Rik Olson grew up near the town of Clayton, California in the northern shadow of Mt. Diablo. His received his first award in art in third grade at the Walnut Creek Art Festival. The certificate still hangs in his studio amongst his diplomas and many other parchments of distinction. Rik attended the California College of Arts and Crafts, now known as California College of the Arts, where he graduated with a BFA in Illustration. While in college Rik rented a room from the widow of William S. Rice, a prominent wood cut artist who worked during the 1920s and 1930s, and whose friend had founded what eventually became CCA. Rik’s room was just below Rice’s studio, where he was able to spend countless hours studying this master engraver’s work.
Soon after school Rik was drafted into the US Army where he served two years in Germany. Here he worked simultaneously as an MP and as an arts and crafts instructor for the military. Upon his discharge, and having met his bride Brita, the two of them remained in Europe for eight years. Rik taught art classes for the US military in Germany. They took in much of what Europe had to offer and he enjoyed the life of an expat artist. When the couple moved to Italy Olson managed the arts program on a military base outside of Pisa, and worked part-time at a print shop in Florence. He did a series of etchings at the studio Santa Reparata. The Palozzi Strozzi in Florence held three exhibitions of his etchings and photographs.
Rik Olson is an artist capable of working in a wide rage of media, but focuses primarily on painting and printmaking in linocut, wood engraving, and etching. He cites Barry Moser, John DePol, Richard McLean, and Ralph Borge, all of whom he studied with, as major influences on his engraving technique. He still uses the engraver’s sandbag he had to make on the first day of a Moser class in 1982. Rik’s prints are cut from wood and linoleum blocks and printed on one of his vintage Vandercook printing presses. The larger prints are printed on an Olivero Bendini etching press.
Rik continues to work, as he has for over forty years, as an artist and freelance illustrator. His rural Sebastopol studio sits amongst a grove of tall redwoods. His work has been published in over two hundred books, and has ranged from exquisite multi colored block wood engravings to wine label designs, and even a crest for a bishop. He continues to teach workshops as an active member of the San Francisco Center for the Book, and is a partner of an art gallery in Graton, California.