A Few Words with Hoboken Artist, Ricardo Roig

by Christian Milcos

Art consumes every aspect of Ricardo Roig’s life. There is simply nobody who personifies the Hoboken art scene better than this teacher turned full-time artist. Between managing his own studio and showcasing in a separate gallery, the Hoboken native supplies his community with a healthy dose of his craft. 

Most impressively, Roig has pioneered his own art-making process; the hand-cut print. This calls for the carving of paper stencils through the use of an X-Acto knife. The layering of a multitude of stencil shapes and colors results in a truly unique form of expression. His collections include a variety of pieces displaying the finest of Northeastern American cities. 

Roig’s social media presents a good sampling of his work, as well as providing bright imagery that is sure to liven up any feed. He can be found @roigcollection on Instagram and at his website, roigcollection.com.

You went from teaching to pursuing art full-time. What played into this decision?

The decision was literally made for me, thankfully. My principal, colleagues, parents of my students, supervisor, members of the school board were all purchasing my art⁠—it was really so much love all around for the things I was making. I couldn’t really be the art teacher my students needed with so much demand for my work. I was working as a teacher from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and then running the Art Gallery in Hoboken from 4-8 and then making art from 9-2 or 3 a.m. I was on this cycle for a number of years but then the calls started to come during school hours and the opportunities for meetings came during the day as well. It was time to put both feet in and just go for it. Financially it made sense too. 

[I spoke with] my wife’s cousin Damon, who has an MBA, and he explained to me that the income I was making as an artist outweighed the compensation as a teacher. The hours of my art were providing a lot of income and the hours of my teaching were taking away from it. I loved teaching though and I loved the kids, but he was right to help me see that I needed to do what’s best to provide for my family so that I too could enjoy and actually have time to be with them.

Then, when we were thinking about it, the W Hoboken offered me an opportunity to be their resident artist and run a second gallery for my work in Hoboken. The choice was made. I do miss teaching but I still have one virtual student who I work with and well, my almost 2-year-old son loves to color with me too.

You created your own form of art; hand-cut prints. In an age where freedom of expression is so rampant, how did you come up with a process that was truly yours? Did you take inspiration from any other artists when developing this form?

That’s a really amazing question. I wouldn’t say I created my own form of art, but I’ve developed my own process for it. After leaving Art School (Maryland Institute College of Art) where I learned painting and most all other forms of printmaking, it wasn’t until I went to get my teaching degree that I enrolled in a screen printing class. In the intro project, the teacher said to cut shapes out of paper and then layer them through a screen. I fell in love immediately and didn’t want to learn the other techniques. The teacher saw my obsession turning 2-D into the illusion of 3-D and let me run with it⁠—just doing the hand-cuts. I guess you don’t really “come up with something” as you say, you really just need to fall in love with something. I fell in love with cutting paper to make shapes and then pushing ink to fill in those shapes and layer them. I just haven’t stopped for 14 years.

For sure you take inspiration from so many artists in order to “see.” Ideas inspire ideas. Visions inspire visions. Manet, DeGas, Picasso, Jonas Wood, Fairfield Porter. I’m an Impressionist at heart⁠—creating my own rebellion or movement. The hand-cut prints are a combination of inspired Japanese woodblock prints and French Impressionism. Since I haven’t found another artist exploring what I’m doing to the depth I’m doing it, you don’t really pull inspiration from other artists, but from life.

I’m inspired by my wife Michelle, by my son Ricardito Hagop, my mom, sisters, my family and friends and collectors. The colors of life inspire my work and when I want to play with a new aesthetic, I will certainly look to other artists from the art history books for sure⁠—but nothing really contemporary besides Jonas Wood.

You’ve painted several murals that can be seen throughout Hoboken. Were these projects something that you took upon yourself to pursue or were you hired to paint them?

I’ve made two murals in Hoboken and working on a third and largest soon with the Monroe ArtsCenter. The Michael Chang Hoboken Hero mural was commissioned by the City. The Napoli’s mural started by me just stopping in for pizza and I mentioned to Frank, the owner, that his wall would be perfect for a mural. He asked me if I would like to do it and I said for sure. It was my first mural and thanks to him for believing in me.

