All posts by Ryan Williams

I am the artist and admin of this blog. I try to provide insight into my painting process, my thoughts about the current state of the art world, and links to interesting painting resources. Subscribe to Brushes and Bytes now!

Paintings to Expect in 2015

Happy New Year from Sloth!
Happy New Year from Sloth!

Another year comes to a close and we can all look back, once again, on our hits and our misses.

As for my own hits?

In 2014 I had planned to make this the year of the portrait and that’s exactly what I did. Starting with a portrait of my wife in her teaching environment, moving on to a dual portrait of my maternal grandparents, and now closing with a commission of a triple portrait of a mother and hers sons. Yes, I’ve become very familiar with the face and yet each one provides it’s own challenges. Every face tells a story and every face teaches me more about not just the physiology of humans, but of their emotional profile.

Mixed in between these portraits was an enormous commission of beautiful AT&T park in San Francisco. This marks the third painting with the San Francisco Giants as the topic. The Giants will always be around my easel. I love baseball as much as I love art.

OK, so how about the misses?

One other portrait that I had planned was a new self portrait. I wanted it to complement my wife’s in showing me at my place of work. However, some events transpired this year that convinced me to hold off until next year on that. Another miss would have to be the fact that the old Disneyland painting, that was started back in 2005, still sits unfinished. With the commissions that came in, I really had no choice but to come up with another valid excuse for not finishing it…again.

So now we turn forward to look at what ideas are coming down the pipeline this year in 2015.

More portraits?

– Yeah a couple.

I have a dual portrait of a pet owner and her pet lined up. I expect to tackle this one first as its a gift. Later in the year, I would like to fulfill my original plan to tackle my second self-portrait to compliment my wife’s portrait. As of now, these are the only portraits I have in mind, but perhaps a new commission will come my way to change that.

Disney painting? Yep. How about a painting based on a classic movie and Fantasyland ride? Well its going to happen. Staying on that Disney vein, I really want to complete that Disneyland painting I started all those years ago so I really plan to bear-down and force those creative thoughts to see me to the end of this frustrating work.
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Movie Painting?

– Yes!

How about the 80’s?

– Yes please!

This year will mark the 30th anniversary of the classic comedy adventure “Goonies.” So I just have to mark this milestone with a painting to pay tribute to one of my all-time favorite movies. I can’t wait to see what I come up with. The research will be easy: just watch Goonies a few more times. I have the dialogue memorized line for line, but if I could just do that visually and have the film memorized frame by frame; then I would be the ultimate…uh….fan I guess. Perhaps I have too much time on my hands.

Alright. There you go. I have listed my plans for 2015. Now why do I do this? Sure, to let you all in on what I plan on doing this year artistically. However, the real idea is that if I tell a lot of people what I want to do, then I have more obligation to actually do it. This is a simple strategy for seeing your goals through: set up a verbal contract with other people that you will do this task and then do it. If you fail to do so, notice how your friends will ask you about why you didn’t do what you said you would. After awhile you get tired of people thinking your a thinker and not a doer. So there you go….I am off and ready to get this stuff done.

My targeted number of works in 2015? I will stay with 6. Many things in my life tend to come out of the blue and suck the free time away. However this would be adequate if I could actually reach that number. I have never been a quick painter.

Thank you to all my customers in 2014! Here is to painting something amazing in 2015! Happy New Year!

David and the Giants

We read newspapers, online stories, and blogs to get the latest news from around the world. What about a different medium for getting the news – like a painting? Have you ever noticed that many classical masterpieces are actually works of story telling? These paintings are colorful summaries of events that inspired the artist.

Take my painting based on the San Francisco Giants entitled, “The Giant Sleeps Tonight.” The Giants just recently won the National League Pennant and the very next day I sold another copy of the painting to a customer in Indiana. My guess is the buyer was a Giants fan who was still excited for the recent triumph and went looking for a tribute to hang on the wall. A painting can trigger emotions and give pause for self-reflection. In this case, looking at the glove, ball, and jersey might take the viewer back to the championship years of 2010 and 2012 when the Giants were on top. Perhaps the viewer attended a particular game and the painting brings him or her back to that special game.

The Giant Sleeps Tonight by Ryan G. Williams
Purchase a copy or the original from my store.

