It’s a Mad-Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to everyone! I hope everyone had an enjoyable holiday season. I certainly did as I was able to visit family and friends over the last 2 weeks. One of my favorite things about the holidays is reminiscing over old stories of the silly things you did when you were younger. I got a few laughs out this holiday season and I hope you did as well.

With all of the visiting I was doing, I took time away from the easel. With the year closing, I looked back at my goal from New Years 2010 and realized I did not even come close to my goal of completing 12 paintings during the year. I managed 6 paintings though and that is still better then in recent years when I was only completing 4 or 5. My favorite painting of 2010 is easily “An Early Memory.” I love that work so much because I spent many hours glazing the bear to get the soft fur look of the teddy bear. I also think the warm light helped to convey a sense of affection in the scene.

Mad to the Bone
Alice is relying on this mad cat for assistance? All ways are the Queen's ways! Copyright 2010 Ryan G. Williams

My 6th painting you have not seen until now. That’s because it was a Christmas gift for my Sister-in-law and I didn’t want her to see it before then. She loves the Cheshire cat from the “Alice in Wonderland” story and so I decided on a scene that focuses on the cat and his “mad” guidance. In the scene, Alice is wandering through Tulgey Wood and is about to breakdown in tears of frustration when the Cheshire cat appears and offers some suggestions. Unfortunately for Alice, there is no clear path home and she will have to encounter even more mad characters before she escapes. The signs tease her about this way and that way and even a path home, but she is utterly lost because ultimately, “all ways are the Queen’s ways.”

The color scheme was made to emulate the Disney version of the story as is the cat himself. I did embellish the size of the cat though to give it more prominence in the painting. I wanted to capture the soft light in the distance of the paths to create a strong spatial relationship between the forest and the figures. Alice has her back to us to remind us that the focus is the cat and not her. You will notice on the main tree where the cat sits is a carving. The carving reads: “CW + NT” which is a reference to my Sister-in-law’s and my Brother’s upcoming wedding this year (Congratulations guys!). The original is not available but this painting is available as a reproduction on canvas and paper.

As the New Year begins, I have hopes of completing more paintings this year than last. I set a goal of 12 last year. I realize this just won’t happen this year as I am planning a move in the summer. So my time is limited to work on new projects. Still, I am setting a lofty goal of 8 paintings to complete this year. What do my plans include? My top priority is to complete a Disneyland painting I started in 2005. I simply lost my confidence in the layout when I started and decided to put it on the shelf for a while. I think I can rectify the problems with it if I change my approach so I am going to give it another shot. Also in the works is another movie-inspired painting – this one will be from Pirates of the Caribbean. I will also be tackling another landscape or two, a still life, and perhaps a portrait of a loved one. For the rest of the works you will have to keep checking my blog.

I would like to thank those people who purchased works of my art in 2010 including Brian Lacey, Tracy Cook, and Bob Weston. I thank you for supporting my art and I hope my works bring you enjoyment throughout the years.

Have a great and inspired 2011!

alice in wonderland art

What Would You Pay for a Painting?

"No. 5" by Jackson Pollack - 1948
'No. 5' by Jackson Pollack is the highest selling painting to date. It sold for $140 million in 2006. Is this piece worth it? Depends on what the buyer is willing to pay.
I am in the design stages of a pirate themed painting – I will be posting the sketches soon. I also just completed a painting that won’t be displayed until after Christmas to avoid ruining the surprise for the receiver. In the meantime, I have been entertaining and educating myself on other artist’s ideas and opinions. Some discussions have been interesting to say the least.

For example, I recently was involved in a discussion in one of my art groups online about determining the value of a painting once you have completed it. This artist was clearly talented but he didn’t know how much to ask for when selling his work. Then he said something that made me jump into the discussion. He claimed that he saw artists who were asking thousands of dollars for their work and he felt those pieces were not hard to do and that because he could do a better job that his pieces should be worth even more. I rolled my eyes and began constructing my argument against his way of thinking.

So how do I value a painting? Well as I told this artist, the value is not based on level of difficulty – how would I even quantify that? I believe the value of a painting is determined by an assortment of factors including the medium, size, color, subject content, the amount of work involved, demand for the artist’s work, and others. There is simply no formula for artists to follow when assigning value to a painting. To illustrate my point to this person, I gave the example of two paintings of the same subject with different approaches. The subject is a coke can and the first is rendered in realism while the other is painted with an impressionist approach. I asked him that if the realist approach required more detail, does that mean it should be priced higher? There is no simple answer, but personally I would give the impressionist’s piece a higher price.

