Playing all of my Cards

The recent passing of Steve Jobs and the subsequent mourning of loyal Apple lovers has made me take a second look at the state of society. Every time period has its impact names. If I said “Roman Empire” then you’d probably think of Julius Caesar. What about if I say “the Golden Age of Piracy?” Did you immediately go to Blackbeard or Henry Morgan? “Age of Exploration?” You might have gone to Columbus or Magellan. Now bringing this back to the art world; if I say “Renaissance” then who are you thinking about? Perhaps Michelangelo or da Vinci? Let’s focus on the Renaissance for just a moment because I think it provides a good example of what is happening today.

Before television, film, radio, and the internet made celebrities out of people, the most popular medium to make a name for yourself was through art. During the Renaissance, the painters and sculptors were the rock stars of their time. Affluent citizens who could afford it, would shell out a hefty load of cash to have a commission realized in their own home. Many of these artists derived their success from public works projects. For example, Lorenzo Ghiberti created the Paradise Bronze North Doors of the Baptistry of Florence in 1424.

Lorenzo Ghiberti's Paradise Bronze Doors
The Paradise Bronze Doors in Florence Italy

This kind of work was not just about making a statement on a subject; it was an advertisement to future customers that he could do the amazing. People from all over would come to see the intricate works of the doors and be floored by the craftsmanship. The doors made Lorenzo a celebrity in Florence and all over northern Italy. Everyone wanted a piece of art in those days because it was a status symbol and it was the latest and greatest addition to the culture. Art was changing the way people viewed each other, their country, religion, and the future. It was not just reporting on the culture, it was inspiring it to evolve. Now let’s return to the 21st century. Who are the folks who are driving culture nowadays? Don’t answer to quickly – think about it. Perhaps Hollywood was driving culture in the 20th century, but they are certainly no controlling this one. Authors? There will always be an impact book here and there but the book does not reach everyone unless there is a real interest in reading. Athletes? Not since the Roman Times has sports driven a culture. So who is sculpting our ways of thinking nowadays? How about the technologists? The nerds? The geeks who start their own software firms? Now that is worth thinking about.

First off, how am I talking to you right now? On a computer. This information is made available instantly – a powerful feature of the internet. Where can you access this information? A better question might be where can you NOT access it? With the rise of the mobile smart phones you have the world at your fingertips from anywhere. What does this information do to people? It changes their lives – we hope for the better. Need a recent example? The democratic protests in the middle east utilized Facebook to get out their messages. They were able to coordinate their protests that their governments were trying to prevent. So you have people now waiting to see what the geeks and nerds will invent next to change our lives. So when Steve Jobs passed, people took notice and reflected on what their life would have been without their iPhone or iPad. Yes, the nerds are the Rock Stars of the 21st Century. While I accept that technology will be driving culture for the foreseeable future, I also believe that painters will always be able grab the attention of the world and create new inspirations for future societies. Recently the Obama “Hope” painting struck a chord with America in 2008 for example. So with all that in mind, I continue my efforts to connect my thoughts and emotions to my viewers through my paintings. And what’s next? What’s in the cards?

There is one in every deck.
Ha ha ha ha!

I mentioned last time that I was starting a new genre.  The movie mash-ups will introduce different characters from different stories in the same painting. This idea is not original but my subjects will be. I am currently engaged in the forming stages of a painting that includes a couple of familiar names. Doc Holiday and the Joker have something in common: they both play with cards. So yes, you will be seeing a crazy painting involving these two and oh, by the way, Doc Holiday is being played by Val Kilmer. If you remember, he was the best part of 1993’s Tombstone. So let’s see if I’m a daisy and can pull this off. Who is my Joker? Heath Ledger. With all respect to Jack Nicholson and Caesar Romero, I really enjoyed Dark Knight. If this works then I have many more crazy ideas to work with. If not, then I have many more crazy ideas to work with. Now, let’s put a smile on that face and get back to work.

The Joker is Coming
Let's paint a smile on that canvas.

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When Worlds Collide

This is what happens when worlds collide.
On this day, we would finally be free of taxes.

Months ago I was laying in bed quietly and in the dark. My mind, as it always does at 1am, started to run, no…sprint, and I was forced to chase it down. Before I could catch it and finally drift into the land of slumber I had a funny idea about my future works of art.

I enjoy most subjects to paint, but I admit that I am most interested in the genre that gives me the most problems – portraits. There are two problems for me when it comes to painting portraits. The first problem is that I want to paint portraits but I realize there isn’t much interest in buying a portrait unless it was commissioned by the buyer or it happens to be someone whom the buyer knows about and loves. The second problem I have is that I’m just not that good at portraits. I confess that I could simply duplicate a portrait to get a likeness but then I am locked into that pose and I want to paint from life – not from a photograph. These problems generate a catch-22 for me. I need to paint more portraits to become a better portrait artist, but I also need to sell a painting or two before my home is flooded with canvases. Perhaps I needed to generate a portrait of well known people in the news, or characters from books or movies. Hmmm……movies. I have some experience there.

