A River Runs Through It

American River near Nimbus Dam
My selected painting is based on this photo I took earlier this year.
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.

American River Themed Painting (in progress)
After one session of work, you can see the sky is being laid in. You can see the star of the show (the deer) is sketched in and ready for paint.

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.

The Magic 8-ball Said What?

Magic-8-Ball-Fortune Circa Late-1960s
Magic-8-Ball-Fortune Circa Late-1960s - My sources tell me.....that I'm just a friggin' plastic ball! You're on your own kid!
You never know what life has in store for you. Will tomorrow bring you joy, riches, love – or perhaps frustration, boredom, or higher taxes? Wouldn’t it be cool if we all could walk around with a Magic 8-ball to guide us each day? Yeah that would be sweet – you roll out of bed and ask the ball if today will be a great day and if it gives you one of those “all signs point to YOU’RE SCREWED” then you can just stay in bed eating fruit newtons and watching the People’s Court. Thank you magic plastic divining ball, assembled in China, for protecting me from my destiny! Ugh, wouldn’t that be something? Hey look! There’s a flight back to reality leaving now! I better catch it!

Okay so anyways that was just my own clever little lead-in to my latest completed painting. The Taming of the Cue is a 24”x36” oil painting depicts a lively night at a pool hall. We see dancing and other folks enjoying some billiards but the focus is the table in the foreground. Here we find two ladies are engaged in a heated game of 8-ball and one girl is clearly dominating the other. Upon a quick examination of the expressions you would guess that the girl on the left is winning and is gloating over a near-victory. But wait a moment, look at the configuration of the solids and stripes on the table and tell me what you see. Well, there is only one solid left on the table before the winning player can go for the 8-ball so that’s normal, but….. oh. I see. The 8-ball is close to the pocket while the 3-ball is hugging it. That is a big problem because when you go for that 3-ball you are risking knocking in that 8-ball and losing the game. Ah so that’s why the girl on the right looks unhappy – she isn’t losing; she’s winning! She’s winning but she’s stuck uh, ahem, ” behind the 8-ball” because she can’t really go after that 3-ball. Well the smug-looking lady, who is so confident for being in such a poor state, has a good reason to smile. I wonder how you would approach that next shot.

'The Taming of the Cue' - Copyright 2012 Ryan G. Williams
'The Taming of the Cue' - Copyright 2012 Ryan G. Williams

So this painting was a gift to my cousin. He asked for anything and so I came up with this billiard scene when I saw his new house and his pool table. The selection of billiard balls was not random. I chose the 10,9,8, and 3 to have the focus in the foreground because my cousin was born in 1983. Just a simple little salute to make it more personal. If you look in the top right, you will see a neon martini glass sign. That’s a reference to another cousin’s painting (this cousin’s sister) that I did back in 2008 (The Martini Stands Alone). I figured since they’re family then why not link the paintings together some how? Also in the distant background towards the middle, you might make out a little ’39’. If you need help then click the image for a closer look. This is the 39th oil painting I have completed. It seemed like such a round number that I thought I would put it there. I thought a billiard scene, as classic as it is, would be appropriate. You know there have been some really entertaining billiard paintings over the years. Of course we all know dogs can play poker, but did you know they also play pool? Artist Cassius Marcellus Coolidge painted many scenes of dogs playing poker back in the 1920’s which we are all familiar with (I have a tie of one of them). Perhaps not as well known is Arthur Saron Sarnoff who focused on dogs, but they were shooting pool which was just as funny.

'The Hustler' Circa 1950s; Artist Arthur Sarnoff - That is some great shooting for not having thumbs.

Closer to modern times, I also love artist Chris Consani’s billiard scene depicting classic television and film stars enjoying a night on the old felt table.

"A Game of Fate" - Artist Chris Consani - Circa 1980's-90's --- This was not the original look. Elvis was not in the original.

By the way, this version of “A Game of Fate” is not the original version. Consani was forced to use Elvis as a replacement for the Three Stooges. The reason: He was popped for copyright infringement by the good folks who own the likeness rights to the stooges. That’s pretty ridiculous if you ask me. As an artist, we have to be careful of what we paint in this age of litigious larceny.

