With his quiet demeanor, laid back temperament and boyish features, it’s easy to imagine contemporary artist Ricardo Moody as a child, arms and elbows atop a table, engrossed in his drawings. The artist could easily go unnoticed in a crowded room, except that his personal style speaks volumes.
When I arrive at Ricardo’s home, he is wearing a Hurley x Tim Hendricks tee, red vintage Nike low tops, a Milkcrate Athletics 5-panel hat and hipster approved denim. I didn’t know God made teachers like this. He is way cooler (and cuter) than the schoolmarmish educators who walked my high school’s halls.
Born in Orlando, Fla., to an American mother and Nicaraguan father, Ricardo is self taught. He works in multiple mediums: acrylic, pastels, watercolor, gouache, but he favors a ballpoint pen and paper above all.
The artist spent most of his young adult life living in Denver with a bird’s eye view of the majestic Rocky Mountains and Colorado’s peaceful wildernesses. He didn’t have a car and made the most of Colorado’s great outdoors: skateboarding, hiking, going to city parks. Those natural wonders became a theme in his earlier works that he continues to draw inspiration from daily. Take a look at his Patterns and Mind’s Eye series on his website. These paintings feel simultaneously free-spirited and grounded, just like being in nature.
Ricardo and his wife Sally, a social worker, have been married for 11 years. They returned to Hattiesburg four years ago to be closer to family. The honorary Southerner’s days are spent teaching art appreciation, advanced drawing and pottery at Presbyterian Christian School (PCS).
Moody is not your traditional teacher, in look or in practice. In his unorthodox classroom, he doesn’t use a textbook, develops his own lesson plans, learns alongside his students (as in, learning to throw pottery) and frequently brings his own paintings to the classroom, meaning his students get to experience a real, living, breathing, working artist — an invaluable experience for the 7th – 12th graders at PCS.
What he enjoys most about his day job is helping students flesh out art projects, drawings, paintings, installations and pieces of pottery that at first may seem unrealizable or impossible to create.
“I remember my art teacher, especially in middle school, being such a positive influence. I want to help my students gain an appreciation for art,” Ricardo said.
Working with children, being a teacher, is a gift and a talent. I wonder if Ricardo also sees a bit of himself in his students, those defiant adolescents, awkward teenagers with hormones raging and aspirations awakening. Moody is in fact a late bloomer. He says it wasn’t until he was working at Kaleidoscope Corner, Denver Public Schools’ licensed after school program, that he rediscovered his passion for drawing.
“I took the lead on art projects there,” he explained. “I was 30 years old and suddenly remembered how much I loved drawing as a kid.”
With encouragement from his supportive wife and a deep-rooted determination to succeed, he made the decision to become a working artist. He’s 38 now and doing exactly that. Nights and weekends, he paints as much as possible. Travel, whether local or long distance, keeps him re-energized and inspired in his work.
The couple look forward to their monthly trip down I-59 to New Orleans for the city’s HiVolt Coffee on Magazine Street — Ricardo’s a cold brew or ‘pour over’ kind of guy — and for luscious Creole cuisine and window shopping. Moody admits to finding heaps of inspiration in the artful visual merchandising of the Big Easy’s boutiques.
“I love going in Anthropologie, while my wife is shopping, and looking at the in-store installations and window displays,” he admitted.
Wynwood Walls in Miami’s Wynwood Arts District also serves as a gritty and colorful muse. The graffiti and street art epicenter happens to be a hop, skip and jump away from Ricardo’s parents who live in Florida.
“Because we visit so close to Art Basel [each December], we get to see a lot of fresh stuff, some of the work is not even finished,” he said.
This past summer, Sally and Ricardo took an all-American road trip. Starting in Hattiesburg, they drove to San Diego then 11 hours north to Mendocino, taking in California’s awe-inspiring jagged coastline, seaside surfer towns and otherworldly redwood forests along the way. Moody and his wife certainly know how to enjoy the journey. The industrious artist said that after a trip like that, he can work for months.
Ways of Knowing, Moody’s most recent series, reflects his search for beauty in his current surroundings. His goal with these paintings is to bring those beautiful objects, whatever they may be, to life on canvas. His home, which also serves as his studio, is full of mid-century accent pieces, paintings from flea markets, an authentic library card catalog and a collection of modish owl figurines. But it’s his wife’s wide variety of healthy houseplants that he is painting now.
In June, the artist’s first large scale mural was completed as part of The Glass House Collective’s public art programs. Glass House Collective, based in East Chattanooga, chose Moody to adorn an entire side of their black office building with graphic white lines.