So while these thoughts crossed my mind in the middle of the night, I started to think about the movie paintings I have done for my brother these last 6 years. I have covered 5 movies all together but none of them really focused on a person so much as a scene. The scenes were narratives and were trying to pass along the feeling of being a character in the film. Why not take it a step further and try to convey a character’s personality on canvas? But again, a simple portrait is unlikely to generate any interest from potential buyers so how can I create interest in this idea? Wouldn’t it be nice to grab a fantasy world, then grab another fantasy world, then smash them together into a super-duper-hypothetical-and-perhaps-hysterical-world-that-creates-a-strong-response-from-the-viewer (takes a breath)? Ah, now I have something.

So today I announce the beginning of a new genre for my art; I call it “Character Mash-ups.” The idea is to take a well known character and have him or her interact with another well known character from a completely different and unrelated story. Perhaps these are fictitious characters or perhaps they are historical, but the point is that the encounter will be the result of a commonality between them.  I will be looking for a humorous slant for most of these works, but I might invoke a little drama in them too. I have already started on my first project and I think the subject is pretty silly. I hope to get a laugh and a sale out of this. I can hear you screaming now, “Enough! What are you painting?” Ah…well check back next week for a sneak preview.

Hehe….I’m such a joker.

Dusty But Not Rusty

Rose Park - Copyright 2011 Ryan G. Williams
Rose Park in Long Beach. Where the dogs take their owners to socialize.

Remember me? I’m the guy who does all these paintings. Doesn’t ring a bell? I’m also the guy with the corny jokes, loud shirts, and unhealthy interest in piracy. Ah that rang a bell didn’t it?

Yes it’s been 5 months since I have posted on this blog. There are more than a few reasons for this, but the main one it that I had not painted much during that span. Not that I was losing interest in the hobby; far from it. Painting is still my favorite indoor hobby. There were multiple time consumers that were keeping me from the canvas. The biggest one was that I moved 420 miles north from Long Beach. I packed up the goods and drove a u-haul truck myself to my new residence. I am currently residing in Fair Oaks California which is about 15 miles east of downtown Sacramento. In addition to all that moving jazz, I was taking some web programming courses that were me keeping occupied for most nights. Long story short, I just had nothing to talk about in the art world. But I am back and with a new painting none the less.

In my last post I mentioned that I was working on a painting to celebrate a park that I enjoyed taking my dog to visit on most evenings. The park was down the street from where we lived in Long Beach and is called Rose Park. This painting is my tribute to my 9 years spent in Long Beach. Many paintings I choose to do have a special meaning to me that most people will not get, but that’s understandable as I think painting is a graphic diary of sorts. This painting simply takes me back to the days of living near the ocean, going to college at Long Beach State, meeting my wife, making many friends, and finally getting a sneaky little dog. To everyone else, they will see an outdoor scene filled with folks and their dogs – and I am happy with that.

This work depicts some of our neighbors that we talked to frequently in Rose Park. It’s funny but we never really knew any neighbors in Long Beach until we got a dog. I’m told the best way to meet neighbors is to get a dog or have a baby – well the dog route certainly worked out. The dog on the far right is named ‘Boo’ and he was one of the friendliest dogs we ever met. He was part hound dog so his nose was always in the grass when it wasn’t chasing a Frisbee. The dog in the back was named ‘Forest’ and he was as fast as lightning. The dog in the middle-ground was named ‘Bella’ and she usually played with Boo since they were big dogs in a small-dog park. The two dogs in the foreground are ‘Cooper’ and ‘Bonny’. Bonny is our dog, a dachshund and beagle mix. Cooper was Bonny’s boyfriend of sorts as they were always seen playing together. Cooper is a Corgi Beagle mix so you can understand the attraction. There were others that we saw from time to time but these were the dogs you could count on most days being in Rose Park at 5:30pm. It was a community that was forged by the paws of love.

You might be wondering where in Long Beach you can find that kind of lush vegetation. Well the truth is that I took some artistic license here. The park is in the middle of a residential area of downtown Long Beach, but I didn’t want to depict houses in this scene or parked cars or road signs. I wanted to take the fast-forward nature of the big city out and focus on a quiet and intimate place where people could come together and enjoy themselves. I want the viewers to see the scene and feel the relaxed nature of it all. So the depth of the vegetation is a gross exaggeration, but the variety is not. In this 1/2 acre park you will find rose bushes, palm trees, elm trees, and other small nondescript trees. In the concrete jungle it’s possibly the greenest patch in all of Long Beach.

As always, this painting will be available as a canvas and paper print. Let me know if you have any questions. I promise that new works are coming very soon. I have many ideas in my head, but I must also disclose that my focus right now is getting a job around my new home. So if you need a J2EE developer then give me a call. If you have no idea what J2EE means then I won’t wait up for that call. At any rate, see you next post.

P.S. – It will not be another 5 months.

A Walk in the Park

Spring is finally here! From an artistic perspective, there is no better time to observe the plethora of colors that nature paints than in the spring. Nature is the original artist as she paints everything from the pedals of a rose, to the sheen of the ocean. My latest painting is celebrating the colors of spring and I hope to do nature justice by it.

Wide Angle of Rose Park
The park features and assortment of trees and rose bushes.

