A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 305: Black Paint Sketches


Ronald Kok, Black Paint Sketch #1, 2017

I never cease to be taken aback by the power of black on white. This week I had some leftover black paint in a palette and decided to make quick sketches with it. I think I still had the concept of “story” in my head because each of these begs for a story to surround it. Part of the enjoyment of art is making that connection point for a viewer and imagining what they may come up with as they take in what you’ve put to paper.

As in so many things, quick and expressive sketches like this rely on the amazing human brain and imagination to fill in gaps and color, etc. Though I leave lots of white, it is not as if what I’ve left has nothing to say. Amazing.


Ronald Kok, Black Paint Sketch #2, 2017


Ronald Kok, Black Paint Sketch #3, 2017


Ronald Kok, Black Paint Sketch #4, 2017


Ronald Kok, Black Paint Sketch #5, 2017

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 208: The Almost Orphaned Painting Finds a Home


Five Birch, Ron Kok, Acrylic on canvas, 2017

Sometimes a canvas sits around, lonely and unloved, for a long time, like an orphaned urchin on the street, until that certain someone comes along and gives it love.

“Five Birch” is now a completed painting, but for the better part of three years it was a cast-off, a painting in search of a reason to exist. I had started an idea, painting the background a sky blue, but then I moved on to other things. In fact, at the time I wasn’t painting at all but drawing, not even secure in the knowledge that I could paint (having hardly touched brush to paint for twenty-five years).

I often find myself with unused paint which a student of mine has left on a palette. So over time, I just added colors to this canvas, not really having a solid plan for where it was going. Eventually, I stopped doing that and the canvas sat quietly and forlornly in a back corner, sometimes being moved around to make room for more important artwork. But, truth be told, I never completely abandoned it. I never painted over it or gave it to someone else to use. Perhaps I had some feeling for it after all…

However, it wasn’t until a co-worker of mine picked up that nary-a-work-in-progress and said, “I love this!” that it seemed possible for this canvas to amount to something after all. In fact, she wanted to take it home, little sad urchin that it was, but I protested, “It’s not finished!” (Realizing, as I said this, that I didn’t have a plan for finishing the thing, like, AT ALL).

That was about a year ago. Since then, that co-worker was injured at work and we haven’t seen her around for over three months. Being the kind of personality that she is, we’ve all missed her. Thinking of that and that love she showed for that near-rejected canvas, it got me motivated to actually finishing it. It was time.


I layered paint with palette knives to get the birch texture as well as layering colors, trying to get the feel of the bark. I added some color and additional lines to the background and… I had a painting I could be proud to give to that co-worker who’s heart was big enough to love it even before I did.

Yesterday I delivered the painting to her house, had a great visit with her and the wonderful man in her life (they are soon to be married) and, best of all, got my photo taken with their pooch, Maverick. All in all, a journey worth the three years.


A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 73: The Art and Artist Drowned Out by “The Scream”


The Scream, Edvard Munch, 1893

When does iconic become too iconic?

“The Scream” is much more than the masterpiece of Norwegian painter Edvard Munch (1863-1944). It is so familiar to us in Western culture that it has gained a status beyond artwork. Like the Mona Lisa or “Starry Night”, it has taken on a life of its own and gained its own fame seemingly apart from the person whose hands crafted it in the first place. The sign that this is true is the thousands of parodies and allusions to “The Scream” in our popular culture. We may not be able to name the painter, but we all know that painting. It has become part of the visual lingua franca of our times.

Its too bad, really, because Edvard Munch was a wonderful painter in his own right. He painted hundreds of works in his lifetime and most of them were donated to the Norwegian government after his death. “The Scream” is so important as one of the most powerful examples of Symbolism in art. Symbolists painted the inner workings of their subject matter and were unconcerned with an exact representation of the outward appearance. As Munch himself put it, “Nature is not only all that is visible to the eye… it also includes the inner pictures of the soul.” To that end, Munch created some of the most visceral images in art history. As his own story includes the death of his mother when he was just a boy and his father’s own battle with mental illness, much of Munch’s work is disturbing. But his portrayals are eerily accurate of the state of mind, the anxiety of the heart, fear and loathing, and general angst of the human condition.

“The Scream”, however, is his painting that has become iconic. So iconic, in fact, that much of his other genius is forgotten. Even at school in my art history classes, it was “The Scream” we talked about and maybe one or two of his other works. It makes sense as that was his great contribution to the history of art and culture. It is profound and therefore should be studied and remembered. However, sometimes a work of art takes on such significance that the very significance of its creator seems secondary.

On a recent visit to the National Gallery here in Ottawa, Canada, I saw a work of Munch in the Contemporary gallery that is part of their collection. It was a simple scene of a farm house that looked a lot like something Vincent Van Gogh or Henri Matisse would have done: bold shapes and colors, inviting and accessible, warm and alive with motion. It made me desire to find out what else Munch had painted besides “The Scream”. What else defined the man and his art besides the “inner pictures of the soul”?

Thanks to the Interwebs I could easily discover the answer to my question. I am happy to present a small gallery of works by Edvard Munch that are beautiful, poetic, inviting, peaceful and full of real emotion. He was a lover of the works of Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh, this you will clearly see. And he was a true artist who drew inspiration from all of life and all that was around him. Enjoy…


View Over the Rover at St. Cloud, 1890


spring-day-on-karl-johan-street 1891

Spring Day on Karl Johan Street, 1891


Moonlight on the Shore 1892


Moonlight, 1895

young-woman-on-the-beach 1896

Young Woman on the Beach, 1896

girls-on-the-bridge 1899

Girls on the Bridge, 1899

the forest 1903

The Forest 1903

from thuringewald 1905 (1)

From Thuringewald, 1905

the sun 1909

The Sun, 1909

the-yellow-log 1911

The Yellow Log, 1911


Winter Kragero, 1912


The Haymaker, 1916