"Now THAT's neat!" Ric Ward says as he looks up into the night sky.
He points at the Big Dipper and another constellation.
"You know, if you're ever feeling down about anything, all you have to do is come outside and look up and your spirits are automatically lifted. Just like that. It's amazing."
It's that kind of awe and wonder that Ric Ward puts into his life, his music, his writing and especially his artwork.
"Whether it's the vibrant colors of a sunset, the shimmer of a breaking dawn, or the dark anger of a violent storm, the sky is an always changing sea of emotion."
In his studio in suburban Atlanta, his curiosity about the sky and nature is evident.
Watercolors of tranquil seascapes and sailboats coexist with the violence of thunderstorms, lightning and fire.
He calls himself one of the luckiest people on earth.
"Many people live their lives hating to get up in the morning-- hating to go to work, hating their careers.
I'm lucky enough to have had a number of careers which I've loved and been successful at."
Indeed, growing up in the small town of Glasgow, Kentucky, Ric says there were five things he wanted to do: music, art, writing, broadcasting and travel. He's done them all.
"Maybe one of these days I'll decide what I want to be when I grow up!" he jokes.
Music took center stage through the first part of Ric's life.
He began playing drums at age six.
"Back then my drums were coffee cans and my sticks were paint brushes."
Ric played in a number of local bands and made a name for himself.
Passing up a number of art scholarship offers, Ric studied music at Western Kentucky University, University of Louisville and the prestigious Berklee College of Music.
He earned a gold record at age 19 ("The King Is Gone" by Ronnie McDowell) and toured and recorded with a number of well-known recording artists including The Kendalls, Vassar Clements and many more.
The road took a turn home in the late '80s when Ric and his wife Lori started raising a family.
He traded the tour bus for a jet plane when he joined Eastern Airlines, working his way from ticket agent in Nashville to a position in the company's corporate headquarters in Miami.
When Eastern closed its doors in 1991, Ric turned to another of his early loves-- broadcasting.
Broadcasting and news were second nature to Ric.
As a boy, he'd go to the local radio station with his grandfather, the Rev. Walter Ward, when he did his weekly religious broadcast.
Ric's best friend through school was the son of a local broadcast legend. Together, they would spend countless hours 'playing radio' and hanging out at the radio station.
"I'd be writing commercials and news copy when I was 11 or 12 years old. And they'd put it on the air!"
Ric earned a commercial radio license when he was 12 and a ham radio license at 13.
So it made complete sense that, after Eastern Airlines collapsed, he would return to college to study Journalism at Middle Tennessee State University near Nashville.
After short stints at WKRN and WSMV in Nashville, Ric joined CNN in its Atlanta headquarters.
He quickly worked his way up from a "video journalist" and writer at Headline News to Executive Producer and Network Supervising Producer at CNN/USA.
Ric produced newscasts including "Early Edition," "CNN Tonight," "Live From Afghanistan," "Wolf Blitzer Reports" and "CNN Hotline" and worked with renowned journalists such as Anderson Cooper, Christiane Amanpour, Wolf Blitzer, Judy Woodruff, Miles O'Brien, Martin Savidge and many more.
Beyond CNN and his work as Senior Writer at
CNN International, Ric also worked at The Weather Channel as a producer on the network's flagship prime time program on the environment, "23.5 Degrees with Sam Champion."
Ric also focused on something that has remained constant through his life: the love of writing.
Ric's writing career began at a young age, winning a writing contest in elementary school (about the true meaning of Christmas), continued through writing songs in Nashville (Ric is a BMI affiliated songwriter), writing technical and customer service procedures at Eastern Airlines and writing and editing news and feature stories at CNN.
Now, Ric has widened his writing to books and novels with his first two books "Tour Bus Confessions" and "Five Days in May."
Through it all, the sketchpad and canvas have always been close by.
From the early pen drawings ("Dan" and "Sarah") to the experiments in monochromatic paintings ("Blue Walking," "Chris" and "Ric") to the more recent "Mountain Fire," "Lightning" and "Sunspot," Ric Ward's art and life have been an exciting journey filled with twists, turns, bright spots and shadows.
As he would likely write in a TV script, "stay tuned -- you never know what will happen next!"
Ric has performed with a wide array of musicians and recording artists including:
Jimmy C. Newman
Elliot Randall (Steely Dan)
Kevin Eubanks (Tonight Show)
Jamie Glaser (Jean Luc Ponty)
Greg Martin (Kentucky Headhunters)
Doug Phelps (Kentucky Headhunters)
Ricky Lee Phelps (Kentucky Headhunters)
Richard Young (Kentucky Headhunters)
Fred Young (Kentucky Headhunters)
Steve Davidowski (Dixie Dregs)