Something that I do about everyday is go for a walk – I walk my dog. One of the places I routinely visit on my walks is a little park called Rose Park. It’s a park in the middle of a round-a-bout in Long Beach. It has become a favorite places for kids to hangout after school, residents to sit and relax, and for dog-owners to bring their pet to run around in. On more than one occasion, I have observed more than a dozen people running around this little park. I started to think about what a scene like this might look like in a painting. Then I morphed my thoughts into a spring themed idea. Because the park is named for its rose bushes, why not turn this into a celebration of the spring season? With camera in hand, I have been snapping reference material to work from as I create this project. One executive decision I have made is that I will not be representing the houses in the background of the park. I wanted to take the stress of everyday life out of this scene and putting the actual neighborhood in the background would certainly remind people that this is but a small oasis from an otherwise hectic life in southern California. So the painting will focus on nature and will include some residents walking through the park, sitting and chatting, and walking their dogs. As the viewer, you will not even be aware that this park is in a major city. The final scene will look as though it’s in the middle of the country.

Close-up of Rose Park
The center of the park features a gazebo for relaxing and enjoying the day.

Because this is painted during the spring time, expect to see many shades of green, red, and yellow. I will not be dragging this project out over weeks. In fact I intend on completing this by next week. As I write this, I am already a third of the way complete with the painting. Every now and then I find a quick painting is a great way to flush the imagination with new ideas. Its funny how ideas and come into your head. My idea for painting Rose Park didn’t even come to me while walking my dog, but rather while I was in bed trying to sleep. You just never know when inspiration will hit. In this case, inspiration hit during insomnia. Well enjoy the spring and let’s welcome better weather as well – not to mention baseball season! Go Giants!

Avast Ye Art Lovers!

A Sparrow Takes Flight
Ye may not survive to pass this way again!

Guns, swords, cannon fire, sea monsters, crashing waves, and cutthroat pirates; a pirate’s life for me! Captain Sparrow is honoring that most timeless of pirate rituals – live to steal another day. With a ship full of dead pirates fighting another ship of deceptive pirates and a sea monster named the Kraken in the middle, this is no place for a respectable thief. Take all you can and give nothing back, but first – get the hell out of there!

My first completed painting of 2011 is here! You have heard me talking about a pirate-themed painting for months and now I proudly present “A Sparrow Takes Flight.” This is a 24’’x48’’ oil on canvas project. Anyone who knows me knows that I love pirate stories, history, and cheap souvenirs. So why shouldn’t I paint a pirate scene? What better scene than one taken from the Pirates of the Caribbean universe?

Close-up of Captain Sparrow
He takes all he can...and gives nothing back!

I wanted to represent the best elements from those films. Of course the whole concept starts with the main character – Jack Sparrow. He’s a thief and an opportunist and isn’t too proud to run from a fight which is what he is doing here. It seems everyone is always after him for a broken promise, ship, or heart. We see Sparrow running from a battle between the Flying Dutchman on the left and the Black Pearl on the right. In the middle is the notorious monster that all pirates fear – the Kraken. With this massive sea conflict unfolding in front of Jack, we can’t blame him for running.

I wanted to create a sense of action and danger in this scene. There needed to be movement and tension. My favorite part of this work is the Kraken. What made it come alive for me was the spray of the ocean and the drops of water running off of the tentacles as they climb ever higher into the sky. I am also quite satisfied with the movement and color of the ocean. I used combinations of blacks, blues, and greens to achieve a Caribbean ocean color. Now if you are familiar with my paintings then you might recognize a throwback element to a painting I did in 2007. The pirate who is stranded in the water is actually rendered in the same manner as the Salla character from my Boulder Dash painting. This was simply to tie together my paintings and give the viewer (primarily my Brother) something to laugh at. Obviously Salla does not appear in this film, but on canvas anything is possible.

Close-up of the Kraken
No pirate, no matter how heavily armed, can match the arms of the Kraken!

The original is not available but reproductions are. Check my website for prices on canvas and paper reproductions. Also, I recorded my painting sessions for this project and thus a video is in the works. The video will be similar in format to the “My Bonny” video. Look for this on my website in the coming weeks.

This is the 5th movie themed painting I have completed. This is for my Brother who loves a movie scene on canvas. He actually possesses 4 of the 5 paintings as my soon-to-be sister-in-law has the other. So in a few months all 5 paintings will be under the same roof. The movies I tackled previously are (in chronological order) – Star Wars (Defense of Yavin), Indiana Jones & the Raiders of the Lost Ark (Boulder Dash), Jurassic Park (Carnivorous When Wet), Alice in Wonderland (Mad to the Bone), and finally Pirates of the Caribbean (A Sparrow Takes Flight). I find the movie paintings to be a challenge, but it is fun to re-imagine my version of the films.

So what’s next? A landscape painting is coming and I plan on making this one a short and sweet project. I hope to complete it within 2 weeks. This last painting was about a month’s worth of work – not including the planning stages. So I need something to flush my mind and get the tension out. I’ll be doing a painting of a local park I frequently walk my dog to. There will be more on this in the next session. Until then…

Paint all you can……hold nothing back!