Back to my painting, which is copyright infringement free (suck it Lionel Hutz), while my scene is more down to earth, I like putting a small twist on the expressions because it’s a little test to see if you’re just looking at the painting or if you’re entering the painting. If your knee-jerk reaction to the unhappy lady is, “she must be losing” then you’re not in the painting; you’re just looking and not taking in all the facts. We must hear, or in the world of art: SEE, all the testimony before we can render a verdict. Remember, artists are creating worlds for you to enter and explore from the comfort of your own imagination. So please, take a moment, and explore.

This painting is also a visual metaphor. Yes, yes, everything in art is a metaphor isn’t it? The scene is depicting a little lesson about life if you take the time to think about it. What? You don’t have the time? You say you need to hop back on your cell phone to update your score on “Words with Friends?” Good lord, what happened to our attention spans? (Sigh) Okay, I will divulge the life lesson for you: no matter how good (or bad) things are going, your fortune can change in a heartbeat. In this case the situation is rolling along for the lady on the right and then, in the blink of an eye, she’s facing a difficult decision. What is the next step? What should she do? Good times can swing a 180 in the blink of an eye.

Real character is born of adversity. While the fates are kind to us, we put away our true nature for a rainy day. When it finally does start to pour, we put on that true persona and find out what we’re really made of and what we really believe. How appropriate the expression “behind the 8-ball” huh? Life is a game we play. We will lose more often than not, but remember that losing glorifies winning. That’s your life lesson for today.

I’ll have a video showing the painting sessions for this piece on my YouTube channel soon.

But Wait, There’s More!

In the meantime I continue to develop my Joker-Holiday painting. I’m getting close to the color stage on that one. I have been careful in how I render that scene because I really want the faces to not only bear a strong resemblance to to the characters from the movies, but I also want their emotions to really come across as genuine. That was one of my goals for 2012 after all. Speaking of goals…

I just implemented a new database system on my website to house my paintings and their associated Paypal codes. So now when you click a painting, the image expands for easy viewing and the paypal link that is appropriate for the selected painting is revealed. No more listing all painting and Paypal information on one page. That was just plain ugly and I’m glad I got rid of that. Let me know if you like the new layout.

Well one month is gone and one painting is complete. So far the fortunes of 2012 have been kind. But when will that 8-ball creep closer to the pocket? I better chalk my cue to be ready for it.

Be ready for anything
You never know what that 8-ball will say.

The First of the Last?

Happy Final Year!

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?

Mayan Calendar - the face of your doom
What's he laughing at? Stick that tongue back in too!

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

A Sparrow Takes Flight - Copyright 2011 Ryan G. Williams
I'm really making waves with this piece.

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.
Rose Park - Copyright 2011 Ryan G. Williams
Is it easy being green? Hey, it's just a walk in the park.

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?”

Unfinished Disneyland Painting - Copyright 2012 Ryan G. Williams
I guess every artist has a 'long lost project' and this is mine. Originally titled 'Disneyland at 50', the way its going it might be renamed 'Disneyland Joins AARP.'

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?”

Original Eviction (close up) - Copyright 2009 Ryan G. Williams
'Ugh. I'm so sick of the apocalyptic talk. Would someone please stop the earth? - I wanna get off.'

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!

What a Joke

Joker under construction
Wanna know how I got these cards? - The forming stages of the Joker in a new movie-mash-up painting with Val Kilmer's Doc Holiday.

“Wanna know how I got these cards?”

That’s what it feels like the Joker should be asking Doc Holiday in my newest project under development. This work is currently in the late stages of forming and will probably change in terms of look and feel from the final product. I would estimate that I’m about 45% through this piece.

