Sunday, November 30, 2008

Strange Days - painting by Dennis Ryan - in the works

3' X 4' acrylic painting on canvas

This piece titled Strange Days is approximately 70% finished. The photo above is a partial sketched version of the painting with mocked up signature, shadows and background, so colors may change as I head into the final piece.

I'm shooting for completion off this and another piece in early 2009 as I have been getting requests for "any new paintings?" from galleries in the West Chester and Lancaster PA area.

Gallery exhibitions will be collaborative and are likely to be in mid-2009.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Worry box - how to stop obsessive worrying

Occasionally I'll offer advice from my experience dealing with people with OCD. This is such a time.

I find the mind of an obsessive compulsive disorder sufferer can wreak havoc on their body. Yes, mental stress and worrying about the "what ifs" of life can actually manifest to real physical and medical problems – IF YOU LET THEM!

So my advice for those of you suffering from obsessive worrying and thought cycles that seem to circulate endlessly in your mind: is to create a worry box and place the worry in it. The worry box is not an actual physical box, but more of a metaphor or a mental container for storage. If you can set a time, date or place when to think about this thing you are obsessively worrying about, then you can actually break the cycle and make a plan for addressing it later. Yes the plan is the box. You essentially wrap your plan around the worry and tie it up and break it free from your mind.

For example: Say you have a health concern... something that you are worried about that is abnormally happening to your body. The worrying becomes compulsive. It gets so bad that the thoughts start to invade and interfere with your everyday life. Then, the worry actually starts to manifest itself into other problems like high levels of acid in your stomach that can cause ulcers. So now you're worried that if you don't stop worrying, then you'll develop chronic stomach problems. You start worrying about worrying! The worrying snowballs into more of a worry and consumes more of your time and thoughts. The cycle could go on and on... getting worse and worse...

...but you can stop it!

Make a worry box
- in this case, a planned time somewhere in the near future when you will see your doctor or physician about your concern. Then every time the worry or obsessive thought enters back into your head, you just say to yourself "I'm putting it in the worry box" and go on about your business. The important part is that you ARE addressing the concern, but not making matters worse by obsessing over the problems which potentially cause more problems.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

OCD Dress Up - wear one today!

How about this blue suit as the official uniform for obsessive compulsive disorder sufferers? The ones who are phobic about germs anyway.

Could help ease their pain, no?

Really though if it were socialably acceptable to walk around in one of these - without freaking other people out - then maybe OCD(ers) would have more social freedom.

I've been toying and adding the third dimension to several of my paintings through the use of soap dispensers, dish soap nipple caps and rubber gloves.

I'd like to get my hands on one of these suits too - hmmmm...

Saturday, September 6, 2008

More Fine Art panels to paint on - Please!

My Fine Art substrates don't make themselves... they take time, a craftsmanship skill-set and a table saw - at least.

I prefer painting on wood panels, so NO new panels = NO new paintings. I'm excited to say I just got a new table saw. Now I can churn out some more panels; more paintings; series three (3).

The "major" cuts to the plywood (panels) will be done at the supplier (i.e. Home Depot or Lowes), because I don't currently paint on full 4'x8' plywood (too big, doesn't feel right) One cut is all it takes.

I get three substrates out of a single sheet of 4'x8' plywood, hence the typical size of my pieces is usually 32" x 48"

To read more about my fine art panel making process, check back, post coming soon.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Dennis Ryan - Communication Art studies from Millersville University

After graduating from PSA&D I transferred all my credits to Millersville University, Millersville, PA to get my bachelors in the arts. PSA&D is now called PCA&D as they became accredited and shifted from a 3-year degree program to a college (a year or two after I graduated - argh).

My advice - from my experience - is NOT to transfer from one school to another or switch majors unless absolutely necessary. Because by the time I graduated from MU I had between 150-160 total credits. It took me about 7 years, part-time on and off, but I stuck with it. So I should have my masters by credit amount alone - but only have a bachelors. **Shrug** The experience, other than not having another degree to go on my degree wall, was not a loss by far. The many credits and 'major' switch has helped to develop me in to the well rounded, diverse-minded individual that I am. Don't get me wrong, it would be great to have an MFA, and may do it down the road.

