A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 362: Ron’s 2017 Gallery, part 2

Bob Dylan Dream

As my Year of Creativity draws to a close, I have decided to take a couple of days dedicated to a small gallery of the artwork I did in 2017. Yesterday, in part 1, I described (and displayed) how I became, through a series of different art experiments, a mosaic maker. Today, here are some of those first true mosaics. Of course, no artist ever dabbles in just one thing so there are some drawings and a neglected painting finally finished in today’s post, as well.

Here we go…

As I began to realize that the experiments I had been doing in colored foam on paper were mosaics, I was, of course, drawn to things mosaic. It so happened that a site I follow on Facebook posted a story about a wonderfully intact mosaic from the third century that had been discovered in Turkey. It showed a reclining skeleton, enjoying wine and bread, with the words (in Greek): “Be cheerful and live your life”. I was so struck by the juxtaposition and humor of the happy bones encouraging me to enjoy my life that I decided to recreate it as my own mosaic:


Be Cheerful and Live Your Life, Craft foam mosaic on canvas, 2017

I had purchased craft foam at my local dollar store which had animal print designs on it (zebra stripes, leopard spots, etc). I cut these up into mostly squares to create the above. My skeleton enjoys a pizza, be it a blue spotted pizza. This artwork was fun to make and I enjoyed the result so much that, well, I was determined to try this mosaic thing again.

The next thing I tried was a portrait of an artist that inspired me. My wife had bought me a book of all of Bob Dylan’s lyrics for my birthday. The book has an iconic photo of  Dylan from the mid-1960’s on the cover. I decided to try and recreate that portrait in mosaic form:

Bob Dylan Dream

Bob Dylan Dream, Craft foam and burlap paper mosaic on canvas, 2017

There was something about rendering Bob in colorful mosaic that made sense, and it made sense to me to include a phrase from one of his quirkier songs. It was meant to be provocative and a bit out there, much like the enigmatic songwriter himself. I think I succeeded.

After this portrait of Dylan I became interested in the work of the man he named himself after, Dylan Thomas. I began work on a very large mosaic, the biggest one I had tried so far, based on a line from a Thomas poem. However, it took me a long time to put that one together so in the meantime, some other artistic experiments were underway…

I had seen an article online about an artist that made single line portraits. I decided to have a go at it, not drawing anyone in particular, but using a black art pen, putting it to paper, and not taking it off the paper until a portrait was “done”. I filled up a couple of sketchbooks doing this. Below are some highlights from that experiment:


These were fun and challenging. I consider myself very loose and spontaneous in my drawing to begin with but this style stretched me more than I expected. I found that if I thought too much about it they didn’t turn out so well. But if I just went with the flow I ended up with more satisfying results.

I decide to expand this experiment, this time sketching particular individuals and doing so in 18 different lines each. Why 18? Because I had a pack of 18 colored markers on hand, fine point. This proved to be far more difficult because (1) the introduction of color and (2) attempting to draw the person as that person looks! Below is a self portrait and three portraits I made of individuals in my art studio at the day program where I work:

18 single lines self portraitNolaSophiaAlison

As I mentioned, these were a lot harder than they look. But it was another good way of pushing myself outside my own artistic comfort zones.

Around this same time I picked up a neglected canvas that had been lying around for about two years. A co-worker of mine had mentioned that she liked the half-finished painting that it was. I was a bit appalled that she’d like the monstrosity that it was and told her I needed to finish it. This same co-worker was injured at work and wasn’t able to return. Missing her at work, I believe, was the impetus to finish the painting. I had a background but then, using textures and acrylic paint, added the five birch which became the foreground and title of the painting:

Five Birch

Five Birch, Acrylic on canvas, 2015-2017

I gave this painting to her as an early wedding gift.

Around this time I had finally finished the large mosaic based on a line from a Dylan Thomas poem. The line:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


Rage, Rage…, Craft foam and burlap paper mosaic, 2017

There was something about this raging against inevitable mortality that struck a chord with me. I decided, instead of trying to come up with an image to go with the words, to illustrate the powerful words themselves.

