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© Copyright 2010 Ron Gianola

Ron was born in Detroit in 1950, drew from an early age, attended Detroit’s premier magnet Cass Technical High School and the Art School of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts, later known as Center for Creative Studies, during its legendary early period, studying Industrial Design, Drawing, and Painting, and worked throughout the state of Michigan as an artist and designer.

He has had 23 one-man exhibits and has been in 98 group shows, including many juried shows at the Traverse Area Arts Council where he won several awards. Ron was awarded an Honorable Mention in the First Northwest Michigan Regional Juried Exhibition, Viewers Choice Award in the Second Northwest Michigan Regional Juried Exhibition at the Dennos Museum Center in Traverse City, First Place in Crystal Lake Art Center Annual Juried All Media Show in Frankfort, Michigan.

Ron has done commissions for private individuals, the Empire Bank, and St Joseph’s Hospital. One of his paintings is in the Dennos Museum Permanent Collection.

His work is a unique artistic vision in a contemporary style, sensitive to the effects of light expressed through color.

“After relocating from a major urban area to a wooded rural setting on a river, my work of 1990 through 2002 has been mainly landscape. Prior to that my art revolved around the human figure.

A composition usually inspires me by the combination of colors, almost like a musical chord, as well as the larger shapes or masses and their relation. It's basically the natural world as the start of a composition. Nature is the source, but the art is Nature seen through the artist's temperament or psyche.”

I use the infinite varieties of natural color and tone in my paintings in several ways. I try to vary a large area of color in a subtle gradation from side to side or top to bottom. I also layer a veil of color over another dry area or into a wet area. These colors can be sympathetic in hue or value or saturation, depending on the effect. This results in a flickering oil surface and takes on some qualities of Color Field painting. Other times I use several colors in the brush and vary the pressure just so to get unique, expressive passages. I also do a lot of scraping with the palette knife, for changes as well as effects and paint application. I balance realism with abstraction, using a classic oil painted surface. My technique generally is to work in oil or acrylic initially from Nature with brushes, finishing in the studio using a palette knife to apply veils of color. This allows me to capture the initial impression from the scene itself, as well as creatively improvising afterwards.
Technique and innovation should be in the service of transformation and vision.

“. . . color that is reaching down and scraping the human soul” Tony Suhy, musician

Since 2002 my work is abstractions of my studio and various interiors, at times combined with landscape elements. Some are called Passage as they are a passage from the exterior to the interior, in the painting and in the artist. The interiors of my studio are an obvious reference to the interior creative life of the artist, as are the various female figures, all called Psyche, the Greek goddess of the soul, heart, or spirit. The various still life subjects in the interiors are a symbol to me of the countless classic paintings of the past and another symbol of the artist’s life. The interior/landscape motif also is a symbol to me of the natural versus man-made worlds, inside versus outside, etc.

Painting as a mythic vocation embodying the essential mystery and spiritual beauty of nature and the human psyche.

Rather than depict the specific, I work in a more personal, poetic manner using a harmony of forms from observed, created, and remembered sources in their own beautiful color universe. I paint with enough content that the mind and imagination are pleased and with enough literal image that the eye is also satisfied.

Hopefully, my art conveys a sense of art spirit, balance, and beauty in an increasingly chaotic world.”


Concept Car 1969 Prismacolor on Canson paper


Concept Car 1969 Prismacolor on Canson paper


Concept Drawings from

“Romancing the Automobile"
Dennos Museum Center September 2007

It was a time of great optimism and excitement in the automotive world of Detroit. That world in the 1960’s was enjoying the automotive styling and engineering design renaissance created earlier by Harly Earl and other creative and passionate artists, designers, and engineers at General Motors that continued for a generation and made Detroit famous world wide for its cool, sleek, and sexy concept and production cars.

Automotive styling or car designing was the dream job of many a young man from Detroit and I was in love with all of it.

These early drawings were done when I was at Cass Technical High School in 1967-68 in the Body Styling Program and the Art School of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts, now the College of Creative Studies, both in Detroit, and in 1968-69 at General Motors Styling at the Technical Center in Warren, Michigan, while a co-op engineering and design student at General Motors Institute in Flint, Michigan.

