Ricky Mujica - My Story
Artist Ricky Mujica, was born in New York City and raised on the Upper West Side. He is of Dominican/Cuban descent. His mother was an amateur artist, who as a teen, received a scholarship to study art in Germany. Sadly, Ricky’s grandmother, did not let his mother pursue her passion for art thanks to antiquated ideas about gender roles. That experience made Ricky’s mother extremely supportive of Ricky and his little brother, (George “Sen One” Morillo), and their passion for art.
At the age of 15, Ricky Mujica entered the High School of Art and Design. It was there that he began to paint from life. While in the eleventh grade, Ricky’s best friend Mark Texiera, introduced Ricky to the legendary “Old Hat Painting Club”. This was an early morning painting group run by two modern masters, Irwin Greenberg and Max Ginsburg. The students were a mix of Art and Design graduates, and undergraduates, They would arrive at school before 6AM, to wait for the janitor to open the school, so they could run up to room 416 and paint from life. There were no credits for this class and no pay for the teachers. It was solely a labor of love, both on the teacher’s part and on the student’s part.
Ricky Mujica continued to paint at the High School of Art and Design “Old Hat Club” even after graduation, until the powers that didn’t understand what a special thing this was, cut an hour off morning access to the school, and banned graduate students from the coming to the class.
In the summer between 11 th and 12 th grade, a group of Old Hat Clubbers led by Steven Assael, continued the Old Hat Club. They gathered on summer mornings, in a dance studio on 56st and 8 th ave to paint from life. While in 12 th grade, Harvey Dinnerstein, after seeing Ricky’s High School senior work, invited Ricky to attend his college Senior drawing class at School of Visual Arts. For the remainder of the school year Ricky continued to go to Harvey Dinnerstein’s class, once a week, after school.
Also in the 12 th grade, Ricky became part of a mural class that was taught by Max Ginsburg. This class of 8 students met everyday, after school, to work on 4 feet by 4 feet murals. Each student had their own mural, they had their own concepts based on the idea of “A day in the life of a student”, they designed, painted, and composed them themselves, and did all the work from life. Max Ginsburg received no extra compensation and the students received no credits. But the Board of Education gave Max Ginsburg the Teacher of the Year Award, and most of the students including Ricky Mujica, got full scholarships.
Ricky graduated from High School on the honor roll at the top of the class, and after high school, Ricky continued his art education at Parsons School of Design /New School for Social Research where he received a full scholarship and graduated on the Dean’s list. Notable teachers at Parsons were Kes Zapkus, David Passalacqua, Robert Levering, Randall Enos, and Keith Long.
While at Parsons School of Design, Ricky received a Dean’s Scholarship to study at Parsons in Paris, where he was lucky enough to have Keith Long as a teacher once again. Upon graduating from Parsons, Ricky pursued his dream to be a fine artist while supporting himself with illustration assignments from major publishing companies. Soon he was doing illustrations for every major publishing company including Harlequin, Bantam, Dell/DoubleDay, Simon and Schuster, Little Brown and Company, Harper Collins, and others.
Ricky has also created illustrations for New York Times Magazine, Ebony Magazine, and Cherry 7-UP to name a few. He has painted murals for Sony and Leows theaters, and has made paintings used on clothes for fashion designers Rachel Roy and Diane Von Furstenberg. His artwork has been presented at the Museum of American Illustration on several occasions.In the early 90’s, Ricky was involved in the now legendary Whitney Protest. Dozens of American Realist Painters picketed the Whitney Museum, protesting the Museum’s bias against representational work in their Whitney Biennial. Ricky wrote one of the speeches delivered to the media by one of the artists.
Due to his frustration with negative attitudes to realism in the 80’s and 90’s, Ricky frequently took detours into the world of performance art. Break Dancing took him to Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Holland, France, and Africa. Musical Theater took him to Germany, Japan, Australia, Mexico, Canada, and on a US tour highlighted by performances at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, one of which was attended by the President of the United States. He was a member of the cast of several companies of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Starlight Express. Ricky traveled to Canada as a boxer and was a finalist in the New York State Golden Gloves where he won “Fighter of the Night”, and was a quarter-finalist in the Metropolitan Games.
In 1999, Ricky quit art all together and made his living, for the next couple of years, as the stand-up comic also known as Mookie.
In 2004, Ricky returned to illustration and had immediate success. In 2008, he began to make his way back to his first love, Fine Art. In 2014, Ricky completely left the world of illustration in order to focus completely on traditional painting. Since his return to Fine Art, Ricky Mujica has received many awards, including a first place at the April round of The Representational Art Conference 2015 competition (TRAC2015), where his work was exhibited. He has been a finalist and a certificate of merit recipient in the Portrait Society of America International competition. He has placed on several occasions in it’s members competitions. He has been a finalist in the OPA National, Regional and members competitions, the Salmagundi Club members and non-members competitions, the Allied Artists Competitions, the National Oil and Acrylic Painters National competitions, the Richeson Competitions, the Artist Magazine figurative art competitions, and the ARC International Salon Competitions, he won an Art Expo Solo Award, and he received an Honorable Mention in the Figurativas competition in Barcelona (and had his painting printed in the Figurativas catalog). Most recently, Ricky won the Florence and Ernest Thompson Memorial Award at the 103 Allied Artists Exhibition.
As a fine artist, Ricky looks to Rembrandt, Velasquez, and Kathe Kollwitz for inspiration. Ricky aligns himself with the PoCo art movement and it’s aesthetic philosophy of “Skill, Creativity, and Empathy”. He considers himself a “Dramatic Realist” and often taps into his experiences from the world of “performance art” when organizing a painting.
He has already given several demos and talks and was a guest painting teacher at the Art Student’s League in 2016. He has penned painting how-tos for International Artist Magazine and several online forums. He is a ambassador for Michael Harding paints. A member of the Portrait Society of America, The Art Renewal Center, the OPA, the National Oil and Acrylic Painters Society, and the Cecilia Beaux Society.
His painting titled “Multitasking” has been shared hundreds of thousands of times on social media, and has become the subject of countless blog articles. It remains very popular as a giclee.
He has made several portraits of famous people and he is proud to have been one of the artists selected to create a post-humus portrait of one of the Emanuel Nine in Charleston. The portrait was unveiled for the family members and the public at the prestigious Principle Gallery.
When not painting, Ricky prefers to spend his time with his beautiful wife Heather Harlan, his daughter Violet Mujica, and his son Julian Mujica. They are his muses, and his favorite subject.