This theme of mortality and the drive to live life to the utmost, to pursue dreams and use your talents, to love people and explore and take risks in the face of that dying of the light was no doubt a huge motivator for me this year. It was a great contributing factor in the creation of the next mosaic to follow this one, another large work, this time based on a character whose delusion is heroic and relatable:

Until Death It Is All Life

Until Death It is All Life, Craft foam mosaic on canvas, 2017

As I get older the character of Don Quixote becomes more real to me. He is deluded, surely, but also full of imagination, so full that it becomes reality to him. He is a tragic-hero in some ways, comical in a pathetic way, but also honorable and, in some odd way, a role model of sorts. Having had a great experience living in Spain back when I was 21, this work became a bit of an homage too. The background colors are meant to imitate the colors of the Spanish flag. The tiled lines flowing across the painting (which also wrap around the outside edges) were meant to be evocative of a Spanish artist like Gaudi as well as their penchant for great ceramic work. And, of course, Cervantes’ great comic-hero Quixote is the pinnacle of Spanish classical literature.

There would be more mosaics before 2017 was through but also more artwork in general. Tomorrow for part 3 of my gallery I will share more with you.

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 321: I Shall Be Released


I began this week blaming “Stranger Things 2” for causing my nostalgic flashbacks to the 1980’s, particularly flashbacks of the musical variety. It has given me a reason to ponder which bands and musicians contributed to those important years of mine, from teenage-hood to twenty-something. To finish off this week’s journey for me, I’d be remiss not to mention the man who I “discovered” in that time of my life; or, maybe, more accurately the man who found me during that time of my life, because that is the way it happens with Bob Dylan – You don’t chose his music, it chooses you.

Of course, I know Bob Dylan is not a 1980’s musician (whatever that means). In fact, true to form, it is impossible to pin any kind of label like that on Bob. He’s been making music for public consumption since 1960. His newest albums are still crackling with energy and a drive to create that seemingly will not end until the man dies (if someone like Bob can truly die like the rest of us… I’m sure he has a plan when that day comes).

Many fans and music critics consider the 1980’s to be one of Dylan’s weakest decades. It began with a couple of albums from his Christian period (a greatly ridiculed but even more greatly unappreciated time of his life), carried on through a couple of solid efforts (Infidels stands out for me), through a couple of rotten efforts and finished with the Daniel Lanois produced Oh Mercy which was actually really, really good.

But for me, the Dylan album (or albums) that charted the course for my Dylan fandom for years and years to come (on until today) was the career retrospective called Biograph. The album came out in 1985 and I purchased the original 5-disc release of it. It is funny to consider it a career retrospective now, 32 years and many albums later in Dylan’s ongoing career. It wasn’t so much a greatest hits collection as a compilation of various sides of Bob, that is, each record side was arranged not chronologically but thematically. Songs Dylan had recorded in the ’60’s were alongside newer songs from the ’80’s, for example. It remains an excellent and concise image of this enigmatic artist, whose songwriting ability and lyrical and visual scope is sometimes staggering.

Biograph came out when I was a sophomore in college and it was the very start of my own Dylan phase. By the end of the ’80’s I owned a copy of every Dylan album (and a couple of bootlegs) on vinyl. I remember laying them all out on my living room floor and taking a photo of them. To me then, Dylan opened up my mind to the possibility of all the ways music could function in life – expressions of desire, anger, lust, pain, humor – spiritual cries of doubt and faith – demands for justice and pleas for peace – poetic explorations of beauty, of confusion, of the joy of words. It was the true beginning of my own musical journey, my forever curiosity to discover new sounds and ways of communicating through song.

Because of how his music found me and took ahold, I will always have a special place in my heart and in my own creative soul for Bob. Here is a video of a live performance in 1999 of one of my favorite Dylan tunes, “I Shall Be Released”. Enjoy.

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 147: Saturday Life Quotes – Dylan

dylan (1)

“Take care of all your memories. For you cannot relive them.”

My week started with completing a mosaic portrait of Bob Dylan. It ends with me sharing some of his words of wisdom for the Saturday Life Quotes. In between,  on May 24, the Bob celebrated his 76th birthday.  I, for one, am thankful that he has always been busy “being born”, as he once sang.

