Regional Artist Finds Inspiration at San Bernardino Valley College

Rick Caughman, whose work has graced galleries across California, teaches art at San Bernardino Valley College.Rick Caughman’s first pieces of art were drawn on the walls of his parents’ house.

“I was very connected to art very early,” Caughman, an adjunct art instructor at San Bernardino Valley College, said. “I was four years old, drawing trains, planes, and automobiles. I’ve always known this was my nature.”

After attending a private school in upstate New York that didn’t offer art classes and a junior college where the “arts department was a closet with tempera paints,” Caughman moved to California and was accepted at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, where he trained in the communication arts.

He soon launched his career by illustrating magazine covers and posters, and over the last three decades, has worked as a graphic designer and teacher and produced fine, commercial, and public art, with clients including Los Angeles World Airports, Apple Computer, Omnitrans, Celestial Seasonings, Scripps College, and World Conservation Union. One of his biggest — and most fun — projects was creating 14 wall illustrations for the international arrivals terminal at Ontario Airport.

“To be an artist is scary thing,” he said. “A musical artist or a vocalist or someone who reads their work, you’re putting yourself out there for people to assess. Art can be scary, but as an artist you have to be somewhat narcissistic to survive.”

His work has been shown at several galleries, including SBVC’s Gresham Gallery, but his latest exhibition was a special one. Sheets, Sheets, and Caughman: Art for Living and Living for Art, presented by the Ontario Museum of History and Art and the Chaffey Community Museum of Art in March of this year, featured notable commercial and just-for-fun pieces by Caughman and influential father and son artists Millard Sheets and Tony Sheets.

While Caughman has a longtime relationship with SBVC — he has been on the Graphic Design Advisory Board for several years — he only began teaching at the college last year. He brings with him over 10,000 hours of experience in the classroom studio.

“The student art here is absolutely fabulous,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for a very long time, and I’m taken aback by the quality of the students in terms of their character, their intellect, and their commitment.”

Caughman is also impressed by his colleagues, who enjoy collaborating and holding workshops and panel discussions to help students achieve at SBVC and prepare to move on to a four-year school.

“I think the art department is a place where everyone has a common goal, and there is a lot of commitment to student growth and their success,” he said. “There’s a tremendous focus on getting it right, and I like being a part of that.”

For Caughman, the best part of being an artist he being able to do what he loves while having the flexibility to spend time with family.

“It’s a lot of hard work and it’s not easy, with lots of ups and downs, but I would say that my time has been my own, and that’s better than money,” he said.