An Early Memory - Copyright Ryan Williams 2010
'An Early Memory' by Ryan Williams is selling for $550 framed. Is this a fair price? It all depends on what the artist feels the work is worth. For purchase information visit the gallery link.
The impressionist includes his own personal touch to this simple coke can while the realist is only painting everything that they see. If I wanted a painting of photographic quality then why not just take a photo of a coke can? I prefer to own art that contains a little bit of the artist’s soul in it. As for the price I would be willing to pay in this situation, well I would not pay much because the subject is so tame and uninteresting.With that said, when all is said and done, the artist has the right to throw out these considerations and slap an arbitrary price to their work. I prefer not to do such a thing. I price my pieces in a relatively affordable fashion because I feel that I need a reputation for successful work and a larger fan base before I can increase the value. In other words, the demand must be higher for me to raise the value. So there is no reason for me to slap thousands of dollars on my paintings when I know they will not sell for that price.

That is my point though – just because one painting is harder to execute does not make it worth more. I have seen many abstracts with a minimalist approach sell for thousands of dollars. This defies my logic because I don’t understand abstract to begin with, but in the art world nothing is logical and everything is spontaneous. This is the world I enjoy living in. You never know what you will see when you wake up each morning.

The Emotional Response of a Painting

It is amazing what a piece of art can do. Paintings are more then globs of pigment on canvas. They are windows into new worlds and ideas that lead our minds into new realms we never realized existed. A provocative subject can give us pause to think, a subject based in parody can spark a laugh, and for some of us, they can even provide healing powers. A young man who was in a hospital was able to cope with his disease by engaging in artistic projects. This happy story illustrates the powerful responses, both physical and emotional, a piece of art can garner.

What kind of response do you get when you look at a painting? Any response is better than nothing for an artist’s goal is to have their work remembered. A painting can convey emotion just from the colors used or the composition chosen. Earlier this year I tried to convey a feeling of self-reflection and even a little regret in the work “It’s Never too Late.” The point of the work was to ask the question “Is it ever too late to try what you never tried?” In the scene, the old man is sitting on a chair while holding a cello. He has a pensive and urgent expression as he loses himself in a sunset that is fading away outside. He is pondering whether he could still try to learn this difficult instrument at his older age. Surrounded by family photographs, we assume he has made good choices for himself and found happiness. The expression suggests however that he does have some regrets. What has he sacrificed to obtain his happiness? What has he missed out on?

"It's Never Too Late" - Ryan G. Williams
It's Never Too Late - by Ryan G. Williams Copyright 2010 Original and prints available at

To convey these feelings I used symbolism. The main theme here is the eternal force of time. The old man is a victim of time and the choices he is forced to make because of it. There are two plants surrounding him in this setting. One is full of life and touching the sunlight while the other is in shade and withering as it approaches its last days. Time has worked its power here and the old man is surrounded by it. The large clock on the wall hovers over the old man as a reminder that life is what happens while you are busy making other plans. The old man is in his own epicenter of action and consequence. While the family photographs are behind him and represent the choices made and his path chosen, he is looking ahead into a sun that is setting and realizing the life he has lived all of these years is also starting to set. He has limited time to resolve these remaining desires that he has put off in his old age. Will he try to learn this instrument like he always wanted to? Is it ever too late?

The next time you are stuck on a painting take a moment to determine why you have an interest in the work. Is it the subject, color, or something else? Artists appreciate knowing that their work is creating a response.

Who Loves Pirate Art?

The Pirate - Endre Szabo
The Pirate - by Endre Szabo Prints availble at
Who doesn’t love the stories of pirates? Thanks to the Disney folks, we all have a rose-colored vision of what piracy really was like in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. The truth is that most pirates died after about 7 years on the sea while on the run. The most common cause of death was disease. Where did the disease come from? Well if you sleep in your own filth, while crammed together with dozens of other diseased men, you will soon find an early exit to your miserable life. What about food? Well often there was none and so cannibalism reared its ugly head. Yes to be a pirate in reality was a horrible life. So let’s stay with the romanticized fantasy shall we?

