We had the good fortune of connecting with Roger Henry and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Roger, any advice for those thinking about whether to keep going or to give up?
I think most freelancers ask themselves this question all the time. In all honesty, I think the answer comes down to fear. Fear keeps me going. The fear of what I think a 9-5 desk job somewhere would be like. I’m sure there are lots of people out there that enjoy that work. I am just not designed for it. I was in line at a hardware store once and overheard a rep behind the counter say to his co-worker “yeah, I’m just waiting to get approval for my week off for vacation.” The “getting approval” about sent me into an anxiety attack, but only getting a week off really nailed it for me. I love what I do and what I do blurs the line between work and play/vacation. I may not always have the money to go on a fantastic vacation for a week, but I get work that can take me to fabulous places for months on end. I love being able to decide last minute to just hop in the car and go somewhere and paint, no one’s approval needed. Plus at this point in my life I’m not sure I have the skill set to do anything else other than be an Artist.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am a portrait painter, though I do landscapes in my off time. I paint people and animals, mainly dogs. I get to combine my three favorite things with my work: dogs, art and travel. What could be better right?!?! My work has taken me places and into worlds and lives I never would have had the opportunity to had I not been an artist. I’ve gotten to meet Presidents, Ambassadors, Royalty, Actors and other Artists, all the while inside thinking “I’m just a starving artist from Kansas!!” something I’ll never shake even though I’m not so starving and have lived in Los Angeles for 26 years. I get welcomed into these very different worlds for a period of time where clients will share with me what is often the most important part of their lives, their children and/or their pets. I usually stay with my clients in order to get to know the subject of the portrait better. At some point within the process we go from being artist/client to being friends. I have received awards that I am very proud of but what makes me most proud with my work is the joy that it brings my client. Whenever I go through a stretch where I do not have a commission lined up and feel what do I have to show for my life, I go to my website and look at all the work I’ve created and think of the joy I have manifested into this world for my clients. It’s always a win when you can bring your client to tears with your work, tears of joy that is! I have been very fortunate that people respond to my work and I am forever grateful for that. That’s not to say I haven’t had challenges. Even with my successes I know that it’s not always going to be private jets, chateaus and country estates. The challenge is to not only enjoy those moments but to also enjoy the peanut butter and jelly moments in the studio when I am trying to figure out how to keep the lights on. There are many challenges within the work itself. Take dogs. In shooting reference for my paintings, some dogs are supermodels and really have it down on posing. Others can be very camera shy. You learn tricks to capture certain expressions or that sparkle in their eye. There is the challenge of getting the subject to be comfortable with you snapping photos, but also the challenge sometimes of a client who wants to help but ends up hovering and distracting the subject. In these cases I politely ask for one on one time with the subject. The fewer cooks in the kitchen the better. The subject ends up being less distracted. My goal is trying to capture that spirit of my subject, where you look at the portrait and see thought going on within the subject.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Definitely for a meal or two: Best Fish Tacos in Ensenada located on Hillhurst Ave in Los Feliz (not Ensenada). They are SO good and so cheap! I would take them for a hike up Runyon Canyon for views of Hollywood, pups, and the occasional celebrity. I would also take them down town to see old movie theaters and other buildings along Broadway, a tour around the fabric district, maybe a sunset rooftop cocktail or two at Perch off of Pershing Square.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My Shoutout would go to my friend and Rep Charlie Garnett, . We met back in 2001 as he was visiting LA from Paris. He had seen my work in House and Garden and wanted to have a look at my portfolio (pre website: rogerhenry.com days for me). He had three King Charles Cavaliers at the time. He loved my work, flew me to Paris where I shot reference photos to do portraits of the three KCC’s. He introduced me then to other clients who became close friends, and has continued to represent me and get me work in Europe, Australia and Hong Kong. He has a wonderful wit, a great appreciation for art, and an incredible love for animals. I am forever grateful for all he has done in my career and love him dearly!