Book Review of “Ins & Outs” by Paul Richmond

TITLE: Ins & Outs

AUTHOR: Paul Richmond

PUBLISHER: Blurb.com

READ THIS BOOK

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

BOOK BLURB:

Paul Richmond is a twenty-nine year old artist whose powerful paintings embody the “ins and outs” of a topic at the forefront of current affairs: sexual orientation. Drawing upon his own experiences as a young man who was raised in a conservative, Midwestern environment and struggled to come to terms with his homosexuality, he explores deeply personal feelings, insecurities, fears and triumphs in this collection of paintings.

Richmond came out of the closet shortly after graduating from art college, and his work, which has been exhibited in numerous group and solo exhibitions, was significantly impacted by that life-altering moment. He began using his paintings as a vehicle to explore and understand his own journey and to develop a dialogue with other members of the GLBT community.

This book contains some of his most personal, narrative works arranged in chronological order by the period of his life represented. It documents the journey of a Dolly-idolizing, repressed gay boy as he finds his way out of the closet and into a place of self-acceptance. Accompanying each piece is a description by the artist, explaining the thoughts and emotions behind it. The result is an intimate, visual experience, one that will draw on the viewer to recognize the beauty of discovering and developing their own authentic self, regardless of sexual orientation.

This expanded edition features 50 pieces of art, including Paul’s Cheesecake Boys series, novel cover illustrations, and a new interview by Cat Johnson.

BOOK REVIEW:

Any fan of online M/M fiction knows Paul Richmond’s art. His work has graced the covers of many e-books, including those published by Dreamspinner Press and MLR Press. His vivid, hand-drawn images stand out like diamonds on e-book shelves filled with the same, tired, overused royalty-free images.

This book offers a glimpse at the artist behind the sexy cover art. While Richmond has found a place in the ever-growing world of M/M fiction online, his art embraces his personal exploration and journey, coming to terms with himself as an artist and as a gay man growing up in the repressed Midwest of his childhood. The images offered here creatively explore that journey, offering a look at the conflict inside as he struggled to become the man he is today.

The artwork within the book is categorized into several different sections, which mirror different facets of Richmond’s personal journey as an artist. There is a forward that introduces Richmond, then an artist statement, and each painting has a little bit of commentary to go with it to give the viewer some idea of where Richmond was at that point in his life when he created it. I enjoyed reading the why behind each painting as much as I enjoyed looking at the images themselves. The book ends with an interview by Cat Johnson.

“OUTside Looking In” represents early struggles to define himself ~ these early paintings contain a lot of broad strokes and elicit in viewers a feeling of desire, of wanting to belong. In this section of the book, the one piece that spoke to me most was “Forgive Me Father, For I Know Not.” Having been raised Catholic, I can identify with the religious and the sexual imagery in the painting.

The next section of the book is titled “Coming OUT.” These are more defined paintings of self-discovery, awash with contrasting colors and vibrant hues as Richmond began to define himself as a gay man for the first time in his life. Among these paintings is a very beautiful image of Richmond himself in drag makeup, entitled “Self Illusion.”

The drag theme is repeated elsewhere in the book, and I like that Richmond doesn’t shy away from that aspect of gay life. In many of his paintings, he explores beauty ~ not just the concept of beauty but the need and desire to be considered beautiful not only by society or by a lover but by oneself as well. The theme repeats in many of the paintings, and speaks deeply to the audience. It’s represented in the women he paints ~ Dolly Parton, Cher, even Tammy Faye. Even in Richmond’s more erotic work, the Cheesecake Boys and cover art, the need for being considered beautiful ~ attractive, wanted, desired ~ is there.

Fans of Richmond’s cover art will enjoy the “Peeking IN” section, which highlights his pantless pin-up boys, and the “IN Print” section, reprinting some of his cover work for various publications. The artwork in both of these sections (as well as selected art in the other sections) can be purchased online at Richmond’s Etsy site, for those interested.

The final section of the book is perhaps my favorite. “OUTward Bound” focuses on paintings by an artist who has weathered his past and is now more sure of himself ~ his sexuality and his art ~ than before. Also, the paintings here deal with contemporary issues, such as gay marriage, animal abuse, politics, and the like. I have to admit, the painting “Batmobama and Robiden” is perhaps my favorite from this whole collection. It captures not only the campiness of the last political election but Richmond’s sense of humor and his unique artistic style, as well.

This book is going to have a special place on my shelf for years to come, and will find its way on my coffee table from time to time as I bring it out to share with friends. While it will appeal to fans of M/M or gay art, it will touch anyone who has struggled as Richmond has to find the ability to express themselves through any artistic medium. It took a great deal of courage to put his personal journey on display in this book, and I for one am glad he did, if only to share the art that stemmed from his internal battle with the rest of us.