Pirate history has always appealed to me because I love the idea of complete freedom. You can sail for adventure anywhere at anytime and meet anyone. I also enjoy pirate-themed art and while there are not many artists who voyage into this genre, I do have a personal favorite that I wanted to make you aware of. His name is Donald Maitz and I find his work to be humorous and enchanting. On a technical level, Maitz is able to balance reality with a slight touch of the cartoonist. His characters are full of emotion and energy and you cannot help but stare at a face and start to feel a little bit of the drama or comedy coming out of the scene. The paintings are great story tellers and they follow that old saying about a picture being worth a thousand words. In his larger works the picture is more like one hundred thousand words. I love a narrative painting and Maitz is a talent with bringing comedy and action into his works. Most of you, though you may not have known his name, have seen at least one of his works. Maitz painted the famous portrait of Captain Henry Morgan which was adopted by the Morgan Rum company for the label on the bottle. “Got a little captain in ya?”

Captain Henry Morgan
The painting that became the most famous work for Donald Maitz. Captain Henry Morgan certainly has a little captain in him. Copyright 1998 Donald Maitz

Maitz has influenced me in the last few years. I have found that I too want to venture into narrative works. Stories are great on canvas and you can return to a painting many times and find something new that you may not have noticed earlier. In this way, the story continues to be told in increments which keeps the viewer interested. A still-life or landscape can be admired for its color and content, but weeks later can you accurately recall the position of the trees and mountains in your head? On the other hand, if you saw a painting of some characters interacting, chances are you could recall the position and expression of the characters because the painting is telling you a story. As the viewers, we are more likely to recall a painting’s story when there are people involved because we are social creatures and we relate to faces and social events. While you view a narrative painting, you are painting your own version in your mind – just like when you read a book. Most of Maitz’s paintings give me that mental paint brush. I love art that creates an emotional reaction when viewed and my reaction when I look at Maitz work is one of excitement and desire. I don’t necessarily desire to be a pirate, I’m just exited at the possibility of the freedom and I hope to experience that kind of freedom someday.

For more information on Donald Maitz, visit Donald Maitz Website

Now all this pirate talk has me motivated to start a new pirate project – stay tuned.

Video Gallery Opens with “My Bonny”

Happy Friday art lovers! While the look and feel of my website is still a work in progress, today I announce the grand opening of the video gallery! (Hold your applause) The video gallery will be the home of short films that I create that contain art related material. Some features will be small thoughts on upcoming projects, others will be a post-mortem on recently completed projects, and then there will be films that are painting session peek-ins that take you from the beginning to the end of one of my paintings.

That is the content of the first video. In episode 1, “My Bonny”, you will see how I just recently completed my latest work. It’s a dog portrait of my puppy – her name is Bonny. While the painting is the focus of the film, Bonny does make an appearance or two. Actually when I started painting her, I found out that she doesn’t like the sound of a brush hitting the canvas. She tried on more than one occasion to jump up on the easel. Perhaps she was trying to tell me that I made her nose too big or her ears too long. Eh, everyone’s a critic and she knows where she gets her food so if she knows what’s good for her she will just keep quiet – but I digress. The painting spanned over 2 weeks but only took about 5 days worth of work. I was ill during those weeks so painting was difficult and I find it to be a bad idea to paint when ill. Overall I am happy with the portrait. I did make her look proud and regal as I like the old classical portrait look. But make no mistake about it – she is a fire cracker and if you don’t keep your eye on her at all times you might lose a sock or two.

This is the second dog portrait I have done (check out “Little Skipper”). I enjoy these animal portraits because it feels like I can capture a moment in time that sparks many fond memories of a pet. That is how I felt when my wife Rachel commissioned an artist to do a portrait of my childhood dog Spot. I had tears in my eyes when I saw the painting because my mind went immediately to 1984 when I was 7 years old and we had just brought home our new dog for the first time. I figure 20 years from now I will have similar feelings looking at this painting that I did of Bonny.

I hope you enjoy this painting and I hope the video is interesting for you. I like watching other artists because I find the creation process fascinating. When an artist goes from a white canvas of nothing to a fully realized vision then I just think it’s a amazing thing. That is one of the reasons I loved watching The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross. He inspired me as a kid that I could not only be a painter, but that I could do anything.

Once again, the look of the site is still under consideration, but the content will keep on coming. I have to put aside those perfectionist tendencies when designing something otherwise it never sees the light of day. Thanks for checking it out and more to follow. See ya soon!

Go to the videos tab or click here: My Bonny