Category Archives: Paintings

Paint Sweat and Tears

Shane will always be watching
Shane will always be watching
It’s been an emotional month since my last blog post. Of course if you read that post then you know that I was planning on the Goonies painting as my next big project. Well it is (now), after having completed the portrait “Mr. Shane Herrenschmidt.” If you haven’t kept up with my Facebook fan page or seen episode 26 on my YouTube channel, then right now your wondering,

“what happened to those original plans?”

Life….life happened.

We can all sit around and plan out our lives down to the minute detail, but we all know that in reality the world we live in is filled with millions of variables that flow in and out of reality to create a random and often frustrating life for us. Our job is to handle those obstacles to the best of our ability without losing ourselves in anger, sorrow, or madness. So while I was painting the Goonies one night, I found out that an old friend was approaching heaven’s doors.

A close family friend for over 30 years, my brother’s best friend, and wonderful friend to so many people, Shane was about to say goodbye to a world that put him through more tribulations than any other person I have ever met. Diagnosed with cancer over 10 years ago, Shane was put through countless chemo sessions, tried multiple trial drugs, and saw an assortment of doctors to try and fight of Sarcoma. He had good reasons to fight hard, he had a son, brothers, sister, parents, and countless friends investing their hearts in him and his recovery. Alas, in the end the good Lord upstairs decided it was his time and he became pain free on October 30th. Upon his passing, I felt the overwhelming urge to pay tribute to him in the best manner I know – painting.

I wanted to present the portrait to his mother at the wake which was only 6 days away. So I grabbed a photo from Facebook, sketched out the composition, and started jamming on the canvas. It took 3 days of painting, a day of drying, and framing to make the portrait come together. I was pleased with the work considering I didn’t have much time and anyone who knows me knows that I work slow on the canvas. I tend to get bogged down in details which slows my production. However, there was no room for piddling about on this one. The objective was to get it right the first time. I felt I did and the final seal of approval would be the presentation to his mother.

Her thoughts? I’m not sure, but judging by the long hug and the tears that ran down her face, I would say I was successful in my interpretation of her son. Indeed, she was so moved and surprised, I didn’t tell her I would be painting him, that she was shaking as she hugged me. It caught me off guard – that incredible reaction – and I felt it difficult not to tear up as well. The first thoughts in my head after that embrace,

“THAT is the power of art.”

I have always believed once a painting leaves the easel, so does a small part of the soul of the artist. Because he was a longtime friend who went too young (36), it was an emotional set of painting sessions for me. When I presented the portrait, I felt like I had presented her with a framed part of myself with my memories, my brother’s memories, and my family’s memories. So perhaps all of us are now a part of this painting. In the video, I mention that the painting is like a reflection of the impact Shane had on myself and my family. So I think because of that, a small part of his spirit is now encased in that painting as well. Materialism isn’t a good character trait, but in this case, the object is made from the memories and love of a friend. Objects like that are truly of value. With any luck, this painting will live on through his family and be handed down over the years so the courageous fight of Shane Herrenschmidt is not forgotten.

The paint went on….the sweat gathered….and the tears followed. That is the power of art.

A Portrait of a Mother and Sons

Mother and Sons (2015) by Ryan Williams
Mother and Sons (2015) by Ryan Williams

So the first painting of the year is done. A commissioned piece of a mother and her two sons. As the I mention in the video, this was difficult as I only had a single photograph to work with. Seeing as how this was a commission and would be a gift for someone, I really had to focus on capturing the joy that is a family bond. How do you achieve this feeling in a painting? What is it about a smile that tells a story? Faces are just like books: they all tell a story.

In this video I discuss the challenges that came with working on this triple portrait. I made some mistakes, learned from them, and now take that new knowledge with me as I start yet another portrait. This one is a bit simpler in that there will be just two faces. One human and one, well, not. What is this animal? Stayed tuned.

Driven to Paint the Mechanic’s Apprentice

The Mechanic's Apprentice by Artist Ryan Williams
11”x14” Original Oil Painting by Ryan Williams
How many times have you been driving down the road when you suddenly hear a rattle or a pop and you think, “Crud. How much is this going to cost me in repairs?” I dread those moments because we own used cars and as the years go by it becomes harder to justify the repair costs. However, the decision-making process is rendered easy when you have a mechanic-friend who insists on performing the repairs free of charge. That was the situation for me which lead to my new painting – “The Mechanic’s Apprentice.”

I drove over to my friend Richard’s house and as he worked on my wife’s car I took notice of his old dog; Mary is her name. I had an idea for paying for working on the car. As he worked under the hood I started snapping shots of Mary in different positions. In the end, I never really got a pose that I thought would translate into a successful painting. So I used the shots as a composite for the position you see in this work.

Originally the painting was to be a simple portrait with a standard nondescript background. As I started to sketch, however, I realized I could make a light hearted scene of this sweet and gentle soul. The idea also crossed my mind that if I painted a scene that illustrated the loving relationship between Mary and her owner Richard, then the gift would have that much more meaning to Richard and his family in the years to come. Paintings of loved ones require more attention to detail and not just on a technical level, but on an emotional level as well. Since Richard loves to work in his garage with Mary walking around and investigating, the focus of the painting became the strong bond between the dog and owner. The painting still needed to primarily be a portrait of the dog so I just limited to human interaction to a single outstretched arm. I felt this simple gesture would give the viewer pause to wonder if Mary is helping of teasing Richard. In this scene you just can’t tell and I like it like that.