I originally enrolled in MU for its well known art education program. Mostly did this knowing that there is not a big job market for the fine arts in Lancaster County - and need to eat and have a place to sleep. A few semesters into the art ed. program I got a chance to student teach; then consequently started to look at a new majors.
Maybe it was:
  1. the school I taught at, Wheatland in Lancaster City, a bit too urban for my country-dwelling tastes
  2. or just the fact that I was teaching Science as a subject to middle schoolers (remember... artist here people!)
  3. or the public school system's premix remedies of 'no child left behind' and 'inclusion' were too initially stark for me and seemed to be failing miserably.
In any case, at that very point, I found it not to be my calling.

Meanwhile... back at Millersville I took an interest, minor so-to-say, in psychology & philosophy. These two fields of study had always interested me, never got exposed to them at PSA&D, and if I had to build 60 credits to get the MU stamp on my degree then I would do it while studying subjects that would enhance concepts that I was painting about already.

Ok then, out of art ed., so what could I major in that would be a good career and keep my creative edge sharp to keep momentum going on my fine art interests?

Enter — communication arts!

I can tell you right now that one of the first things I learned about my artistic tastes upon entering this program was how very little I enjoyed graphic design. Mostly I blame my dislike on my struggles to dumb down my concepts in the hopes of creating a simplified logo or good coupon magazine ad. And I'd say that graphic design is one of the furthest forms of artistic expression away from the fine arts. Basically graphic design is just layout, copying off other successful layouts (folks, it's all been done before) and moving objects around a page (oh yeah, that's layout too). Graphic design is a major part of communication arts though.

So speed bump in my art career road again...

...but, for some reason there were other classes in the comm. arts program that I rather enjoyed. They were any classes that dealt with web design, web development, Flash, actionscript & search engine optimization (actually a couple of those I taught myself for lack of curriculum opportunities). And lucky me because those job areas pay well too! I think my interest in these forms of multimedia design have something to do with the analytical and numerical/math challenges (e.g. actionscript programing & web development) associated with them.

At MU, I had a couple of great influences on how I communicate commercially through art. Jeri Robinson-Lawrence, Art Chair, Professor and all around fantastic human being, really had a sincere interest in students succeeding and put in a great effort. Paul Manlove was just starting to teach at the time I was graduating, but had a fantastic teaching style that went far above and beyond what I expected. Another great influence/experience was a Seymour Chwast 3-day visit, show and lecture. He also spent a couple hours critiquing our individual poster artwork (a rare opportunity by most measures). Seymour Chwast is a celebrated graphic artist and co-founder of Push Pin Studios.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Social Media Marketing for Fine Artists

Market your fine art via the Internet with social networking websites, blogs & other social media

There has never been a better time than the present to market yourself as a fine artist. Today's technology combined with the Internet offers unparalleled opportunities for you to harness and have your fine art seen by millions of viewers every day! With tons of networking options and sales tools at your finger tips, now is the time to get out there and have your talents noticed.

As a fine artist, you probably are an introvert, slightly on the neurotic side, and overall, a bit of an existentialist to begin with. But being a fine artist chances are you also have great, substantial ideas and important things to say to the world. Well, it is your turn to be heard!

In today's very populated society there are thousands of other fine artists waiting to be heard also. The Lancaster, Pennsylvania area alone churns out 100(s) of artists a year from the 4-5 art schools and universities in its surrounding area. I would guesstimate that within central PA and Philadelphia there are 1000(s) of fine artists to compete with. And the fact is, there are not enough jobs and galleries to sustain this abundant supply... so you do the math.

So you are left with choices like: changing career fields just out of school (while you are probably still paying your student loans); making your fine art a thing on the side while working in retail or another non-ideal field; or getting smart and creative about how you market yourself while sticking with your chosen path as an artist. The final choice wins here!

So today I'd like to discuss the newest craze in networking yourself - it is called social media. It is a bit of an evolution from web 2.0 (with a bit more of the personal factor thrown in). AKA social networking, social media encompasses everything from blogs (like this one), to personal pages that are easy to add pictures, videos and other media to, to websites specifically for networking, sharing ideas and keeping in touch with your many contacts.

I've done a good bit of research on social media as it is a natural extension of successful SEO - search engine optimization. I have consulted several organizations in the central Pennsylvania area on SEO techniques. Chances are my search skills are what brought you here today.

The foremost option of social networking is blogging. I highly recommend The fact that Google acquired this pioneering blogger platform was the no-brainer stamp of approval that I needed to choose where to invest my time and thoughts. Let's face it, Google is the king of search, the Internet and soon to come... most of your information.