While based on fantasy with impossible, exaggerated proportions, the drawings were meant to convey a fundamental design concept with great aesthetic excitement eventually leading to a production vehicle with its own personality. Whether luxury cars or small, economy vehicles, they had to be cool.

The GM studio I was in as a design apprentice was an initial concept studio. The tracing type drawings were done rapidly as a predominantly side or end view in about 30 minutes. Then another variation traced over it on a new sheet for a new drawing. Rapidly they become a style of design, as would the designs from other designers. Executives would choose designs and new drawings would develop from these. Soon there would be many drawings focused on an evolving automobile. From these small scale clay models would be started in the design studio and the process would evolve between two and three dimensions. Next came a larger scale model. At this point the project went to another studio for gradual production refinement. Contrary to popular belief, the final, meticulous pre-production design work was considered more demanding than the initial concept designing as it was closer to the final car.

The drawings on black Canson paper are Prismacolor pencil. The others on translucent layout paper are pencil alone or pastel with marker on the front and back.

I gradually moved on to the less glamorous field of automotive tooling design, (still very creative but not nearly as romantic!), and to my own painting.

Ron Gianola
Honor, Michigan 2007

Concept Car 1969 Prismacolor on Canson paper


Concept Car 1969

Pastel, Colored Pencil, and Markers on Vellum Tracing Paper


Concept Car 1969

Pastel, Colored Pencil, and Markers on Vellum Tracing Paper


Concept Car 1969

Pastel, Colored Pencil, and Markers on Vellum Tracing Paper



Portrait of Sean Ruff

Pastel 1982




Pastel 1984




Charcoal 1970




Pastel 1999



…drew from an early age…at 13 started playing drums influenced by Father’s incessant listening to swing & big band music and to Elvis’ appearance on the music scene …began playing in R & B, Rock & Soul bands...attended Detroit’s premier magnet Cass Technical High School as a Design & Drafting student…met future wife, Pam Yee, in high school (took 20 years to marry her)….11th grade started working in Detroit drafting community… sponsored by Chevrolet Gear & Axle in Hamtramck to General Motors Institute in Flint as a Mechanical Engineering & Management major…switched to GM Styling Staff at GM Technical Center as a styling apprentice… worked as a combination Engineering/Industrial Design student…corporate life revealed him to be “not a team player”…left GM program to attend the Art School of the Society of Arts & Crafts (later known as Center for Creative Studies) during its legendary early period, in Detroit’s Cultural Center, as an Industrial Design major…first experience of the art spirit...switched yearly to virtually every department in the college (Advertising, Illustration, Photography, Ceramics) while on US government tuition grant…exposed to a life long interest in contemporary improvisational instrumental Jazz in 1969…worked throughout as a machine tool & automation draftsman and later, designer… at 27 plunged into self-employment as an Engineering Contractor…returned to CCS in Fine Arts studies (drawing, painting, mainly figures) part-time for 15 years. [with Anthony Williams, Bill Girard, Richard Jerzy, Russ Keeter, Jay Holland, Dan Keller, realists all]…married at 35…became instant stepfather, home owner, home improvement guy…bought 2nd home in Honor (after vacationing in the general Traverse City area for 20 years)…started landscape series & showing in area venues…Pam retired from Wayne County Circuit Court…1995 we relocate to Honor………had 15 one-man exhibits and has been in 81 group shows, including many juried shows at the Traverse Area Arts Council where he won several awards… awarded an Honorable Mention in the First Northwest Michigan Regional Juried Exhibition, Viewers Choice Award in the Second Northwest Michigan Regional Juried Exhibition at the Dennos Museum Center in Traverse City, First Place in Crystal Lake Art Center Annual Juried All Media Show in Frankfort, Michigan…part of the ceiling mural restoration project at the City Opera House in Traverse City…teaches drawing and painting locally…in the collection of the Dennos Museum Center Permanent Collection, Empire National Bank, St. Joseph Hospital…

Art and Painting Notes of Others…

Insights, not techniques.

Art is beginning before you know the end.

