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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Life can be compared to many things. For the sake of this post, let’s compare it to a river. A river has to start somewhere just like a life has to be born. A river starts as a small creek or stream and grows over time as the landscape and local resources change just as a life grows from infancy to adolescence to adulthood. The trek a river makes can be unpredictable as the landscape drives the direction and creates the depth – but a dramatic change can happen around any corner. A life can change in a split second from an outside force or from a personal choice. Well that’s what we have here…..a change. My painting journey is taking a detour from the previously planned course.
Up until two weeks ago, my focus was pointed on my dual portrait of the Joker and Doc Holiday, but that all changed when I started to surf the net. My interests were taking me towards an art society that I’m planning on joining this year (more on that in a later post). The society’s web page featured a “call to artists” section so I clicked on it thinking I could get an idea of what the members of this society participated in. To my pleasant surprise I learned that there are a few annual art competitions that are open to the public. So I jumped on the nearest one and that is what I am working on now. Sorry Joker. Sorry Doc. You will have to go on the shelf a bit longer – I have a river to paint.
The juried show is called “Painting Where the Wild Things Are” and the theme is the American River which runs through Northern California. Artists are expected to paint the river and or the animals that live in that environment. This show is also a fund raiser for the Effie Yeaw Nature Center located in Carmichael. Accepted works will be put up for sale and later for auction to raise funds for the care of the animals and the river itself. It’s a wonderful program that I believe in as the American River has always been like an extension of my backyard. I go there a few times a month to explore and to think. Every city should have this kind of natural jewel to go to. I realize how lucky I am to live near such a wonderful and inspiring place. Coming up with ideas for my submission was not a problem; deciding on a single idea to work on, however, was.
The submissions must be in by April 27th, so I don’t have much time. Given my history of painting speed, I knew that I had to start ASAP and better stay focused on it. After doing a few different concept sketches, I finally decided on my submission. My painting will feature a cloudy, wintery sky as that is my favorite time to be around the river. The river will be in the foreground and will be strong and deep. In the middle ground will be a small bridge where bicyclists will be seen riding over the bridge enjoying nature. In the foreground is the star of the painting – a black tail mule deer buck. These deer are found in many areas of the American river. Though there are many species of wildlife to choose from, I always felt that as a child, spotting a deer in the wild was like spotting a celebrity in Hollywood. I felt like the paparazzi clamoring for a closer look. So the deer will be the star here and the vantage point will be eye level with the deer so the viewer will feel like they have just happened upon a buck as he was getting a drink from the river. The deer will be large, the people will be small, the star of the scene will be nature herself.
I am very excited about this contest because of the theme. It’s a place that I love and something I can relate to. I have so many scenes of the American River in my mind from years of exploring that it’s like going to a Rolodex of phone numbers to call someone only my Rolodex is just mental images from the years of visiting. So far, though it’s early, the creation process has been smooth and fluid. I have no doubt that’s because I believe so strongly in what I am painting. I will continue to post updates here and on my Facebook fan page. I look forward to sharing the final results with you all very soon. How soon? Well like I said earlier, I have until April 27th, but we know oil paint needs a few days to dry so I set my own deadline of April 15th. Tax day…..bummer.
Doesn’t have the same ring to it does it? Well it doesn’t matter much because this December 21st, the world will come to an end – according to the Mayan legend….right?
Yep, 4.3 billion years of the earth rotating, millions of years of evolution in the animal kingdom, and 11 years of garbage reality television will all be crumpled-up and thrown into the celestial recycle bin just 4 days before Christmas. All previous existence will cease and all of this fear is based on a misunderstood concept that was created by a long dead civilization. You see, archaeologists have uncovered artifacts that detail the Mayan calendar’s long count system and, well (long-and-overdone story short), the long count runs out this year and resets as we enter a new era of enlightenment – again this is according to the Mayans. From this, western civilization has twisted the translation of the Mayan Calendar’s “Enlightenment” message into a story that we all die in a yet-to-be-determined fashion. HUH? How did western society come up with that? From enlightenment to annihilation? Crap, what a precipitous drop in standing. Jeez take it easy people. I assume the dude who came up with that bleak outlook needed to get laid – REALLY BAD. Perhaps there are a few of you out there who are saying to yourselves:
“Of course I don’t believe in this stuff…..but then again… what if?”
If this is you then let me try to reassure you with this thought: are your bills still coming in? Does the taxman still expect payment? Does your mortgage run past 2012? If your debtors are planning past December 21st, then I think you’re going to be just fine. Remember the two things that are certain in our world. Yes death is one, but the other is taxes. Convinced? Reassured? Still worried? Well go to church and pray for your gullibility. With all that said, what shall we aim to achieve in the last year of our lives? (sigh)….Well I know what I want to do – PAINT!
First a Look Back
Looking back on 2010 and my newest works, I feel I made some reasonable improvements in my style. First there was “A Sparrow Takes Flight” and when I look at it I feel very proud of the way I rendered the water and the tentacles of the beast. I learned that preparation is key and you can never have too many sketches before applying paint. This was evident in the painting of the ships.
Then there was “Rose Park”, which paid tribute to a park I frequently visited while living in Long Beach California. The goal was to capture the friendly atmosphere that exists between the neighbors and their dogs. I removed the houses from the real scene and put in a lush background as this was an idealized place. I’m very happy with how I rendered the trees and the grass. Although I think I should have planned out the location of the people a bit better. Check out this video for a little retrospective on the creation of these two works.