After you start blogging, then there are several more ways to reinforce your social media start. There are easily 20-30 popular social media websites today. Here is a list of social networking websites that I recommend you utilize to help market your fine art:
Facebook is a social utility that connects you with the people around you.
Delicious is a social bookmarking service that allows users to tag, save, manage and share web pages from a centralized source. With emphasis on the power of the community, Delicious greatly improves how people discover, remember and share on the Internet.
Flickr - almost certainly the best online photo management and sharing application in the world.
Share knowledge and tap into relationships. Connect the people in your professional network with LinkedIn.
StumbleUpon discovers web sites based on your interests. Whether it's a web page, photo or video, our personalized recommendation engine learns what you like, and brings you more.
Digg is a place for people to discover and share content from anywhere on the web. From the biggest online destinations to the most obscure blog, Digg surfaces the best stuff as voted on by our users.
Jaiku's main goal is to bring people closer together by enabling them to share their activity streams.
kirtsy is the place to find and/or link to anything and everything on the Web that you'd like to share.
Connect to your family, friends, and business network. We make it easy to find who you know.
Submit a link » to anything interesting: news article, blog entry, video, picture...
Called Tumblelogs - Tumblr is a simple microblog platform. A place to aggregate your thoughts, images and videos. And you can import your stuff from other social media sites like twitter and flickr.

Every day more social networking sites spring up. These are the ones that I have found to work nicely together. YouTube, of course, would be the place to be with your videos. Myspace, in my opinion, is growing a bit out of favor and has a too much of a collective, overall messy look-and-feel for what I'm shooting for.

Good luck to you as you go forward with your fine art social media plan and I'm sure to see you on page 1 soon!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

OCD Windex Carousel - what does OCD feels like?

Ever asked yourself "Do I have OCD"? If not, have you ever wondered what having obsessive compulsive disorder feels like?

Well, if you have to wonder then you are blessed to be free from the constant agonizing, intrusive thoughts that come standard with OCD. If you don't know how you can tell if you, your loved one or your child have obsessive compulsive disorder, then maybe I can help with the following content.

A few symbolic points to my example are:
  • As far as I know, the thoughts and compulsions never go away
  • The obsessiveness may change from one form to another (e.g. cleaning to checking to counting) but always exists. Its like trying to fill a bottomless pit
  • Some moments the thought patterns will be less intrusive and less intense than others
  • Initial rituals or compulsive acts are exhaustively completed before moving on to another act. Even if the second act is a normal everyday occurrence like getting out of bed
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder wastes extraordinary amounts of time, but the sufferer cannot move on (with comfort and ease of mind) until the ritual is complete - no matter how illogical the actions may be
For example, try to focus on one Windex bottle as they spin. Then count it as it goes around 5 times. And, by the way, do not move on and read the rest of the post until you are done.

You can move your cursor over the bottles to increase the speed and the complication of the counting.

Now times this feeling by 100 and do it every day! Welcome to the world of a typical OCD suffer.

The above example tries to demonstrate how mentally exhausting dealing with just one "C" of the (4) notorious C(s) of this disorder can be: counting.

The four C(s) of OCD are Cleaning, Counting, Checking and Canceling. Even though you may think it is nonsense and a waste of time to count the single bottle as it spins around, you have to do it before you can move on. You have to do it because your mind tells you that you must!

Once I asked a psychiatrist which out of all the metal disorders, in her opinion, would be the worst to have and live with... you guessed it, she said obsessive compulsive disorder. Her main reasoning was that it just never stops. OCD is always gnawing at the brain. Also, that the sufferer is conscious and perfectly aware of the behaviors he or she is doing unlike some of the other painful metal disorders like bi-polar, schizophrenia and manic depression.

Without the functional healthy balance of Serotonin in the brain, easy-to-do normal everyday happenings like reading a page of text in normal order become enormous time consuming tasks.

In my fine artwork I try to represent this dichotomy of simplicity in everyday normality with the painful complications the unbalanced mind can manufacture.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Dennis Ryan - Fine Art Studies from Pennsylvania School of Art & Design

A few years before Pennsylvania School of Art & Design (PSA&D) changed from a three year associates degree school to a four year college, now known as Pennsylvania College of Art & Design (PCA&D), I studied there. It was from 1994-1997. I lived very close to the school on Prince Street in Lancaster, PA.
Pennsylvania College of Art & Design (PCA&D)
I found the school to be strongest on the level of fine art. I actually excelled in the second and third year when I had to choose a focus study of either fine art, illustration or interior and environmental design; needless-to-say I chose fine art. In 1997 I received the Fine Art Award at graduation.