It’s good to have friends and its important to let them know from time to time that you appreciate all they do for you. My intention with this painting is to let Richard know I appreciate his generosity. In Episode 14 of Brushes and Bytes Video Blog I discuss this painting along with my hopes for 2014. Now give me back that wrench Mary.
dog art animal art sunset art

Jump in the Wagon

My Radio Flyer Wagon circa early 1980's
The subject of my next painting is my radio flyer wagon from my childhood.
Well paint my wagon red – this studio easel is a real gem. It has been so easy and convenient to raise and lower the easel at will to accommodate my posture. Combined with my mahl stick, I find it easier to perform detailed work on my paintings. If you’re a serious artist then I suggest getting a studio easel for all of your creative needs – that’s all for the plugs.

The New project is due for release towards the start of April. If you have already seen the videos then you know what I am painting – an old Radio Flyer wagon – yeah I thought it was time for another still-life. Although in this case the still-life is being combined with a bit of landscape work.

So why an old child’s toy? Well this idea has been in my head for about a year. I was thinking about my childhood wagon and it was just rusting in a shed so why not immortalize it? I may restore it someday to let my unborn kids play with it, but if I can’t then this is the next best thing. I mean I’m really not all that great with tools anyways. Now I could paint it as a new wagon, but I really think wear and tear adds to the character of the any object – heck it adds to the character of anything.

This project has been a real test of hand-eye control. While I don’t need hyper-realism here, I really want the viewer to see and feel what I see and feel about this wagon. So in order to get the correct look and feel, I find myself using my old mahl stick to steady my hand throughout the process. The background was loose, but once I hit the wagon the progress slowed down. It simply requires a lot of attention to detail and a quick hand would fail to realize. Important subjects tend to take more time as they have a personal connection with me and this wagon is another symbol of a happy childhood that my Brother and I enjoyed so I want to share those good memories with the viewers. Patience and a steady hand are what’s called for here.

In my next post I should be finished with the wagon and talking about the final results. In addition to that I will be discussing my next project. This has been a busy month for me. At work I have been swamped with paperwork. I still need to do my taxes. Oh and most importantly….baseball is back! So yes I am playing on Sundays again! I love the springtime. I hope you can get outside and enjoy the warm sun wherever you are too. And now I am stepping outside for some spring air……

still life paintings teddy bear art

Joker on Holliday

Joker on Holliday - Copyright 2012 Ryan G. Williams
Joker on Holliday - Copyright 2012 Ryan G. Williams
Well here it is! It only took a year of on and off frustration. Geez. For me to complete this piece, after having banged my head against a wall many a night, tells me that I have even more persistence (or stubbornness) than I thought. Enough of the self-loathing – let’s look at this fine new painting.

“Joker on Holliday” is a 24”x36” oil on canvas. This is the third painting in a row to be of those dimensions and that’s not by accident. I have really enjoyed that size as I think it is just large enough to display some details without overwhelming a viewer. With that said, I think I’m going small for the next few projects (gotta conserve space in the home). The painting is telling a straight forward story: Doc Holliday and the Joker are playing 5-card draw poker and Joker appears to be the dealer. Doc has a full house and is excited about winning the large pot on the table. Joker, on the other hand, is more interested in playing jokes and goofing off. Holliday’s expression says it all. He wants out of this game and out of this painting. Of course with all of that money on the table, and being a card shark, he is inclined to stick it out.

Doc Holliday loves a full house but this guy is worse than Joey.
Doc Holliday loves a full house but this guy is worse than Joey.

The original concept held true for the most part here. I wanted the two characters at a table and I wanted Doc to be looking at the viewer seemingly asking for an explanation. There were a few small changes from the original idea however. Those changes revolve around the supporting props. Originally I wanted Doc to be holding a revolver in this right hand and I wanted one of Joker’s knifes stuck into the table. I decided late into the project that it would leave the painting looking a little too dark or aggressive. As it is, I figure this piece approaches that fine line of light comedy and dark comedy; I wanted to keep this closer to the family-friendly comedy genre. Other than that, there were no major adjustments to the piece. The colors are what I expected and what I hoped for. My favorite parts? I like the purple of the Joker’s coat as a great contrast to the lit-up green felt poker table. I also love the playing cards in Doc’s hand as they lend themselves to a bit of reality while navigating a field of ridiculousness.

I can see parts of my personality in this work. Viewing this piece, it makes me think this is what’s going through my head at times. There are situations when you need to be focused and down to earth. Then there are those times when I just want to let loose and be a goof. Am I the only one who feels like this? Do you have those same emotions and thoughts as I do? Which one are you most like? Doc? Joker? I’m somewhere in between. I guess that makes me the poker chips?

Interested in seeing the process of how this painting was made? Wanna know more of my thoughts on this work? No? Well screw you then…..for the rest of you lovely folks you can check out my channel on youTube to catch episode 6 of Brushes & Bytes Video Blog. Watch Here!

The original will be for sale along with reproductions on canvas and paper. Personally I think this would look great in a kids room. I mean what child wouldn’t feel safe at night knowing the Joker is looking over them? Sure nightmares are a potential side-effect, but a good painting leaves you thinking about it after viewing. If you want to make the kids feel safer then give them a night light. How about a black light on the painting? That should calm their nerves.

Hey Joker, cheer up will ya?
Hey Joker, cheer up will ya?
Hey they may even learn valuable life lessons about poker! Then they grow-up to become professional poker players who bring in the big bucks and give you an easy retirement! All of this from a painting – sounds like a deal to me!