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!

The Eyes Have It

Early Grisaille Painting of Joker and Doc Holliday Playing Poker
Early Grisaille Painting of Joker and Doc Holliday Playing Poker
Whoa….eyes can really grab your attention can’t they? They are such a confrontational part of the body. They reveal intentions and they hide motivation. So what better way to grab YOUR eyes than by painting some dramatic eyes in a portrait?

Say hi to the Joker. Yeah, that guy has a few screws loose. Heck he has a few screws, a dozen bolts, and a score of clamps loose. But what is behind that pasty white makeup and lime green greasy hair? He’s always smiling but is he really happy or just burying some deep torment? I think we know the answer to this one. He’s just freakin’ nuts and that’s about as far as you need to go with the psychoanalysis.

This is a midterm expression of the current painting that I will be wrapping up this week. The final product has changed slightly which you will soon see in full color. This is simply a side trip to gain another glimpse into how I approach a painting. Most likely when looking at this painting, you are immediately drawn to the eyes of the Joker. Yes, this was by design. With his crazy makeup and manic expression, what better way to tell the audience that this is no typical portrait. This is a journey into the darkness with a twist of just plain goofiness.

Contrast this with the eyes of Doc Holiday. What is he telling us by looking at us? He’s visibly annoyed to be sure. But perhaps he is also just a bit scared. I mean he is playing poker with…ahem…the Joker. The whole idea seems riddled with slapstick. But that is the intent here. To take two personalities with essentially nothing in common and shove them together into a scene of pure farce. It’s one of my new ideas: the movie mash-up.

Why mash-up movie characters? Well why not? We all watch them. We all love them. Why not bring together the characters we love and observe them in a “what if” scenario? I like to equate it to the idea of an all-star game. Let’s take baseball’s all-star game. The game is just an exhibition of the best of the best that satisfies the fan’s fantasy of what the best team on earth would look like. In reality you would never see such a juggernaut of a franchise. In this same manner, you will never see this collision of characters in a film or any other media – except on canvas. It satisfies my curiosity of what a universe that features a gun-slinging outlaw and a eccentric deranged clown would look like. I simply look for a trivial commonality, in this case: cards, and I bring them together in an arrangement of derangement. How do I get the derangement? The eyes have it.

The final product will be revealed next week and a new episode of Brushes and Bytes Video Blog will follow that. Though the updates have been sparse of late, that does not mean I have not been working hard to finish this piece. I also have new ideas coming down the pipeline so keep coming back for more updates. Time to wrap up this baby. Until next time…

The Time Monkey

I’m engaged in a new battle. It’s an epic battle we have all fought at one point in time. You’ve sensed him hiding in the shadows. You turn – he’s out of sight, but giggling in the dark. He wants to control you. He wants to rule you. He is persistent. He is relentless. He is…..the Time Monkey.

The Time Monkey
"You will never paint again!!! have a banana?"

Yes this rotten villain delights in grand theft. He wants to rob you. He desires not your money or your car. What he wants you cannot touch and yet you can feel it. What he wants you cannot see and yet you know it’s there. What he desires is your precious free time. I have met the monkey and I can say he is tenacious. He’s stealing my precious painting time from me. I have had less time to work on my projects these last few weeks and I am trying to organize my time better so I can continue to paint and complete my current projects. I want to complete the current works so I can move on to more ideas that I have in my head. When did this Time Monkey walk into my life? – when I started a new job last month. The newly found employment was a blessing but it has also become a challenge to figure out my time to paint.

I used to paint in the evening and into the late night. But my job requires me to be up earlier so I really cannot afford to paint too late anymore. That’s really a bummer because I’m a night owl and my creative energy comes out at night. As the situation is now, I can only paint late on the weekends. This isn’t stopping me from coming up with new ideas though. I log my best ideas in a notebook for future consideration.

I have a targeted date of completion for my Joker and Holiday painting – July 16th. I’m not sure if I will make it though. This date represents the time it will take for the painting to fully dry before submission into an art show here in Sacramento. If I cannot make it then this painting will have to be my entry into another art show in October. Sorry for the teases on this painting but it really has been a difficult project. Portraits are unforgiving. If the face doesn’t resemble who you are capturing then the painting just doesn’t work. I’m feeling now that I may finally be on the right track now. Please stay tuned for more updates and a video on the creation of this work.

Now I’m off to throw that Monkey out and get back to work. Happy 4th of July!

How to Remember Our Heroes

Memorial Day 2012
Never Forget.