I had a few great instructors, but most influential to me was Dave Snyder. He was one of the founders of the school back when it was in York, PA. I also worked with Dave as his associate gallery coordinator. Ruth Bernard was also a big influence on my gallery coordination skills and my growth as a fine artist, specifically with her in-depth color study classes.

The school also has a great photography program and printmaking room and classes.

I also worked (under the work study program) as the school closer. In other words I locked up at night. The main benefit of this for me was that since I was at the school late to lock up I put in many extra hours of painting, drawing and printmaking.

Upon graduation and leaving the school in 1997 I had a firm direction on my series 1 and series 2 style.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Photoshop knowledge is necessary for today's Fine Artists, right?

Let's get one thing straight, I do think that a fine artist can be successful in today's artworld without the knowledge of any computer software programs. It happens all the time! But, I would say it to be factual that it definitely helps to know a super-duper pixel manipulation tool like Photoshop (even if only to market the fine art that is being created elsewhere). I realize that there are Photoshop artists out there that make hyper-realistic Photoshop (.psd) files that have about 42 million layers and the file size is near a terabyte. But that is far from fine art and why not just take a picture and save the time?

I'm really saying that: as a fine artist in this day and age I struggle to budget time between hours on the canvas (or wood panel in my case) and learning SEO tactics or the latest Photoshop tutorial that can help me add a slight professional edge to my web design marketing plan.

The following is a very small example to help illustrate my point. I wanted to add a blog button to my fine art website ... but I wanted it to be consistent with the theme of the site. Besides the fact that most of the site is in Flash (I'll save the flash knowledge argument for another post entirely) and its loaded thru FTP by Dreamweaver and graphics are edited highly in Photoshop - damn, I should by stock in ADBE; side note if you bought 100 shares of Adobe in the mid 1980(s) you would probably be a millionaire now... anyway, what was I talking about... oh yeah, Photoshop, so I had to make something (quick and fun) to support the OCD, obsessive compulsive theme consistent across the website. A bar of soap will do!! But the typical bar of soap that sits in my bathroom closet does not say blog on it -- hence, where Photoshop comes in:
  1. I took a quick snapshot of a fresh, new bar (ahhhh... the fresh sent - oh baby!!) of soap with a 2 mega-pixel phone camera:
  2. Dennis Ryan, Fine Art, soap image 1
  3. Notice the bar says Dial... ehh not really interested in advertising for them (yet) so that had to change, but with a similar font:
  4. Dennis Ryan, Fine Art, soap image 2
  5. After using the "Dial" as a place holder/guide, it had to go. Thanks Mr. Clone-Tool:
  6. Dennis Ryan, Fine Art, soap image 3
  7. Finally, I had to make the new type "blog" look like the Dial original type and also the ANTIBACTERIAL sub tag line. So with the help of some layer transparency styles in Photoshop (I didn't need to get too technical as I new the final .jpeg would be small) I got the highlight and color close enough:
  8. Dennis Ryan, Fine Artist, soap image 4
  9. And below is the final with the gray background to match the background of the website. This is to avoid using a .png24 with alpha channel support; which leads to higher than necessary file size in this case:
Dennis Ryan, Fine Artists, soap image 5
So, essentially, if I were to pay a web designer to help me look professional when represented globally on the internet, then I wouldn't need to know Photoshop. But I do know Photoshop, and the money I save on not paying a web designer... maybe I'll invest in ADBE and retire rich - as I believe that many categories of artists, even fine artists, will be buying, learning and using these programs for decades to come.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Mental illness can help create great art, no?

Psychological disorders are important to the content of my art. I say that these same disorders or mental illnesses, that I use as concepts, actually have helped artists in the past create successful fine art.

So I ask these two questions as illustrative examples:
  1. Would Vincent Van Gogh be as famous as he is without a cloud of psychological disorders surrounding his life?
  2. Would Pablo Picasso's 'blue period' painting - The Old Guitarist - be as interesting as it in fact is if it were not painted when Picasso was "blue" with depression?
The extra-ordinary states of the mind of someone who suffers from OCD, depression, bipolar disorder, etc., may have something to do with the extraordinary paintings, prints and drawings that come from the artists that suffer from them. It's not to say that artists with normal mental thoughts cannot produce arts of wonder... it is to say that many, many artworks from the past and present have been created by people who are not in a normal state of mind. Very successful, very highly valued fine art has been done by artists that suffer from mental incapacitation. It may be the disorder that creates a neurotic passion that in turn, in addition to talent of course, affords the art. And it may be as a result of these mental disorder that these extremely great works happen at all.

