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:

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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.

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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 361: Ron’s 2017 Gallery, part 1

Self Portrait, Chagall-style

My 2017 of daily creative exploration is almost at an end. Frankly, I can hardly believe it. I set out on January 1, 2017 with the goal of posting in this blog each day, hoping to offset the negativity in the world and in my own spirit with art and artists and various expressions of creativity. Along the way I have discovered so many things, been inspired, and in many ways rewired my own brain to better take in all the good things around me. I also found the time to do a lot of art, perhaps more than I have ever done since I graduated from college with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree back when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Over the next three days, I’ve decided to use this space as a sort of gallery. Though I am not very good at exact dating of things, I will attempt to show you examples of my artwork from this year, semi-chronologically. It was a year that I thought would involve more painting but, as it turned out, I did a lot more “painting” with craft foam, burlap and Modge Podge in the form of some mosaics. It was also a year where I tried to push myself into new directions and challenge my own established way of viewing and things.

Without further ado, here is part one of my 2017 Gallery:

Punk Rock Warlord (Joe Strummer Vs The Void)

Punk Rock Warlord (Joe Strummer Vs. the Void), Mixed media on canvas, 2016

Technically, this painting of Joe Strummer was finished right at the end of 2016 (I think on December 30 or 31, to be exact). However, it was done in the spirit that led me to my Year of Creating Dangerously, so I include it here as a very important jumping-off point for me.

Joe is a great hero of mine because of his own spirit and willingness to put himself out there in a vulnerable but powerful way. Instead of a traditional portrait, I chose to picture him battling the forces of brutality and banality (what I called the Void) with his chosen weapons: his voice, his words and his guitar slung around his neck. I intended it to just be an acrylic painting but the addition of shredded newspaper with Joe’s lyrics on them became a harbinger of things to come for me in 2017.


I had a difficult time completely shaking my disgust at the political reality in the world at the beginning of 2017, particularly as it played out south of the border. That led me to creating this next piece that appeared on my blog on inauguration day:

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Divisible, Mixed media on canvas, 2017

My roots are in the United States so I couldn’t help but be distressed watching my former country from my vantage point in Canada. I had drawn a number of expressionist-type American flags with oil pastels. I tore those up to create this collage, Old Glory shattered and in disarray. It was very cathartic for me to make this artwork which I called “Divisible” as a counter-point to the “Indivisible” claim of the Pledge of Allegiance I used to give before the start of my school days.


About three years ago when I was getting back into art, I tried to recreate some famous portraits using oil pastels. It was a way to train myself and fire up the creative Jones again. This year, I decided to created my own self-portraits but in the style of a famous artist. I ended up finishing four of them which I share below, side-by-side with the original:

 

 

 

 

In descending order, then, is Paul Klee, Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro and Marc Chagall. I confess to having a lot of fun with these, particularly the Chagall-style self portrait as, just like the original, I added autobiographical details to the picture (e.g., Colorado in the dream bubble, a church and a bit of Spider Man on the canvas, Ottawa’s parliament hill out the window). These portraits were really great at getting me to think color and form and help me see things with a different set of eyes.


I had marvelous intentions from the beginning of the year to create a painting per month in 2017 dedicated to a favorite artist of mine. I ended up making three, none as pure paintings. The one below was finished in February, 2017:

Maya Rising

Maya Rising, Mixed media on canvas, 2017

Maya Angelou is a great inspiration to me. This work was completed with a combination of black markers and acrylic paint, over photocopied sheets from her book I know Why the Caged Bird Sings, along with the words to her poem “Still I Rise”.


I have done many portraits of people – my co-workers, some friends, and some famous folks but I have avoided drawing my family. Frankly, that scares me the most and I think I get frozen up worried about getting them right. Below is my attempt at drawing my daughter from a beautiful photo of her when she was about four or five years old:

Picking Dandelions

Picking Dandelions, Oil Pastels on paper, 2017

I ended up with something very impressionistic but I was still very dissatisfied with it. Why? Because I didn’t think it looked like my daughter!  I have come to appreciate it more over the course of the year but am bound and determined to get her right sometime in the near future.


Because this year was about creativity to me, I spent a lot of time researching different artists. At times that would lead me to attempting to recreate something they had done to stretch myself in new artistic directions. Jean Arp was a Dadaist who created some works by dropping geometric shapes onto a canvas. I tried the same thing with bits of craft foam dropped onto sheets of construction paper. The results are below:

 

Little did I know that this seemingly simple artistic lark would lead me down the road to mosaics. These geometric patterns led me to thinking about stained-glass types of artwork, with shapes bound by black lines. I started experimenting with images having to do with the crucifixion (we were nearing Good Friday and Easter) and I came up with these small paintings on paper:

 

I was trying to stretch myself again, thinking expressionist lines, solid colors, geometric shapes, and unusual glimpses of a familiar subject. From these ideas flowed the idea for a large painting, one of the few pure acrylic paintings I did this year, and the idea for a large cross to be on display at my church for Easter Sunday. Below is the painting, posted on Good Friday, and below that is me with the Easter Cross. Note the continued use of geometric shapes and solid colors:

Crucifixion Coronation

Crucifixion Coronation, Acrylic on canvas, 2017

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There was a wonderful coming-together of ideas and imagination at this time of the year for me. I was beginning to see the possibilities in this art form. As I have time in my day where I am part of running an art studio, I found I was often experimenting with things, trying things out. I found some leftover craft foam in our stores and used it to create a quick self portrait on paper:

Self portrait in craft foam 2017

Little did I know that just four months into this year I discovered the style that would define my art for 2017 more than any other. I was turning into a mosaic-maker.

Tomorrow in part 2 I’ll put a few of those artworks on display in this blog gallery.