On this Memorial Day I think it’s important to take a moment to recognize what it means to honor our soldiers. What exactly does it mean to remember our soldiers? Is it waving an American flag? Is this shaking the hand of a veteran? Is it singing our national anthem? Is it having a family BBQ and sharing funny stories? Well the simple truth is it’s all of those things. When you stop to think about why our fallen soldiers were willing to sacrifice everything; you realize that they wanted the American way of life to continue as it has for the last 200 plus years. That means visiting families, going to ball games, thanking your neighborhood veterans, saying a prayer for the fallen, and whatever else you plan to do on this day of remembrance. Just the simple fact that we have this day to relax and enjoy ourselves is a tribute to the troops because that’s what they were fighting for – the American lifestyle lives on.

Memorial Day
The price of freedom is a heavy one.

So if you can, thank a veteran and take a moment to remember those who have fallen. Then go out and enjoy your day. How did I remember those heroes on my memorial day? Well I got up and took my painting equipment outside to work on the Holiday/Joker painting (quickly becoming the most challenging work of my career thus far). The weather was so nice here, sunny and mild, and I figured that if I got out of the house and tackled the painting in the sun light that I might have a new perspective on the painting and improve the quality of the overall work. After a couple of hours, I made some progress on the Holiday portion of the painting and felt a bit more optimistic about the outlook of the work. I painted for about 15 minute intervals and then stood back and repeated this cycle for the session. Having more room to look at the painting really helped me see what needed adjustment and so, as long as the weather isn’t too hot, I plan to paint outdoors more often.After the painting, I went inside and watched my Giants defeat the Diamondbacks on television. Baseball is the absolute best sport for me. I love it, I play it on the weekends, and I think about it all the time.

You might have noticed that there hasn’t been much activity on my blog or YouTube channel this past month. Well I have a valid excuse: I started a new job this month. My mind has been on that so I have been away from the canvas for a bit, but my mind is turning back to painting because I am hoping to get the Joker/Holiday painting done in time for the next art show in July. So expect to see more in the very near future.

I hope you enjoyed your Memorial Day like I enjoyed mine. Thank you to our troops both past and present. God bless America.

Painting outside in a fedora and shorts with a Coke on the side. I love America!

Gone into the Light (My thoughts on Thomas Kinkade)

Thomas Kinkade with his one of his works.
Last week my Wife and I had dinner with some friends of ours whom we used to live close to in Long Beach. While chatting over dinner, I noticed a crimson colored table runner over the dining table with a small label that said “Thomas Kinkade.” As I was about to inquire about the runner, one of our friends started to relay to us a story about it and why it featured no Kinkade images. She worked for a company that had purchased reproduction rights from the Thomas Kinkade Company and had plans to sell multiple products with the familiar Kinkade imagery on them. When the Kinkade company asked what products would be wearing the images, they balked at the idea of the production of door mats and table runners with Kinkade imagery. The Kinkade folks argued that nothing can sit or stand on a Kinkade painting because it was simply disrespectful to the painting and the artist. So all my friend’s company could do was take a color from a Kinkade painting and use that one color as the table runner; it was topped off with a small label that simply said “Thomas Kinkade.” You can imagine our friend’s perspective on this kind of thinking. To her, Kinkade comes off as being elitist and snobbish. I didn’t come to such a quick conclusion about the artist because it was his company that was saying this and not the man himself. I just chalked this up to the latest example of the two camps that butted heads over the works of Kinkade. One camp simply didn’t like him – bordering on disgust. The other camp enjoyed his works and perhaps housed one of his many reproductions. Which camp do you think I was in? Anyways, on that drive home that night I got a text from a friend saying he was sorry to hear about Kinkade. I hadn’t yet heard the story that Thomas Kinkade was dead at 54.

Let me start by saying that my feelings on Thomas Kinkade are simply artist-based. I will not evaluate the personal choices Kinkade made because to judge him based on his personal life would elicit a different perspective than the art he produced. Yes, he was a vocal Christian. Yes, he had problems with alcohol. Yes, he separated from his wife and lived with a girlfriend just 18 months before his death. What do those facts have to do with the paintings or the business? – Nothing. So let’s move on to the facts that have some artistic basis.

Thomas Kinkade is perhaps the most successful commercial artist in history. He massed produced his images as reproductions on canvas and paper. His paintings could be found on mugs, puzzles, and calendars (as I look up at my Kinkade calendar). He created a company and gave franchise rights for gallery owners across the country. People could walk into one of these galleries and purchase a reproduction of his work. He had a lucrative contract with Disney to produce Disney themed paintings that would be sold in the Disney parks and his galleries. Thomas Kinkade had become what most artists might consider an oxymoron – a wealthy artist. It is this oxymoron, I believe, that is the basis for the animosity he faced.

Cinderella Castle by Thomas Kinkade was one of many of his Disney-themed works.