When one looks at the world through the glasses of the mentally ill... things look different! So to say that when someone like Van Gogh self chastises himself by sleeping on the hard wood floor instead of the empty bed next to him (because of thoughts of other human beings in the world not having a bed) potentially hinges the state of the mind to a higher, more romantic level that can see views, perspectives, textures and colors that normal everyday states of mind can not.

I've often found it interesting how many of the great artists and fine artists from the past have been associated with some form of mental illness. Two examples for this post are: Vincent Willem van Gogh - any number of his pieces; and Pablo Picasso - specifically his Blue Period.

"Van Gogh cut off the lobe of his left ear during some sort of seizure on 24 December 1888. Mental problems afflicted him, particularly in the last few years of his life...There has been much debate over the years as to the source of Van Gogh's mental illness and its effect on his work. Over 150 psychiatrists have attempted to label his illness, and some 30 different diagnoses have been suggested. Diagnoses which have been put forward include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, syphilis, poisoning from swallowed paints, temporal lobe epilepsy and acute intermittent porphyria. Any of these could have been the culprit and been aggravated by malnutrition, overwork, insomnia, and a fondness for alcohol, and absinthe in particular."

"The Old Guitarist is a painting by Pablo Picasso, painted in 1903, just after the suicide death of Picasso's close friend, Casagemas."

Let's think about these artists/artworks for a moment.

Now think about what these artworks would have looked like if these respective artists were on an SSRI (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) or other class of antidepressants. Would the artists/artworks be as interesting or successful if they had been dulled by a brain balancing chemical like Zoloft. What would the art look like without the contribution of the disorderly, unbalanced mental state at the time of creation? Without these mental attributions, would these pieces even be worth blogging about?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Dennis Ryan - - Fine Art

Answers to questions about fine art by Dennis Ryan: paintings about psychological disorders, specifically obsessive compulsive disorder: OCD

From time to time I'll share comments from emails I very frequently receive on my fine art website - paintings and art work about psychological disorders, specifically obsessive compulsive disorder: OCD

This post is a copy of questions I recently received from a person named Sam. The questions were thoughtful, so I'm posting my answers. Sam also wrote for permission to include my fine art in a paper he was writing:

Dennis Ryan, Fine Art, Ticker
Series 2: Ticker - Acryic, rubbing alcohol on canvas - 2'x3'

  1. Why is it that you mainly focus on the compulsion of cleaning rather than other common compulsions?

    In my opinion, cleanliness is the most identifiable and prevalent act of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It also represents the most interesting and appealing content, in relation to my concepts, across the majority of audiences. My artwork’s conceptual facets revolve around psychological disorders. Series 2 revolves around OCD, focusing on the “C” of the “CCCC” in OCD that represents cleanliness.

  2. What are the numbers about in your series 2 pieces?

    The numbers symbolize time and counting: time wasted counting. Certain pieces have numbers that represent obsessive day-trading (or gambling) in the form of a suggested “stock ticker”. Numbers are also an additional vehicle to help integrate type into my fine art; which usually consists mostly of line, form and color. I feel type to be an important form of expression and use it to reinforce certain conceptual aspects of my work.

  3. Why does your work change so much between series 1 and 2, not only the subject matter but the composition and style as well?

    The changes are mostly representative of artistic progression and growth. Series 2 evolved as a result of lessons and experiments from Series 1. At this point, I am developing more in the direction of the hands in Series 2 as they represent a ton of my interests in both artistic concepts and physiological disorders.

  4. What message do you want your work to convey?

    On one level, I try to suggest through line, color and form that people suffering with mental disabilities are really suffering! In fact they are disabled. They are locked in a sort of continuous, never-ending, very agonizing mental hell which in many cases is virtually impossible to escape. The only hope some of these suffers have is to cope, not get worse, and very importantly, not to spread the disorders and discomforts to their loved ones.

    On the other hand I want to express my creative talents and make the artwork - on the surface - be beautiful. I do not want my artwork to only convey OCD or physiological disorders. After all, I am an artist not a psychologist.