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 177: 18 Single Lines

18 single lines self portrait

Self Portrait in 18 Single Lines, Ronald Kok, Coloured Markers, 2017

Last week I discovered that a single line has a lot to say. On a whim, I decided to turn the experiment into 18 single lines.

There is a pack of dollar store coloured markers at my workplace, the kind that dry out really fast. It just so happens that it is a pack of 18 different colours. After filling a couple of sketch books with single line portraits using a large black marker, I felt like another step or two was needed in the experiment. So I grabbed that set of markers and did the above self portrait, using each marker only once to create it.  I wasn’t working off of a photo, just recreating myself in simple lines as I think I might look. I found the exercise to be fun and challenging, a sort of planned spontaneity. So I decided to up the ante…

I work at a day program for adults with developmental disabilities. I am part of running the art studio there. There are always a number of artists who I interact with on a daily basis. I asked three of them last Friday if I could draw their portraits. Below are those three, also done with 18 single lines, each a different color.


Nola in 18 Single Lines, 2017


Sophia in 18 Single Lines


Alison in 18 Single Lines, 2017

Far from a sort of “photo realistic” image, yet conveying a lot more than I expected, I was happily surprised at the results. So much so that I think this is a style worth exploring more. There was no pencil drawing to start, instead I jumped right in with the first colour and just flowed from there. It was a bit scary and required far more concentration than I initially realized. But it forced me to boil the portraits down to the bare essentials and, hopefully, to convey something important about the personalities in those portraits.

The 18 lines of colour reminded me of the many facets that make us who we are, whether or not we are categorized as having a “disability”.  Each of us is so unique and so imbued with a distinctness that even a few lines can display that for the world.

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 173: Single Line Portraits, part 2


It turns out, a single line not only has a lot to say, it can also keep your attention for a good while.

I didn’t get enough of single line portraits so I went at it again. This time, I chose a different sketch book and used a thicker Sharpie marker so I would get a stronger line. I had some abysmal failures but I kept at it. In the process I feel it has helped me learn more about how to say more with less.

Here is part 2 of my single line portraits experiment. As I told one of my students today, “It’s like taking a line for a walk”.

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A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 172: Single Line Portraits


What can you say with a single line?

I recently saw a post on Facebook about an artist who draws portraits using a single line. That is, he puts pen to paper and draws a portrait without picking up the pen until he feels it is finished. I really liked that idea so I set to doing it myself. Over my morning coffee, at around 6am or so, I took up my dollar store sketch book and an illustration pen and proceeded to let the portraits flow. It was a great experience and I was only stopped from continuing by the fact that real life necessitates that I go to work. Bummer.

Here are my initial single line portraits. I am hoping to revisit this again soon. Maybe tomorrow morning…