A painting can also be viewed as a colorful newspaper of masterful propaganda. The French master Jacques-Louis David was such a wizard of propaganda. You know his work: “Oath of the Horatii”, “The Death of Marat”, “Napolean Crossing the Alps”, etc. All of these works served as propaganda for the French revolution. In the case of “The Death of Marat”, the painting served to immortalize a figure whom David idolized. A man who was responsible for the beheading of hundreds if not thousands of French citizens whose only crime was that they didn’t appear to be common enough for the new revolution, Marat became the Joseph McCarthy of his time. To say paranoia played a part in these sentences is an understatement. If you were, or just appeared to be aristocracy, you were singled out in one of many hand written accusations of Marat’s and sent to the gallows. Needless to say, many innocent people died for seemingly no other reason except, in the mind of a paranoid nationalist, they were out of touch with the common Frenchman. I won’t babble on about the details of the revolution and Marat’s place in it, but I will just say that David was a supporter of the revolution and his paintings were intended to support, if not justify, the movement. When Marat was assassinated, David sought to immortalize the man in paint – and he did just that.
Death of Marat by Jacques-Louis David

This is something that I miss with contemporary art. We just don’t seem to have that great movement in art to describe the times. The majority of modern art feels shallow and self-serving. Political art tries to push us to one end of the political spectrum, shock-art attempts to get our attention about a social stigma through disturbing and often disgusting means, and then there is simply works of art with no visible direction at all. I am someone who says that just because something is old doesn’t make it good, but geez; the modern movement really doesn’t have much to say does it?

Well I have something to say. It may not spark a political movement or push you into public servitude, but there is a clear message. What is the message in my painting, “The Giant Sleeps Tonight?”

The message is simple.

October is orange. Go Giants!

Revisiting the First Paintings

It’s been a couple of months since my last post, but if you follow my YouTube channel or Facebook page then you know what the 50th painting looks like. The portrait of my grandparents entitled “Forever Belles” turned out to be a big success – both in my eyes and my family’s. That painting had a tremendous amount of meaning for me. What mattered most to me was seeing my grandparents smile and enjoy what I had created for them. My Grandmother passed away a couple of months ago and so it was one of the last things I was able to do for her and for that I will be forever happy.

“Forever Belles” by Ryan G. Williams

Moving on to future plans, I am about to release a series of videos in which I go back in time to show all 50 of my paintings. You can watch the first part here… …to see the first 10 works and here the stories, but I wanted to give you a prequel and a little more detail on my artistic history here. So how did it all start? In the fall of 2004 I started recording and watching taped episodes of “The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross.” It was a relaxing way to end my busy days of study at Long Beach State’s computer lab. I would watch the same episodes on tape week after week and kept saying to myself, “I can do that.” or “I have a great idea for a painting!” Then one day in December of that year I decided to put my brush where my mouth was, it didn’t taste good, but I finally started painting on my own. My first easel was a table with a mini-fridge on it. The canvas sat on top of that fridge to make for an awkward easel. My first palette was some cardboard, which proved to be horrible as the oil just absorbed into the material. After an hour of hastily slapping paint on the canvas I had completed my very first, uh, well – mush. It was then that I realized you have to approach the canvas with a little preparation and cannot simply improvise your ideas – hence my personal painting education began.

As the paintings went on, I learned more and more about the nuances of painting. I started with landscapes and then started dabbling in still-life. I knew people and figures would be the most difficult and so I put that genre off until I felt more comfortable with the brush. I did start sketching people however and that was helpful in teaching me about proportions and the fact that I knew nothing about anatomy or the locomotion of humans did not deter me from learning more.

10 years later what has changed? Well I’ve acquired a fair amount of knowledge about the human figure. People are the most difficult of subjects because the viewers know inherently what the subject is supposed to look like. We can make up a tree or a mountain or a flower, but if the nose is on the forehead, people will look at the painting funny and think, “the artist is incompetent” or “modern art is so trendy.” Well I don’t care much for modern art and I don’t want to have my art reflect incompetence so I have been working hard to learn the intricate features of people. Given my last portrait, I feel I have made significant progress in that direction. So I hope you enjoy this video that shows the first 10 paintings of my work. Again, this is part 1 of a series of videos that will take you through my history.

Currently on the canvas is a little commission. I say “little” with my tongue in cheek because this painting is 36″x60″. This is not exactly a Sunday afternoon dalliance with the canvas. Currently I am up to 17 painting sessions and about 75% complete. I look forward to showing it you sometime this month. If you would like a sneak preview then checkout my Facebook page or Instagram account for photos.

I hope you had a great summer. Let’s hope for a colorful autumn.

Brushstrokes are the Painter’s Fingerprints

Have you seen the Google Art Project? Wow. That is something I could truly get lost in for a couple of hours at a time. The project provides the opportunity to not just look at the most famous works of art, but examine them in a manner of closeness that’s unavailable when standing in front of them in a museum – well without being grabbed by security at least. When you look at a painting you are learning about the subject of the painting and the intent of the artist. When you look closer, down to the texture of the canvas, you learn about the artist himself.