That was only two years ago and since I’ve made 11. Two for Amazon and one of my collectors just recommended me to Facebook for a mural for their office. It’s so amazing to have people push for you like this and like Frank did. I’m completing my third mural for the new Hilton Hotel in downtown Jersey City too and it’s all thanks to Frank for giving me the opportunity of the first wall.

What aspects of Hoboken did you want to capture in the murals?

I’ve evolved the hand-cut process for the murals. They are really painted but stenciled. Layer by layer just like my prints, but instead of screen printing⁠—you spray paint through the cut openings. Brick is actually soft with paint on it and works great when cutting your paper directly on it. In the Michael Chang mural I wanted to capture his youth, courage, athleticism and grit. It was also the largest I’ve ever made, being 40 square. In the Hoboken Napoli’s mural, I wanted to capture different perspectives/iconic scenes from the Mile Square. You have Court Street, Downtown, Waterfront, Path Station and Lackawanna Tower. I aspire to take the eyes on a ride to steal the heart and give people the happy feeling I feel when I’m here in this great little city. It is all about feeling.

hoboken artist

Selects from Roig’s “Mile Square Series”

Have you ever sold to any famous collectors?

Currently, I’m working on a commission for Nate Solder (NY Giant) who lives in town. Nate and his wife, Lexi, have a wonderful foundation for which I’m creating a piece that encapsulates their mission for their cause. When the Michael Chang mural was revealed, Mr. Chang visited with his wife and children. It was really amazing to meet him and spend some time talking with him about his life’s path.

I’ve also created work for NYU, Amazon, Shake Shack, and even though I didn’t meet the owners, the work is with the Dean and in the offices. The Barry brothers who own the W Hoboken have a piece in their office as well and are super people for offering us a gallery space in the W Hoboken. The editor of “John Wick 3” is a collector too and we shipped a piece to his home in LA last year.

Which one of your series was most personal to you?

The most personal piece was the “Trumpeter.” Happy to share that it is now a sold-out edition as the last two available hand-cut prints were bought this month to long-time collectors in Ridgewood, NJ and Gallery 71 on the Upper East Side just placed the last piece today actually. I guess series-wise would be the Femme Series. It’s a series inspired by my hero’s (Manet, DeGas, Picasso, Sargent) works capturing women recreated in my process. “Femme de DeGas,” “Femme de Picasso”… “Femme de Sargent.”

Is there anything else you would like to plug? Perhaps something to promote pertaining to how the gallery has adapted over the course of the past several months?

With everything going on, I really find purpose in helping to raise money for causes that are in need. We’ve created “Art For Your Cause” —a Facebook group where I live auction art for sale and the winning bidder uses a percentage of the sale to donate directly to a cause of their choice. We’ve helped to raise a lot of money to help those in need and the collectors enjoy giving through art. It’s also a lot of fun how the auctions go—all in good spirits.

ricardo roig

A shot of the digital sketch for Roig’s third Hilton Mural (Art For Your Cause)

Also happy to add that I’m completing a third mural in the new Hilton Hotel in Downtown JerseyCity and they will also be showcasing my works on paper for a year which is exciting. I’m currently working on an 80-foot mural commissioned by the town of Westfield, NJ in July where I also have a gallery/studio. I would also like to share that I’m an official One Kings Lane Licensed Artist and OKL will be showcasing an exclusive collection I made for them on their site and in their stores in SoHo, Boston and Southampton, NY. Once this rollout happens they would like me to create art for their stores in LA and Denver. I want to share that I create one-of-a-kind commissioned pieces and if anyone is interested, please reach out.

You can connect with me in person safely in my studios at 257 First Street in Hoboken, 305 South Ave in West Westfield and our W Hoboken Gallery is set to reopen soon!

About the Author/s

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Christian Milcos is currently pursuing a degree in Communications at Marist College. After serving as Editor-In-Chief of his high school's newspaper for two years, he has since continued writing for a variety of blogs. His content has been featured on Fansided, Yahoo Sports and Bleacher Report.

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