By Christopher Harrity
Originally published on Advocate.com March 10 2012 3:00 AM ET
Ron Griswold is an accomplished artist whose work is in many private collections around the globe. He is mostly self-taught, and his style reflects his vision of the world. Born, raised, and still living in the panhandle of Florida, he worked as an editorial artist at the local newspaper for many years before giving it up to teach painting at the region's state college. He then moved on to a full-time career as an artist.
He is not represented by a gallery. He sells work from his website, RonGriswold.com, and also from a long list of collectors. He auctions an artwork every other week on eBay. He likes to brag that he was the first artist to sell his artwork on eBay.
The Advocate: How did you come to be an artist?
Ron Griswold: I was born a romantic dreamer. I remember wondering who painted the clouds in the sky, and when I died I wanted to go to heaven and do it. However, the environment that I was brought up in was very antithetical to art of any kind. It's a wonder I became an artist at all. I was lucky to have a strong defiant streak. Also, I was very naive, so when the university asked me what I wanted to major in I said art. I thought artists were magical, and why not go for broke?
I said I was naive, but I'm also very determined and never give up. So here I am today, living with a decision made without any forethought and not regretting it one bit.
What catches your eye?
I like creativity and I like accomplishment. I take notice if something is done so well that I'm jealous or if the thought was so good that I can't believe I let someone else think of it first.
Tell us about your process or techniques.
I rarely start a work the same way twice — there are too many techniques out there to constrain myself to starting the same way twice. One major aspect of a work to me is, does it stretch my knowledge of painting? Each work is a new problem to be solved. I usually do a couple of drawings exploring the image. It gets it into my mind and I can start making decisions how to express my feelings about the subject. How to put process and technique to work expressing thoughts. I like to think that I'm technically experimental.
How do you choose your subjects?
I basically paint what is in front of me. I paint in several different genres. Each explores a different part of my journey. So I choose subject matter as it relates to the direction I feel the need to explore. The females come from a lot of personal mythology. With florals, I paint what is blooming in the yard and try to explore the genius of beauty. For the nudes, the figure has to have a sensuality that is attuned to the way I express the sensuality of paint. The dolls explore the line where life isn't explained just by having a breath. The landscapes have to be timeless so I can escape to them.
What artists or writers, etc., do you feel influence your work?
I taught myself to paint by coping old master works. The artists I preferred to study were Tiepolo, Chardin, Inness. They were great painters. I was influenced by the approach of the modern masters Picasso and Warhol and Duchamp. I try to avoid any contemporary influence in my work. I like my art to be about my reaction to the world.
And tell us about the red forearms and hands?
I don't know what to say about the red arms and hands. Mostly I think it's interesting what others think of them. The most interesting read I've heard was a guy stated that I was raised on a farm (which is correct) and that I had a fetish for the tan lines of farmhands, which may or may not be true.
More formally, when I begin a figure study I put down red in certain areas first, the cheeks, the ears, the nose, fingers and knuckles, a bum, knees, elbows, forearms, the back, and sometimes the chest. I think of it as putting down life. I then paint over that, but it leaves a sense that there is blood beneath. To me, the color red is strength, especially in a male figure, so sometimes it just seems correct to emphasize the red.