Artisan Spotlight: Rick Caballo
Artist Rick Caballo shows off his penchant for many mediums in an exhibit next month.
Written By: Megan O’Neill
Every wrinkle on Keith Richards’ face tells a story: genetics, environmental damage, and a few bad habits. For artist Rick Caballo, who looks beyond the physical boundaries of his portrait subjects, it’s the wrinkles that give his art meaning. He won’t paint anyone who doesn’t inspire him, so the Wollongong, Australia, native captures the essence of Bono, Willie Nelson, Steven Tyler, Mick Jagger, and others on canvas.
At his core, Caballo is an artist. But that art form varies from day to day. He’s a photographer, currently shooting Patty Loveless, George Strait, Lionel Richie, Reba McEntire, and dozens of others for Nashville producer Tony Brown’s forthcoming coffeetable book. He’s a fashion designer, with labels that dress Steven Tyler and Miranda Lambert. He’s a musician and prolific songwriter. And, most importantly, he’s someone who understands the value of packaging it all together—the value of a brand.
“The most important thing that I’ve learned is that the branding needs to be tight,” Caballo says. “You need to sell a message. The branding, at the end of the day, is your identity.”
His identity is shaped by music, something that will be on display during an exhibit at The Factory at Franklin on April 1. Caballo’s acrylic renditions of rock legends will be showcased alongside his photography and a few new portraits: a Jimi Hendrix rendition and a Ringling-Brothers-meets-David-Bowie concept piece. His portraiture, staked in pop and rock culture, balances rendered subjects between realism and hints of caricature.
Caballo’s art is not the result of classroom training, although he credits his work in several trades as a direct influence. The airbrush-aesthetic seen often in his work was cultivated on a motocross track, where, as young rider in Australia, Caballo would airbrush helmets. He’s worked in screen printing, graphic design, sign painting, manufacturing, neon, and Egyptian letter block. “It’s all evident now in my techniques. Whether it’s fashion design, painting, writing a song, it’s all influenced by that period of learning,” he says.
Today’s Rick Caballo is an expansion of everything he’s absorbed along the way. Along with his fiancé and business partner, Melissa Core, the two launched Dead Horse Branding in 2015 to provide creative art and branding directive to others in the industry. This year, they’ve teamed with Brown and John Mason to launch Velvet Stone Management, a one-stop-shop management company.
“Fashion, art, music,” he says, “for me, everything leans on each other for inspiration.”