That reminds me…
I have a YouTube channel now. The channel name is RyanWilliamsArt and if you like my sense of humor and don’t mind video production skills just above the a/v club in high school, then I encourage you to subscribe to my channel as well. I’ll have some fun stuff on that channel and all of it will shamelessly plug my art. Now back to the review…
There is a third painting that will be discussed after I have given it as a gift to a cousin. Until then, this will only be known as “the painting to be named later.” You know – like in baseball when they make a trade for a big star and then some little player who isn’t even good enough to mention?
Of course I’m also working on the Doc Holiday and Joker painting which you can read about in my previous post. Look for that one in about a month or so. So now let’s look ahead…
My Artistic Goals for the Year of Our Destruction
1. More is more
So let me go over some personal goals in 2012 by revealing my failures in 2011. First I would like to paint more. Wow, that was a shock wasn’t it? I bet you didn’t expect that like you didn’t expect your taxes to go up. Okay specifically, I want to revisit my painting goals of 2010 where I attempted to complete 12 paintings by year’s end. In 2010, I only managed to complete 6 pieces. In 2011 I only managed a meager 3 pieces. So I want to try and reach that magic number 12 in 2012. Seems like the right time at least in terms of numbers.
2. Strike a Pose
Next I would like to improve my portrait and figure painting skills. I find myself being continually drawn to those genres because humans are drama and I want to tell that story. Currently I run into problems when painting the figure; the proportions and shadows have been the most challenging. In 2012 I hope to have a strong portrait and or figure piece to brag about.
3. Wishing Upon a Star…a Really, Really, Big Star
And then I would like to finally complete my Disneyland piece. (What? He has a Disneyland painting?) Yes I do. My original idea was to paint a scene that captured that warm and magically feeling we had as kids (and still do as adults) visiting the magic kingdom. The scene was going to have 50 tourists roaming the streets of the park – the number 50 was chosen as a tribute to Disneyland’s 50th anniversary. Now if you’re a Disney aficionado then right about now you’re saying:
“Hey Ryan, why would you do a painting that pays tribute to an anniversary that happened 7 years ago?”
Okay, so you do the math and discover that the 50th anniversary was in 2005 which means Disneyland opened in 1955 right? I had every intention of completing this painting when I started it back then. However I ran into a problem with that piece about a third of the way through. I didn’t like the perspective and really did have a road map for what I wanted to include in the scene. I felt like the project was a dragging and lacked any direction. For a few weeks I tried to press through but then one day I picked up the brush and felt like it was a chore. So I decided to stop production because the thought of turning one of my passions into a chore makes me ill.
Side note: the wife and I are huge Disney-nuts. We’ve had annual passes to Disneyland for the last 9 years and we honeymooned at Disneyworld in Florida. So knowing the opening year of Disneyland is like asking us who the first president of the United States was, but I digress.
Long story short….I want to finish this damn thing. It’s a big canvas (24”x48”) and only a third of it is complete. So I’ll need planning, paint, and peanut butter cups. Hey it never hurts to have some sugar around to get those neurons firing right?
4. Drop that Brush and Honor the Code
Finally, I hope to have a working database up and running on my website to manage my painting inventory. I have spent time on the front of the site, which is still a work in progress, but I have not spent any real serious time working on the back end. Alas, time working on the website is time away from the easel and that is frequently a difficult choice. I’ll will need to further develop my PHP skills (geek acronym meaning “semi-smart”) to get this database online.
So Where is this all Going?
So while I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions (they’re for unmotivated people who procrastinate to change a behavior until the new year in order to have a “fresh” start – only to fall back into their bad habit on February 1st), I do have a list of artistic goals that I would like to complete. I think my biggest hope for my art this year is to develop a more refined painting style. I want my works to be clean and harmonious. I want the colors to tell a story as much as the subject does. Practice and more practice is the key but as you have already heard; I have other priorities to deal with.
My other priorities that lie outside the art life is finding a new job. I relocated to the Sacramento area in June and have yet to land a web developer job that I have been looking for. The job market is showing signs of comeback, but the competition is still strong here. It can be a stressful environment when looking for work, but that is why I started painting in the first place – I needed an emotional outlet. I needed to figure out a way to release stress and express my feelings for the world around me. Art has really helped me to relax get a new outlook on life. I’m glad I started painting on that winter day back in 2005. Hey! – That reminds me…
January 1st is my 7th anniversary of being an artist! Hard to believe that 7 years ago on January 1st 2005, I opened up a Bob Ross art kit to start learning about oil painting (Boy have I come a long way since then!). I have since deviated from the Bob Ross style to develop my own look, but I credit Bob with giving me the confidence to go out and give painting a shot. You can tell from my first painting that I didn’t understand depth, color theory, shadows, perspective, and more. Those skills are much more developed but there is still more to learn. The most interesting thing about my adventures in painting is that I found out that my strongest interest is not in the landscape genre like I used to think it was. Rather, my strongest interest lies in the figure and the portrait. That discovery came out after exploring different subject matter. Painting truly is an adventure. Who knew your easel could double as a compass? I didn’t know it would take me in a new direction.
Well seeing as the new year is underway and I have many things to do and only 12 months to do them in, I better get to work. Now its a leap year which means we have 366 days this year. If you subtract the 10 days from the date of the end of the world, we actually only have 356 days to do what we want so make them count! NOW SERIOUSLY, if you believe in this 2012 hocus-pocus jazz then you really need your head examined. Actually, if you DO believe in that, then you won’t need your money right? Soooo…..how about buying the original painting of my “Original Eviction?”
It’s only $1,500 and you wont need money after December 21st right? C’MON! Put your money where your misplaced beliefs are.
Ah well, anyways, happy blessed new year to you all and I hope I can entertain you with more of my work in the years to come. I’m off to paint!