Urban Abstraction: The multilayered work of Raymond L. Haywood

RLHAmSteel artist Raymond L. Haywood‘s screenprints and paintings offer a striking mix of graffiti influences: abstract expressionism, graphic design and industrial materials. His complex, multilayered works incorporate imagery by superimposing images in his printmaking and wearing away surfaces in his paintings. 

As a child, he avidly read comic books and loved movies and television; that affection for pop culture can be seen in his re-use of images from contemporary culture. Interestingly, he initially intended to become an oceanographer and was also an accomplished water polo player. That groundwork of scientific research and dedication to athletic practice has influenced his disciplined approach to art making.

American Steel: What do you do?

Ashe vs. Olio, paint and stencils on wood panel

Ashe vs. Olio, paint and stencils on wood panel

Raymond L. Haywood: My art practice incorporates two separate media: paintings and printmaking. The work is an emotional record, an exploration of fluctuating mood. Printing satisfies a more socially direct response to the world and painting is more atmospheric and connotative.

Art is remedy for my mood disorder, a way for me to exorcise it and understand it. Distressing surfaces and layering colors and textures allow me to externalize and witness these passing mental states. I prefer wood panels as the ground for my paintings as they endure distressing more effectively than canvas. I try to utilize diverse materials: acrylics, house paint, and aerosol paint. Distressing the wood panels is a time-intensive practice that allows for exploration of the material. The tactile quality of paper exemplifies the desired quiet in my prints.


“Blue Woman,” 12″ x 18″ silkscreen print on paper, 2014

The foundation of my art praxis is creating a visual language that captures moments in time. The texture of wood in the painting and the transparency of color in prints are the cues to the work. Shifting back and forth between these mediums gives me a broad range of tools to try and get at something timeless and ethereal.

AS: What led you to being an artist?

RLH: In high school I had many interests such as swimming, water polo, bowling, architectural drafting, biology, woodworking and graphic design. My interest in comics motivated me to design custom graphics for textiles. Early influences and inspiration were my mother Phyllis E. Posey and my step- father Robert June Posey. My grandmother and grandfather Merry and Clinton Ward also played extensive roles in my artistic development by exposing me to the Oakland Museum of Art.

I attended the University of California at San Diego under the auspices of becoming an oceanographer where my artistic desires flourished in elective undergraduate art classes. I was a walk on player for the UCSD water polo and swim teams all four years in college. In my sophomore year I chose to major in art after an invigorating study with the sculptor Italo Scanga. The opportunity for an independent study program with painter Faith Ringgold affects my creative works to this day. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in painting as well as winning an undergraduate award in art.

Safe and Sound, oil on wood, 2014

Safe and Sound, oil on wood, 2014

AS: Why American Steel?

RLH: Location location location, there is a flourishing art community and Oakland Art murmur. I really consider Oakland my heart’s home.

AS: What are you working on in the studio right now?

RLH: New landscape paintings on a large scale of distressed surfaces found on Alcatraz Island and inspired by the Ai Wei Wei installation.

Breathing while eating skittles, screenprint on paper

Breathing while eating skittles, screenprint on paper

After graduating from the University of California at San Diego, Raymond attended San Francisco State University where he obtained his Master of Fine Art degree in painting. In addition to his work in painting and printmaking he is an accomplished graphic designer and builder of commercial and residential properties as well as an accomplished quilt-maker and writer. He has been a Professor of Art at Laney College, Berkeley City College and Chabot College, with an emphasis on silkscreen printing, drawing, painting, art history and set building design for the theater.

He currently teaches silkscreen printing as an ongoing faculty member at the Richmond Art Center. In his spare time he works on his home with the loving support of his wife writer Monica Haywood and their dog Arrow in the Berkeley hills.