The first of a planned many paintings centered on movie mash-ups, the Joker and Doc Holiday sitting at a table together is partly a graphical auto biography. On one side is Doc, a man who prides himself on education, a thinker, an adventurer. Sitting on the other side is Joker, a man of parody, unafraid of being different, a lover of games and laughs. To be sure, I am NOT either of these guys. No I am not a killer, thief, or womanizer. But I can attach some of my own personality traits to these ethically-challenged dudes. Is that why I am painting this? No. Actually I just thought it would be funny to throw these two together on canvas. The funny thing here is that at first you would think they would have nothing in common. One was a real person and one is a fictional character. One believes in the finer things in life and one believes in simply getting dressed. However, when you take a closer look at these men you see some commonalities. For example, they were both into gambling; one with cards the other with human lives. They both saw the law as a concept that was made to be ignored. They both lived their life expecting to die at any moment and when you live like that then you know you’re maximizing your adventure quota. After getting through the halfway stage of this painting, it occurred to me that this painting is an extension of me. I am painting my personality traits on canvas – a visual metaphor. For me, painting is more than a relaxing session of color slapping and charcoal pushing. I think painting is laying your conscious and subconscious out for the world to see and then waiting for the viewers to judge you as a pleasant, charming guy…or a twisted, demented freak. The jury is out on my works; You’ll let me know.

I have been trying to raise the emotion in my paintings and I hope that the manic expression of Joker will provide that heightened state of tension. It’s quite amazing what the eyes can convey. I’ve learned that with 1 stroke of my loaded bristle brush I can change an entire expression from fear to excitement. You can’t paint portraits without learning something about anatomy, and emotion. So how do you better your portrait painting skills? Same as with anything else in life – practice. With this single painting I have learned more about the human face than at any other time in my life. There are just 2 faces in this dual portrait, but they’re the result of many laborious attempts at a likeness. Oh sure, I can paint a face, but you say you want it to actually look like someone you know? Well, that’s going to take some extra time and consideration. Now don’t get me wrong, if you ask me to paint from a photograph of someone then I can duplicate it. But that kind of painting isn’t very interesting nor is it a challenge. In that case you’re simply plagiarizing a camera and if you wanted a photograph anyway then just keep the photograph. The real challenge for a portrait artist lies in taking in subject material, photos, sketches, live models, and shifting the material in your own head to make it something else entirely. To take elements from photo references and then create a unique perspective is a fun and rewarding challenge. So how do you practice this? How do you strengthen a part of the brain that is difficult to define?

Well I’ll let you in on a secret. Can you keep a secret?

Yes? OK well then, (looks around) here is the secret: I HAVE NO IDEA.

No really, I have no idea on a formula to train the mind to improve it visual-spatial acuity. However I’m improving so maybe it just goes back to that old trick we refer to as “practice.” Well as cousin Eddie said in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, “Uhhheye don’t know!”

One thing I do know is the grisaille (black and white forming stage) phase of the painting is nearing completion. Once that is done all that will be left is coloring in the piece. I will have another update before release of the painting. I am targeting a completion date for this painting on January 31, 2012.

I am also working on another painting that will be complete before the year’s end. Since that painting is a gift for Christmas I will not be revealing any information on it until after the new year. But there will be plenty of photos and perhaps even a new video on that work. So please stay tuned.

Coming up in my next post will be a year-end review of my work and a discussion about what I learned and plan on doing next. I hope you will check in to see what I have in the works for 2012. As always, let me know if you have any questions about purchasing copies of my work, originals, or commission information. Thank you to my readers and art lovers. More great art is to come in the new year.

Merry Christmas and happy new year!

A Brush with Redemption

Alcatraz Prison
In here you have plenty of time to refine you artistic skills. Everyone's art studio is exactly the same size too.

Some painters enjoy going on painting retreats to get away from the everyday grind and enjoy some quiet creative time on the easel. Usually these retreats range from a weekend to a full week in a remote part of the world. Often people go on these retreats because they simply can’t find the time to paint during their busy work week. Well there is a certain group of people who have nothing but time and they fill it with painting. While this is great, the people in question are people with questionable morals. No we’re not talking about politicians. We’re talking about prisoners. You know, the folks who like the color orange or sometimes black and white pinstripes? Yeah, prisoners.

On a recent trip to San Francisco, I was able to visit Alcatraz Island again. I hadn’t been there since 2004 and this was my first night tour. It was a bit spooky but it was also enlightening. Before I go on let me make something clear: In general I really could care less about the prison population. Most of them know the difference between right and wrong; they chose the wrong and ended up getting caught. So 9 out of 10 prisoners are just evil to me and they can stay locked up as far as I am concerned. There is no such thing as rehabilitation for murderers, rapists, and molesters. OK now that I made that point clear let’s move on. So 9 out of 10 inmates are a lost cause, but perhaps that other prisoner has the ability to look past himself, his anger, and his pain to see the beauty in the world. I tend to believe that this kind of inmate simply has lost faith in the world and himself. He needs to be educated on the world he has never met. A good place to start is from within. Developing one’s frustrations into something creative is good therapy. Why not place that energy into something productive? That is exactly what some inmates have done as they are painting in prison. There is a small room in the old main cell block building where the park, Alcatraz is now a state park, is displaying art from inmates.

