001 a natural fit.
Still, his natural talent kept calling him.
Ten years ago, a friend who knew of Tracy's artistic skills, asked him to draw a picture of her with her newborn baby together.
"It turned out perfect, if you would, and she gave me a couple of hundred dollars for that," Tracy said.
Still, it wasn't enough to pay the bills, so he continued working to earn that guaranteed paycheck.
But recently, Tracy knew it was time to kick his passion back into high gear.
"A friend came over and noticed my walls were bare. She said 'I've got a few paintings you can have if you want them' and I said 'No, I think I'll paint my own," he said. "So, I started painting."
Tracy can create a painting in a few hours – using both hands – from his kitchen, where he always works.
"I get in there and I get in the zone and I'm done," he said. "… I've talked to other artists and they say it takes them sometimes weeks to create a painting."
Tracy describes himself as a realist, but admits he most admires the work of Jackson Pollock – a artistic style he's playing with as well.
"I like it because there's no rules. There's no composition. It doesn't have to apply to any rules whatsoever. No color schemes. You just throw the color on there and enjoy it," he said.
But as a realist, Tracy paints what he sees, taking inspiration from pictures he enjoys and recreating them in his own fashion. Paintings of zebras, a monkey, a lion, ducks and a giraffe and a deer – his favorite – grace his walls. There's also the detailed portraits of faces, women with expressions of deep thought or agony on their faces.
His next project is to explore downtown Leesburg and recreate the buildings and the historic architecture.
Now that his passion has come full circle, Tracy believes it's never too late to live the life you want.
"I would like to actually be considered a professional artist. Just to have the talent and to have some work that's worthy of purchase," he said.