I could easily just sum up my assessment of the haters of Kinkade as being jealous, but I think there’s more to it. Yes, there has to be those struggling and modestly successful artists out there who are simply jealous of his success. That’s to be expected -it’s human nature. However how do you explain the average American who cannot stand Kinkade art? Well there appears to be a few reasons. First, I think it comes down to over-exposure. Too much of anything is never a good thing and seeing too much of the same stuff leaves the eyes desensitized to it. Let’s face it, Kinkade imagery can be found everywhere. I’ve seen a Kinkade product in department stores, home improvement stores, super markets, greeting card stores, and book stores. I myself would often just walk past the products because – well – I only saw the product and not the painting. If I wanted to actually see a good copy of his work then I would visit his website or buy one of his calendars. I wouldn’t buy a kitchen apron simply because he had his name on it. So I can understand some people being tired of all the imagery. Then again, those people can just as easily walk by and appreciate the art without buying the product that’s featuring it. I guess it’s more satisfying to rip apart the work so as to give the appearance that you’re in touch with the modern art movement.

It’s true that you will probably not find a Kinkade in a museum in America. Most museums will tell you it’s because he didn’t introduce anything new to the art scene. He is viewed as rendering over-idealized places that made light the star of the scene. Those museums snooze at the landscape because that is so 19th century. The wealthy patrons of big galleries will say he was simply not interested in anything other than giving the middle class exactly what they wanted. Wow. Imagine that. An artist creating what he felt the public actually WANTED to see. Here we have an example of the ugly side of art. The snobs who think good art is exclusively based on shock and uniqueness. You know I think if I took a crap on a canvas, dumped green paint on it, wrapped it in purple plastic and stuck a pinwheel on it that it would be shocking, unique, and completely stupid and meaningless; in other words: modern art. As much as you modern art snobs would hate to admit it, the classic genres of landscapes, still life, and portraits are still art and will never leave the art scene. Why you ask? Because most middle class Americans want to actually hang those genres in there house. Most Americans have little interest in a painting of a 2-color square or a scribble of a few colors in a non-representational form. People want conversational pieces. Kinkade gave them what they wanted. You modern art lovers just try to sell one of your paintings of a beak-less decapitated duck sitting in green circles to ma and pa America. Just try to do that. If you want to argue his business practices instead then I’m willing to entertain that.

How many of you have an original Kinkade in your house? You do? Really? Uh, well I hate to break it to you, but you’re either a liar or a fool because Kinkade didn’t sell his originals. He sold his reproductions on canvas or paper. Yep, no originals have seen the light of day that we know of. This highlights the only real problem I had with Kinkade – his business decisions. First I’ll start with the original paintings. They never saw the market because Kinkade only agreed to sell his reproductions. Why would he not sell his originals? Did they have sentimental value? Did he promise them to his family? For whatever reason, from an art collector’s perspective, I could see the frustration behind his decision. A machine generated print doesn’t have the same personal feeling as the original brushwork from the artist’s hands. The other bad business choice he made, in my opinion, is his franchised galleries across the country. It’s one thing to have a dozen or so scattered around the country, but you can find his franchised galleries in dozens of cities across the country, many in malls, like a small Starbucks chain. That’s simply over-exposure and viewers who already can’t touch an original, will simply walk on by after a while because copies just don’t interest people. If you’re not going to sell the originals, then you can’t make up for it by saturating the market with copies. That is almost insulting to collectors. To top it off, the Kinkade Company’s attitude that nothing can sit on top of a Kinkade painting is flat out arrogance. NOTHING is sitting on his paintings. WHY? BECAUSE THEY’RE ALL COPIES!!! Whew…..let me take a breath. Ok…..I’m OK now. Now should we be angry with Kinkade on the stance his company has taken with his images? I’m not so sure. Let me bring back an old familiar name as evidence that the company and the artist are not always exactly the same. Bob Ross died in 1995 and yet his television shows continue to run on PBS across America. His company still sells his DVD’s, books, and art supplies with his name. The pricing of these products is ridiculous. For example, a single season DVD of his shows retail for $45 on his website! YIKES! Ross was a man who made it a mission to get the average person excited about painting. He wanted the average Joe to pick up a brush and just “Let is Happen.” The average Joe is not going to spend that kind of money on a DVD for a show on PBS. His large tube paints (which are student grade) retail for over $17 each! The average Joe doesn’t want to make that kind of initial investment in a hobby for which they know little about. It seems like the company is taking advantage of the naivety of its customers. Is this the work of Bob Ross himself? How can it be? He’s been dead for 17 years! So let’s not be so quick to judge Kinkade based on the actions of his company.

San Francisco Giants - It's Our Time! by Thomas Kinkade is one of my favorite paintings because us Giants fans love to be reminded about our World Series Title in 2010.

