CANDID Interview: Ron Draper is next level, he does what he wants

This year New York artist Ron Draper is celebrating the one year mark since he opened his gallery, The Draper Space. One of my favorite things to do is to visit artists in their element, while they’re creating. I’ve been doing this with Ron before he had his workshop in the South Bronx. Some times his workshop was his apartment, or even while he was working on a client’s wall. We’ll pass each other ideas from our respective industries, discuss goals – all while he saws, paints, and plans his next masterpiece.

My last visit to The Draper Space was the same, only with new pieces on the wall and a year of memories behind us. Read on for a candid interview with Ron Draper on getting to that next level and his evolution as an artist.

What are some things you’ve learned since having your own space as an artist and a businessman?

“For one, I can work a lot bigger. It’s like fish, the bigger tank you put them in – the bigger ones you can have. People feel like you’re more validated if you have your own gallery space. Conceptually it’s the same type of work, but the craftsmanship is much different. I couldn’t do this level of work at home. I couldn’t use machines like this at home. So these machines and tools make the process a lot better. I’ve learned that this is not an easy process. Things take time, and it’s a lot of work taking care of a space. Time management is a huge thing too. Then you also learn how to do a lot of things because you don’t want to wait on people.”

What’s your strategy on positioning yourself to get to your next level?

“It’s all about initiative. Any position you want, you’re already doing that job. Take initiative and you create leverage. It’s about what you’ve been doing versus what you can do. If you want something to happen, do it first. Then people will notice, and you can exercise your leverage. Be what you want to be, the title will catch up later.”

From what you’ve seen as a beginner to where you are now, where would you say is the split between young people who are collecting art and those who want the event experience?

“I’ve never really pushed to sell the work. If you know how to appreciate it, everything else follows. You have to understand what people do – what they put into the work. I have to educate clients like once a week.  Like any business, as the artist grows so does the price. No way in hell I’m charging what I used to.They have to understand that art appreciates. My job is to make sure the piece you purchased is worth more now than when you purchased it. You have a responsibility as a consumer and I have a responsibility as an artist. This isn’t a hobby. I’m not just some artist who’s not going to be here next year after you buy. I’m still going to be here, and you’re going to be glad you bought. You’re not just buying my art, you’re buying a piece of me for the rest of my life.”

How have you been evolving here since you’ve been working in The Draper Space?

“I can experiment a lot more. Before I had things that I would think about, yet never do because I didn’t have the space. I can destroy a wall, patch it right back up, and you’ll never know. All the things I thought were too crazy to do at someone’s house – I don’t have to be conservative anymore. I can create something that’s crazy and just put it on my wall. I don’t always have to sell it to someone else. I can do what I want. No one tells me no. Nothing has to be approved. No one has to see a concept sketch. When you talk crazy things people can’t see your vision. You have to sell them on it. Certain things just don’t make sense until you see it.”

What about merging the space with your education side?

“I’ll teach art workshops, sure. I haven’t had the time, but I’m getting back into teaching classes to people that need them. I don’t want it to be people drinking and painting all day. That’s not what my class is about. My class will be about creative expression, self expression, things that make you feel better. Yeah, sip and paint is cool, but everyone leaves with the same shit. I hate that. What’s the point? You’re learning to do something someone else is doing. You’re supposed to tap into something that you have.

I love working with teenage boys because they’re going through so much shit. I love helping them find some kind of control within the chaos – clarity within the confusion. You’d be surprised the way we take stuff from media, and they take it totally different. They digest it differently. You have to train them to understand these things. That’s really only understood when you’re creating. Literacy, if you look up the definition, is the ability to read and write. Art literacy should be the same. You’re able to read it, because you can write (create) it. You can only really read because you know how to write. You have to be able to create the work to be able to absorb the work. So there are people that only know how to create, and not read it because they only look at it from their perspective.”

So how do you get to that level where you’ve changed your perspective?

“Talking to people. I’m always here working on my things, but I’m just spending time with other artists. I’ve been getting out a lot more, just talking and learning. The same way people get around me, I get around other people. You’re all looking at each other’s work the same way. The world’s are different. That’s how perspectives are broadened. I learned to broaden my perspectives through the arts and not just being an artist. I’m learning how other people see the world.”

What’s next for you and The Draper Space?

“Having more events here. I haven’t had the time. I’d like to turn it to be more experience based as opposed to people coming in for a show every six months – potentially showing other artist’s work. Here, right now it’s just about creation. And that’s what the purpose of the space is – to build shit.”

Ron debuted these new pieces at his anniversary celebration. Tap the photo to see the next. 

photos by Gynai Kristol

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Jasmine is a founding partner and Creative Director for The CLP. Her passions for journalism and storytelling are what inspire her to advocate for young creative professionals, and the stories they have to share with the world.