“A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom.”

“There is nothing so stable as change.”

“What’s money? A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do.”

“I don’t think the human mind can comprehend the past and the future. They are both just illusions that can manipulate you into thinking there’s some kind of change.”

“People seldom do what they believe in. They do what is convenient, then repent.”

“Some people seem to fade away but then when they are truly gone, it’s like they didn’t fade away at all.”

“I accept chaos, I’m not sure whether it accepts me.”

“If I wasn’t Bob Dylan, I’d probably think that Bob Dylan has a lot of answers myself.”

“All I can do is be me, whoever that is.”

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 143: Bob Dylan Dream

Bob Dylan Dream

“Bob Dylan Dream”, Craft foam and colored burlap mosaic, 2017

Continuing on in my mosaic theme of late…

I had purchased more craft foam and some sheets of colored burlap from the dollar store. I had a canvas covered in black gesso all ready to go. I had a new jar of Modge Podge. All I needed was an idea.

And nothing. Nada. Zip. Nothing came to me. Nothing for about two or three weeks.

It’s like that sometimes for me. Maybe it’s that way for you, too – whatever your form of expression may be.  I’ll wait for that elusive muse. Often the wait drives me crazy. But I know better than to force something. When I do, my heart’s not in it.

This time around, as I was waiting, all it took was a glance at the Bob Dylan book of lyrics setting next to my favorite chair in the living room. I had been paging through it, using it as a reference for last Sunday’s God Quote (Day 141). I put it down and looked at the iconic photo of the 1965/66 Dylan from the Highway 61-era.

Boom! There it was. I had my inspiration. I was hoping to create a painting per month in 2017 in honor of the artists who have inspired me. We’re five months in and I’ve only done two. Sigh… But here was my chance to do up some artwork in honor of one of my favorite musicians all time. Not a painting, however, but what the hell? Art is about breaking your own rules too.

I wanted it to be more than a portrait; something that reflected the artist and his art. Dylan has always been an enigma. I can’t remember who said it but my favorite quote about him goes something like, “Dylan has so many sides to him, he’s round.” It should be something that reflects his status as the most frustratingly impossible-to-pin-down singer-songwriter in rock history. I also wanted to include some words because, well, Dylan without words is like Ansel Adams without film for his camera.

But what words? The man has written thousands and thousands of words. I didn’t want it to be the cliche Dylan lyric. Nothing from “Blowin’ in the Wind” or “Like a Rolling Stone” or “Tangled Up in Blue”. So I started paging through that book of lyrics to find inspiration.

It didn’t take me long to come across a line that seemed to work well with what I knew was going to be a trippy portrait. It comes at the end of one of his “talking blues” songs from early on in his career, from his 1962 album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. The song is “Talkin’ World War III Blues” and it is freakin’ hilarious. Here is the section of lyrics from that song where I found my quote for the mosaic:

Well, now time passed and now it seems/ Everybody’s having them dreams/Everybody sees themselves/Walkin’ around with no one else/Half of the people can be part right all of the time/Some of the people can be all right part of the time/But all of the people can’t be all right all of the time/I think Abraham Lincoln said that/”I’ll let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours”/I said that

So I had it all now. The materials, the inspiration, the image, the words. Below are a few photos of the process. At the end, I had a wildly colorful, puzzle-like portrait befitting the complicated man simply known as Bob.


Bob Dylan Dream

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 141: Sunday God Quote – Dylan

dylan 1981
“It’s the ways of the flesh to war against the spirit
Twenty-four hours a day, you can feel it and you can hear it”

Bob Dylan had his so-called “Christian phase” in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. The preachy tone and in-your-face Gospel message in his songs from that time was too much for many fans. Yet the astute listener must acknowledge that Dylan has always been preachy and in-your-face. Whether it is his folky protest songs or  far-out beat poetry or country blues or electric soul or any other way Dylan gets his song-craft out into the world, he has never been shy or avoided any confrontation in his lyrics.  How “put off” you are by his words depends on whether or not you are part of the choir he happens to be preaching to at the time.