With all that said, I was a fan of his paintings. No doubt he was talented and anyone who says he had no talent is either jaded or just plain stupid. CAN YOU PAINT LIKE THAT? – Probably not. I’m willing to hear someone say they didn’t care for his subject matter and that’s fine. Maybe the cottage scene is not your thing. But you have to at least respect the skill he brought to the table. It’s hard to explain what passes for a masterpiece and what just passes, but it really seems difficult to understand how someone who appealed to the masses, doesn’t have a painting in a museum – or perhaps that’s because they couldn’t get a hold of an original? Hmm.

Thomas Kinkade might have rubbed some people the wrong way with his overt Christianity, but that wouldn’t surprise me because there has been an attack on Christianity in this country for years. The latest example is the Tim Tebow circus. The media is bordering on slander and all because a guy prays a lot on the field. Where is the ethics in the field of journalism? I’m sure that wouldn’t happen if he was Muslim for example. Art is a part of the soul. It’s a physical representation of the intangible spirit of the artist. So if he was passionate about his religion then why couldn’t he use that in his art? If your reason for not approving of his art was due to his religious passion, then you need to do a double check on your stance in society because discrimination has no place in our world. If you’re an atheist then I doubt you believe anything I’m saying – you guys just don’t believe in anything to begin with.

When I think back as to how I became so infatuated with painting, I realize that part of that love came from observing the success of some contemporary artists including Bob Ross, Don Maitz, Wyland, and Thomas Kinkade. These people not only entertain us with their art, but they perpetuate the movement of new art in our country. They inspire new artists to overcome their fears of failure and challenge themselves to create the next great masterpiece. America lost a great painter last week. I lost one of my artistic heroes. What’s the best part about being a painter? You leave a little bit of yourself on every canvas you paint. Thomas Kinkade will live on for a very long time in over 10 million homes across America. He was the “Painter of Light.” Now go into the light and paint a new reality my friend. Goodbye.

The Power of the Deer

The Black Tail Deer
You WILL paint WILL love me.
I have been focused on the American River painting these past 3 weeks. I really have kept a clear vision of what I wanted the painting to be. For the most part I think I have met that vision. Of course, part of the excitement of painting is not really knowing where your brush will take you when you start. I had a mental map that I was following but I was faced with some challenges and decisions based on what my hands could actually render. At any rate, I am nearly finished with the painting. I’m crusing along and after 11 painting sessions, I am now 85% done with this work. If you would like to see the progression photos of the painting, then please go to my Facebook page: The Art of Ryan G. Williams If you’re interested in seeing me paint, I recorded a painting session of the deer rendering. The entire session took about 75 minutes but I have sped up that session so you can see the result in about 15 minutes. This gives you an idea of how I paint and approach a subject. The deer is taken from sketch to block-in and finally to form shadows. The deer itself is not 100% complete, but the only adjustment left will be some eye highlights and further refinement of the fur. See what you think here: Painting the deer.

The most exciting time of painting is not when the painting is about to be completed, well, not for me anyways. No, the most exciting time is starting a new painting and taking in all that might be possible and letting loose on the canvas. Creation is such a rush and the real challenge is filtering out the lesser ideas to grasp at the best idea. I also find it difficult at times to not let future project ideas cloud my vision for my current work. In this case I am really thinking about how to develop the Joker Holiday painting. I really must quell those thoughts until this river painting is complete. I know, a few Mountain Dews and Peanut Butter Twix bars will settle the mind. Hmmm,….peanut butter twix…..ahhhhh.

Ok, now that I have dried my mouth off, I have some video suggestions for you. Has anyone ever heard of Simon Schama? A few years ago he ran a mini-series (6 episodes) of a program called The Power of Art. Each episode focused on an artist that Schama was intrigued by. Each episode was a docudrama on the life of the artist. There are reenactments of the artist’s most defining moments on and off the canvas. The acting is great and the stories are rich. After watching the episodes, I came away with multiple feelings about these artists. Some I appreciated more than before, some I raised an eyebrow to out of confusion to their actions, and others I simple felt disgusted at. My favorite episodes were about Rembrandt, Caravaggio, and Van Gogh. Interestingly enough, the character playing Van Gogh was Andy Serkis. Who is he? Well did you see Lord of the Rings? Yep, he was Gollum. So if you have some free time then I highly encourage you to check out these episodes because they’re interesting even to the non-art lover. Genius and madness hold hands and disaster is often their offspring – this makes for great entertainment. You can find the episodes on YouTube. Here is one on Rembrandt to get you started: Rembrandt.

Gollum was Van Gogh? Now isn't that Precioussssss?