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From musician to fine artist

Ronald and Suzanne Houck open Studio 20, Lodi's newest Downtown gallery

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Posted: Saturday, January 9, 2010 12:00 am

What started as a plan to find a painting studio for painter Ronald Houck has turned into Lodi's newest fine art gallery, Studio 20, which opened this week at 20 Elm St. in Downtown Lodi. With its bright, freshly painted walls, studio lighting, hardwood floors and large window that allows natural light to flow in, Studio 20 will show largely figurative and abstract art. Though Houck is the resident artist, the gallery will also feature other Northern California artists.

The gallery is owned by Houck's wife, Suzanne, who is supportive of the arts and her husband who chose to go back to college to study art at the age of 50. She runs the family packaging business while Houck finishes a master of fine arts at California Academy of the Arts and teaches art as both a substitute and privately.

"He is incredibly talented, and it's just the tip of the iceberg because he's only been painting seriously the last few years. As he continues to paint, it's amazing. I think he's surprising himself," Suzanne Houck said.

Though Houck didn't start painting seriously until recently, he has always been creative in other areas. In high school, he and his brother formed a folk rock band with Suzanne, and they went on to marry and pursue music professionally. Though they are not sure where their latest creative endeavor with Studio 20 will lead, the couple — who have lived in Lodi for 10 years — are excited to offer a different variety of art to admirers in Lodi and beyond.

"He is incredibly talented, and it's just the tip of the iceberg because he's only been painting seriously the last few years. As he continues to paint, it's amazing. I think he's surprising himself

Q: How would you describe your work?

A: My work is contemporary figurative. But I am looking to combine more expressionist type forms with figurative work. I like abstract too. So it looks like a different artist all together.

Q: Do you remember your first painting?

A: My first painting was in the seventh grade, and I do remember it. It was kind of a construction painting. I was taught to stretch the canvas and we did the whole ball of wax — gesso'd it, prepared it. It was an acrylic painting with hot wax encaustic with impregnated bits of newspaper. The painting fell apart. I have just the round part that has everything on it.

Q: Are your commissioned pieces painted from photographs or do subjects sit for you?

A: I have them pose for me because I don't like to work from photographs. I use single source lighting, which is more dramatic and makes it more convincing.

Q: Who are some of your favorite painters or inspirations?

A: John Singer Sargeant. He's very, very good. Zhaoming Woo, Bryce Cameron Liston and Edward Hopper. He's kind of ragged on the human form, but he's just so interesting.

Q: What are some of your hobbies?

A: I still like music and fishing.

Art classes at Studio 20

Resident artist Ronald Houck will offer weekly drawing and painting classes at Studio 20. This month, he is teaching Wednesday night drawing classes. Each class is $75. For more information, call 406-4742. For more information, visit

Q: Your painting came after other creative endeavors. How has your creativity evolved?

A: I've been painting off and on since I was in high school. We have a lot of music in my family, too. After high school, my wife and I were professional musicians and singers. We did that for about eight years. I play guitar. My wife is a much better singer than I am. I dabbled in art all through that time and didn't do it really seriously until about 10 years ago, when I returned to college and decided to do something different, industrial packaging. I returned to college, and during that time, I had been contemplating going into teaching. The more I was working toward my degree, I thought, I really like art history. And after taking another studio drawing class, I thought, I'd rather (make art) than just talk about it. So that's what prompted me into it.

I got my bachelors degree in studio art from Sac State and haven't stopped since. I've been working toward my MFA and I'll have it in a little less than a year.

Q: What do you want to do as a master of fine arts?

A: I really don't know just yet. I kind of what to keep developing myself as an artist first and possibly get into teaching at the college level.

Q: How many hours a week do you spend painting?

A: It's basically full time. I'm probably putting in 50-60 hours a week.

Q: Do you have any painting rituals, like you have to drink coffee or wine or have certain music on?

A: It's always good to have those things. Coffee, definitely in the morning, is a must. A glass of wine is always really good at night — not until after five, though. And Lodi wine is probably the best. We love Lodi Zin.

Q: Where do you usually paint?

A: Well, that's one of the reasons we opened this place. I've been painting from home. I have a room — a studio — and I've just outgrown it. So we came down here, we thought about looking for a studio, a place I could grow into. Then we just thought it would be ideal to have a small gallery combined with a studio.

Contact Lodi Living Editor Lauren Nelson at



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