Vincent Van Gogh - "Self Portrait"
Vincent Van Gogh – "Self Portrait"

Just as every human has a unique fingerprint, artists have a unique brush style. The brush strokes tell a story much like a words in a book. Each stroke is a sentence. The strokes are weaved together in a section to form a paragraph. The sections form the entire painting or plot of the story. Each stroke must coordinate with the next one in order to create that visual harmony that so many of the world’s most famous paintings possess. What do these strokes tell us about these artists?

Van Gogh had short and heavy strokes. The marks are laid in with a hurried yet confident approach. There is also a frantic feeling and slightly obsessive approach as the colors ever so slowly change across a plain versus a more standard and sharper delineation to light and shadow. We know that Van Gogh battled with mental problems; we know he bordered on obsessive behavior. Perhaps these brush strokes are not just telling a story of the subject, but are providing a clinical diagnosis to the mental state of the man himself.

John Singer Sargent - "Coventry Patmore"
John Singer Sargent – "Coventry Patmore"

In a quite different example, John Singer Sargent features long flowing brush strokes. The marks appear to be more blended and feature sharper hue variance. Sargent was very comfortable with the dramatic light approach without going the full Rembrandt tilt. His lights are soft and his shadows are deep, but there is always a strong harmony through the painting. In many of his works his brush strokes are almost hidden as he seems to blend away the laborious work he poured into a his painting.

What do my brush marks say about me? I would say they tell of a man who is still discovering his place in the art world. I have experimented with different styles throughout my 9 1/2 year painting career. From the light short strokes of my early paintings, to the heavy opaque marks of just a few years ago; I have tried to change up my brushwork to better understand the medium itself. Oil painting is great for experimenting and learning. One observation about my own work, I have loosened-up in my brush work and I’m less afraid to use brighter colors.

Ryan Williams - "Mrs. Rachel Williams"
Ryan Williams – “Mrs. Rachel Williams”

Which brings me to my final thought – this is the 50th painting that I am about to complete. I thought it might be fun to see where I came from to get where I am now in my painting style. So in the next post and perhaps in a video on my YouTube channel, I will be showing all of my works and we can laugh at how bad I was when I started. Well actually I hope to show you all that with a little dedication and open-mindedness you can improve and reach a level you might not have thought possible. I’m no pro, but I’m certainly closer now that I was in 2005. So when I return I’ll be showing my 50th painting and taking you on a trip down memory lane.

To Put the Soul in Oil Paint

Having completed a portrait and started yet another portrait, I thought I might invite you to hear my thoughts on why I believe a portrait of a person is best handled through the brush instead of a lens. Portraits of people work best when they create an emotional relationship with the viewer. I really don’t think the camera can achieve this relationship.

Photography forever changed our perspective on the human condition. Suddenly we could see where we were, what we were doing, and what we were feeling when we did it. We could celebrate our achievements and regret our mistakes. Photographs have certainly provided modern civilization with a new perspective on life. Say, the photograph was invented just over a century ago; what did people rely on to recall people, places, and events before the camera? Well – enter the painting.

Now of course there were other mediums to experiment and create art with prior to the invention of oil paint, but for the sake of this post we will be focusing on the oil painting. When photography was invented, I’m sure some people were wondering if the painted portrait would fade away, but here we have a case of ‘newer is not necessarily better’. Sure an oil painting can take days to complete while a photograph is near instantaneous, but so what? Does speed always translate into quality? Here is another question: can a photograph capture mood and energy? Well in some circumstances it can if you plan out the shot, including lighting and angle etc. In general, however, you are at the mercy of the instantaneous condition of the shot. The painting, on the contrary, offers control, manipulation at all stages, and provides a greater release of mood and energy.

John Lennon by Derek Russell 2012
John Lennon by Derek Russell 2012

Here is something a photograph cannot successfully capture – the heart of the subject as seen through the eyes of the artist. Only a painter can give the viewer a sense of where the subject is in thought. Only a painter can tell you what the mood is through a proper rendering of the eyes. A painting is not a snapshot in time, well it can be I suppose, but in my eyes it’s more of a perpetual loop of emotion. Look into the eyes of the subject and feel their emotions. Place yourself in their shoes and think about their journey to get to this moment in time. Walk away with a new sense of what life offers. Then upon returning to view the painting again, start the process all over again with perhaps a slightly altered conclusion based on previous experiences.

No my friends, a photograph feels too cold and artificial compared to the painting. It feels like a cold hard date in a history book, instead of the essence of the faces in the paint. Truly, painting offers emotional rewards that a photograph could never touch. You see a photograph, but you feel a painting. I’m not trying to bash photography; don’t get me wrong. I love taking pictures and I love the memories that my photos bring to mind, but when it comes to a portrait or a still life; give me a brush.
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