The song “Solid Rock” from his 1980 album Saved is one of my favorites of his overt-Christian oeuvre. It combines Rock of Ages lyrics with the rollicking Dylan sound of the Rolling Thunder Review era. This is Rock-n-Gospel-Roll at its finest presented by a preacher worth listening to…

Solid Rock

Well, I’m hangin’ on
To a solid rock
Made before the foundation of the world
And I won’t let go, and I can’t let go
Won’t let go and I can’t let go
Won’t let go and I can’t let go no more
For me, He was chastised, for me, He was hated
For me, he was rejected by a world that He created
Nations are angry, cursed are some
People are expecting a false peace to come
Well, I’m hangin’ on
To a solid rock
Made before the foundation of the world
And I won’t let go, and I can’t let go
Won’t let go and I can’t let go
Won’t let go and I can’t let go no more
It’s the ways of the flesh to war against the spirit
Twenty-four hours a day, you can feel it and you can hear it
Using every angle under the sun
And He never give up ’til the battle’s lost or won
Well, I’m hangin’ on
To a solid rock
Made before the foundation of the world
Won’t let go and I can’t let go
Won’t let go and I can’t let go
Won’t let go and I can’t let go no more
Below is a link to a live version of “Solid Rock”. It is truly is amazing. Give it a watch/listen:

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 54: Album Art Gallery, part 2


As promised, part 2 of an Album Art Gallery, each cover from something in my own collection…


Renegades by Rage Against the Machine



Shack-Man by Medeski, Martin & Wood


A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 53: Album Art Gallery, part 1


A couple of birthdays ago, my wife gave me the book pictured here: The Art of the Album Cover, by Richard Evans. She knows I love music and I love art so it was a double-whammy kind of present. It is a great book to peruse and take in the creativity that is album art. Some believe it is a dying art as we no longer have the LP and it’s large format to accommodate designs. Though there is something lost in the tiny icons on a screen or the small format of a CD cover, there are still some great examples of the art that is meant to convey and/or accompany the musicians and music for the listener.

I believe there is much to be enjoyed by viewing album covers as art. A good cover not only communicates so much about the content of the album but can also stand alone on its own merits. For those of us who love music, that cover wrapped around our favorites songs is the image imprinted in our brains. We see the cover image and immediately songs spring to mind. And vice versa. It is a wonderful marriage of artistic genres.

I am a major music fan. As I began to look through my collection to decide what album covers I really love for their creativity and design, I realized my list was getting longer and longer… So I am slicing up this Gallery of Album Art into three pieces. I narrowed it down to albums I own so there will be favorites of yours that will not be included. My apologies but it is my blog after all. If you want a different gallery, get your own blog!

Here is the first installment of the Gallery. Most of images are self-explanatory but I’ve included captions if I felt it was necessary to do so. Try making it through these images without a song or two popping into your head. I dare you…

445-gang-of-four-2013-entertainment0021abbey-roadadd-it-up-1981-1993-4fe03a04cf4b7bastille-bad-bloodbeastie_boys_to_the_5_boroughs_1024x1024coeur-de-pirate-rosesdylan-bob-276-lBob Marley & the Wailers - Exodusgraceland_cover_-_paul_simonkeaggy-acoustic-sketchesking-of-the-delta-blues-singers-by-robert-johnsonlos-lobos-how-will-the-wolf-survive


Earth and Sun and Moon by Midnight Oil



Dark Sid of the Moon by Pink Floyd


A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 38: Every Grain of Sand


There’s a voice inside my head. It is a nasally voice, sometimes sweet, sometimes bitter. It is up there in my head for good. I can’t shake it. I’m not sure I want to anyway. The voice is caustic, healing, infuriating, compelling, soothing, agitating… Subterranean. The words the voice speaks spell out the inner landscape of my mind; I can see my life spelled out in those words. When I see them written out on a page, I hear the voice again, I’m brought back or forward or present to a certain moment that gets created or recreated or rewritten again.