I found this art to be as intriguing as any of the most famous works of art I have ever seen. Yes, I have seen some the biggest in my life time: the Last Supper, the Blue Boy, the Last Judgement, Night Hawks, American Gothic, and more. This art, while not spectacular on a technical scale, makes an immediate impression from a narrative standpoint. Viewing the art I found myself feeling their anger, fear, sadness, and even a bit of remorse. These artists are not just painting to pass the time, even though they have plenty of it, but rather to express themselves in order to understand the world, society, and even themselves better. I have always advocated that painting is therapy and this is more evidence to that point. One painting in particular grabbed me. The work was entitled “Justice” and at first glance it looks like it was painted by a 7-year old. But the more I looked at it the more I realized there was a deeper story to it. The artist, Les Dewberry who was serving time at Pelican Bay State Prison, depicts criminals and what appears to be cops fighting on each side of an outline of the state of California. The state is covered in bars like a jail cell. The criminals appear to have guns and a red or blue bandana (bloods and crips gang colors). Behind this shootout appears to be a large crowd of faces with the word ‘VOTE’ appearing throughout the crowd. As I looked at this, I noticed that a jail cell door was painted on the left and looked like it was open. So it appeared as if the police were pushing the criminals into the jail cell. There is a ’13’ painted on the cell door, but I am not sure as to the meaning. It could be a message of how “unlucky” those people are to have been caught and thrown in jail or perhaps how unlucky they are to have been born into their situation. Then again it could be another gang reference like the 13th street gang that runs across the country. At any rate, the reason I like this piece is that it draws a reaction with the most minimal of figure renderings. The people are nothing more than stick figures and yet I could look past that to focus on the story. It’s strong and yet leaves you asking yourself “is there something we can do to fix this never-ending cycle of violence?” Notice there is a cent sign in the jail cell while there is a dollar sign behind the cops. There is definitely a statement here about social economics. I’m not sure if Dewberry is blaming the cops, the criminals, the voters, or the system in general. But I like the fact that its left a bit open-ended so you won’t jump to conclusions. Art that leaves you thinking is always good art if you ask me.

Justice (1993) Acrylic on canvas - Les Dewberry
Les Dewberry painted "Justice" in 1993 while serving time at Pelican Bay State Prison.

Now I am not making any political statement here. I am only making an observation about the power of painting and art in general. I like the idea of painting being used as a rehabilitation tool for that small sliver of the prison population who could actually reform their life. Imagine what Bob Ross could do to these folks? Happy Parole!

How about my website? If you have been on my site in the last few days then you noticed is has a new look. Yes, it took me a year to finally do something about the look, but I finally have something to show for my efforts as I released the 2nd version of my site on November 1. The main objective for the site was to make it look more inviting. Gone is the blackness which has been replaced by a neutral soft brown color. I have refined the video page to allow for easier viewing. The galleries now offer better viewing as you can click an image to get a closer look along with a description of the painting. The site still has some work left as I need to do some programming to incorporate a back-end database. The database is needed to make the addition of new paintings easier for me and easier for the viewer when making a purchase. Everything works well for now so I’m happy. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect. I have many ideas for improvements before the 3rd version is released. For example, the list of purchase options in the gallery is crowded so when the programming is done, only one PayPal purchase link will be displayed at a time as you peruse a gallery (I thought separating the galleries by subject would make the experience easier as well).That is coming soon but I have other things to tend to in my life first.

In my next blog post you will get a more detailed update on the Doc Holiday and Joker painting that I’m working on. The refined site has an “In Production” session for which I will start to use to give up to date information on my current projects. For those interested in subscribing to my blog, I have a link on the site that you can click to get emails about new topics that I post here. I hope that if you enjoy the site enough that you will consider subscribing. Enjoy your Autumn! Subscribe to Brushes & Bytes!