Richardson focuses on details, evoking emotions
By St. Clair Murraine
As a crowd gathered to check out an art exhibit by painter Eluster Richardson, a muscular young man wearing a shirt with cut-off sleeves stood in front of a painting in the display. It was a cherished piece that featured the painter’s mother.
It held sentimental significance for Richardson because the portrait is one that he did with the intent of keeping his mother’s legacy alive, he said.
Naturally, Richardson didn’t quite appreciate that the young man was blocking everyone’s view of the drawing. But the husky-looking young man, who seemingly was out of place by his dress, was captivated.
Tears flowed down his cheeks. Richardson asked him why. The young man explained the drawing was an exact image of his mother.
The drawing had done exactly what keeps Richardson, a Tallahassee native, honing a craft that he’d been practicing since childhood.
“He was close to breaking down,” Richardson said. “That’s the kind of feeling I want to bring forth from my audience.
“That tells the story and that’s the emotion I want. My feelings come through me to my audience and if they can feel it that’s fine. It’s not just to look pretty or that type of thing. I just want to tell a story of emotions.”
Richardson’s work has been capturing the attention of audiences around the country, especially in Florida. One of his exhibits recently caught the eyes of Gov. Rick Scott, who last week honored him with a Black History featured artist award.
It’s the second time that Richardson has received the honor from a governor, the first being from Jeb Bush 10 years ago.
“It’s an honor to be recognized,” said Richardson, 65. “Whether you’re a visual artist or performing artist like a musician, every opportunity you get, you want to let people know of your talent so I’m honored to accept that.”
The same exhibit that got Scott’s attention is currently on display at the Capitol and will be there on the 22nd floor until March 30. The exhibit called “May I have this dance” features a collection of cultural dances.
The Capitol isn’t the biggest stage for Richardson. He was once commissioned to render a portrait of Clarence Cameron White, a renowned 20th-century violinist from Clarksville, Tenn. He also was invited to show his art as part of a midwife series at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.
Closer to home, the Riley House and the Gadsden Arts Center have been huge supporters of Richardson.
As far as his work has gotten, he had a sense of purpose for delving into being a professional artist. Not long after his daughter, Jasmine, was born, he intensified his effort to get his work sold. The money, he said, supplemented the income he made while working at Centel before the company became Sprint.
Jasmine has since become her father’s primary model, a job that she said demands an understanding of her father’s passion for details. Some of the pieces featured in “May I have this dance,” were painted using her skin and muscle tone.
“I try to do exactly what he tells me to do. It’s all based on what he envisions,” said Jasmine.
Many of his drawings that feature dancers come from performances that he’s seen, Richardson said.
Jasmine has accompanied him several times to get the essence of the piece that he would paint.
“It’s amazing just seeing him going to the different events and being a part of history,” she said, adding that she’s seen her father get better with every painting.
But Richardson was very good early on. He was so proficient at his craft that he’d been chosen to do courtroom and fashion illustrations.
Some of Richardson’s art appears to be photograph-like, a feature that he said he gets from making details his focus.
“Observing the details and what makes a scene a scene,” he said is what makes his work attractive. “It’s telling a story through my paintings, through the little things that people look over sometimes. I bring to the forefront those types of things.”
He does that without formal training. It’s a family trait, he said. However, he is the only one who has taken the art of painting as far as he has. It’s a passion he said he has had since he was a student at Lincoln High School in the 1960s and later when he attended TCC and Lively Tech.
Even when he was drafted to the military, painting remained a passion, he said, adding that he sometimes put as many as several months in a single painting.
“It’s not boring to me because of the passion of being able to capture something like that is a thrill,” he said. “The average person might say playing golf is so boring until you start playing.
“Until you learn the value and the passion of art, it’s not boring at all. It’s the challenge of capturing personalities, time, effort and telling a story pictorially of a thing for history to view. It’s hard to imagine going without it or quitting.”