I suspect I am not the only one who has this odd connection with Bob Dylan and his words and his music. When I was properly introduced to his music in  my teens, something changed for me in how I understood just about everything. The outer landscape of the world, the inner landscape of me: Dylan gave me a different frame of reference for these things.

Artists inspire artists, art begets art. Dylan the artist is one of the Giants in my own life in this respect. I cannot underestimate the impact of this singer/songwriter/poet/philosopher/preacher/conman/troubadour on my life. Of all the music I listen to (and it’s A LOT of music!) Dylan remains the foundation for me, my Five Books of Moses, my Law. If that sounds like it has spiritual significance, well, “Amen, brother!”

I know this probably sounds a bit nutty to people who only know Bob as that odd little musician with a voice that sounds like a cow with its leg stuck in a barbed-wire fence (Bob’s own description of his voice, by the way). Or if you only know him by the handful of songs they play on the radio. I understand your confusion. I make no apologies. Likely there is something in your life, some influence, some musician or writer, that has profoundly affected you to which I would respond with a quizzical face and a erudite comment like, “Hunh?” We all have something or someone we treasure that seems to others to be quite plain. Or just plain weird.

For me it’s Bob. It will likely always be Bob. So it is fitting that for my birthday Monique bought me the book above, “Bob Dylan, The Lyrics 1961-2012”. I once owned every Dylan album – on vinyl – from his eponymous debut in 1961 to “Empire Burlesque”(1985), plus a couple of bootlegs to boot: a total of about twenty-five records. Now the largest section devoted to one artist on my shelves of CDs is Dylan; about twenty-six of those. The book covers every song he wrote and recorded over those years and over the course of thirty-one albums.

As I paged through it, I was struck not only by how many songs I knew, but how the voice began singing in my head, the certain inflections and emphases placed on words and phrases; the times he whispers, the times he yells, the times he sounds so sweet and the times his voice grates on you like sandpaper. It’s the Dylan experience that either draws you in or drives you away, or both. And, man, I love him for it!

Every Dylanphile has their favorite song, of course. My guess is that they are almost always based on the uniqueness of that person and how that song impacts them on a personal level. For me that song is the first one I sought out in the book to read in its entirety and pour over the lyrics again. It comes from a time in Dylan’s creative and personal life in which he received perhaps the greatest criticism and scorn, his so-called “Christian” phase. Fans will tell you that he has always had a spiritual edge to his music, always had references to the Bible and to other scriptures, always written the words of a seeker or a doubter or a true-believer. It was the overt Gospel quality of the music, the evangelical tone, the in-your-face message of the corner street-preacher that pissed so many people off. It was not the only time in his life that people thought Dylan had lost it.

The last of his now-called “Christian Trilogy” of albums was called “Shot of Love”, and it contains perhaps one of the best-written and sublime songs in his entire oeuvre. For me, as a person who is both a man of faith and an artist, it struck a chord in me years and years ago that still resonates. I’ve printed up the song below for you to read.

I don’t expect you to be converted to the Gospel of Bob. But I do hope you’ll be better able to understand how this eccentric genius can impact so many through his words and music.

Every Grain of Sand by Bob Dylan, from the album “Shot of Love” (1981)

In the time of my confession, in the hour of my deepest need

When the pool of tears beneath my feet flood every newborn seed

There’s a dyin’ voice within me reaching out somewhere

Toiling in the danger and in the morals of despair


Don’t have the inclination to look back on any mistake

Like Cain, I now behold this chain of events that I must break

In the fury of the moment I can see the Master’s hand

In every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand


Oh, the flowers of indulgence and the weeds of yesteryear

Like criminals, they have choked the breath of conscience and good cheer

The sun beat down upon the steps of time to light the way

To ease the pain of idleness and the memory of decay


I gaze into the doorway of temptation’s angry flame

And every time I pass that way I always hear my name

Then onward in the journey I come to understand

That every hair is numbered like every grain of sand


I have gone from rags to riches in the sorrow of the night

In the violence of a summer’s dream, in the chill of a wintry light

In the bitter dance of loneliness fading into space

In the broken mirror of innocence on each forgotten face


I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea

Sometimes I turn, there’s someone there, other times it’s only me

I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man

Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand