Rand Kramer’s professional career got an unexpected early start. One day, during high school, a teacher asked him to draw a history-related mural on the back wall while the rest of the class studied the daily lesson. “After that,” he says, “I thought making art was pretty cool.”
And after graduating from the Maryland Institute College of Art, he was still ahead of the class. First employed by a DC-area advertising agency, where he worked on print and video projects, he then got hired by a video company doing 3D animation — his first taste of digital art and design. A few years later, Kramer bought his first Apple computer, and he and a friend started The New Media Group in Reston, Virginia. “We were one of the first companies in the area doing interactive multimedia,” he notes. When the Internet became “a thing,” he and his partner landed some dream clients. “We ended up designing and building David Bowie’s first website, and did some work on the Rolling Stones’ Voodoo [Lounge] Tour website,” Kramer reveals.
They went on to create Siteworx, a venture focused on design and technology with clients including General Electric, Time Warner Cable, and United Healthcare. “[It was] a relatively large company,” Kramer remarks understatedly, “with offices in eight major cities.”
But when this firm was purchased in 2012, Kramer returned to basics, a 30-year backstep, to make what he now refers to as “real” art. He bought some wood panels and took a few workshops in using oil and cold wax. Kramer likes to paint on wood because he can scrape and incise marks into the surface and even use an electric sander — a regular canvas could never survive such treatment. After all the years he spent in digital design, Kramer says, “I really enjoy the challenge of making something tactile.”
Still, he maintains that good digital design adheres to the same principles as contemporary painting, photography, architecture, or sculpture — “composition, value, contrast, and color” are important to both worlds. “My paintings are abstract and I think of them as a kind of visual poetry,” he adds. “They don’t have a specific meaning. They’re meant to evoke a positive and maybe spiritual reaction.”
Despite the many years he did digital, Kramer points out that such work has a short shelf life. He hopes his art today, made with organic uncertainty on an age-old surface, will stay around a while longer. The end is always a surprise: “I never know what will show up on the wood panels by the end of the day.
Rand Kramer Fine Art, Riverview Station (191 Lyman St., Studio 224, in the River Arts District). Kramer will be part of a three-person show, “Spontaneous Intention,” at Tryon’s Upstairs Artspace gallery, August 11 through September 2 (upstairsartspace.org), with a reception and artists’ talk on opening day from 5-7:30pm. His paintings will also be part of “Inspiration,” a show running September 8-22 at Mark Bettis Studio & Gallery in Asheville (123 Roberts St. in the RAD). For more information, call 703-901-2721 or see randkramerart.com.