Discover something one could not imagine beforehand.

Creative artists innovative.

What was the artist trying to achieve? Did it succeed? Was it worth doing? Sometimes no challenge in the first place. Little reward in an easy perfection quickly reached by many. Artists who need ongoing reassurances seek out challenges offering clear goals & measurable feedback. Easier to reach an already defined goal than to discover it within you. Some problems more interesting, relevant, meaningful. Technical challenges secondary. It’s not that they’re hard, it’s that they’re easy.
All from “Art and Fear” David Bayles Ted Orland

“Technique in the service of vision.”

“. . . those who grow so much within themselves as to master technique by the force of their need, and those who are mastered by technique and become stylists.” Robert Henri

“Inner motion of Nature and inner life of the artist parallel and serve as the subject…to awaken the emotion . . . engagement of your sense of self.”

“Essence of art to show the radiance shining through the forms of space and time. The whole as it manifests in everyday details of individual life.” Joseph Campbell

“Making a painting rather than just painting a picture of something” Rufino Tamayo

“The happiest of all lives is a busy solitude.” Voltaire

“…essential dimension of art as a vocation practiced for its own sake or to satisfy spiritual pretensions.. two professions… one directed toward public taste, the other toward forms of experience embodied only in art and to which creations from all times stand witness. In relating himself and his work to this extended dimension of art, the contemporary artist engages in a mythic vocation, in which, beyond current fashions and social and political problems, he seeks the approval of the masters. In the thirties, this second, “inner” profession, founded on art’s values, was centered not in the project [WPA]…but in a handful of young artists-Gorky, de Kooning, Pollack, Gottlieb, Rothko-sensitive to social demands, and confused by them, and in the school of Hans Hofmann, which propagated principles of form and feeling derived from the advanced European art movements. Once opportunities for art as employment ended, art for its own sake, and for the sake of the inner development of the artist came to the fore as a pioneering collective phenomenon. Out of a job, American art forgot its mirage of a respectable social status and dedicated itself to greatness.” “The Profession of Art: The W.P.A. Art Projects” in “Art on the Edge” Harold Rosenberg

“…the constant obsessive push to come up with the newest, most innovative art, kind of ran out of steam, became derivative in itself, when wealthy art-ignorant super shoppers wrecked the visual arts by making innovation in art a currency in itself as opposed to basing its value on matters of transformation and vision.” Bob Vance, Petoskey from The Northern Express

“Inspiration from nature, support from people.”

“Passion over Convenience” - Gil Evans

“I believe fiction feeds on itself, grows like a pregnancy. The more you write, the more there is to draw from; the more you say, the more there is to say. The deeper you go into your imagination, the richer that reservoir becomes. You do not run out of material by using all that’s in you; rather, when you take everything that is available one day, it only makes room for new things to appear the next… You don’t need to know a whole book in order to write the first page. You only need the desire to create something that will say what you feel needs to be said, however vague it’s form at the beginning. You need a willingness to discover the wealth and wisdom of your own subconscious, and to trust that it will tell you what to do and how to do it- not all at once, but as needed, step by step. You have to take a deep breath, let go of your usual control, and then begin walking in the dark.” Elizabeth Berg

“Art is not truth but the illusion of truth. Great paintings are not photographs but doorways into another world. If the painting has too little content, or none at all, only the eye will be pleased. Nor will the mind and the imagination be engaged in it if the content is too literal…, stating everything but implying nothing.”

“Art generated by spiritual forces, art history properly understood is a ‘history of the human psyche and it’s forms of expression’ - Wilhelm Worringer” Jose Arguelles in “The Transformative Vision”

“The mechanic arts are those which we have occasion for in a young country as yet simple and not far advanced in luxury. I must study politics and war so that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their sons the right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.” John Adams 1776 from a CCS catalog

“George Inness was largely self-taught and had little patience for the detail and labor of drawing and engraving. He loved, instead, the richness of paint and color, which he called the soul of painting, and believed that one painted, ‘not to imitate a fixed material condition, but to represent a living motion.’ Epileptic and prone to depression, Inness was inherently attuned to the beauty of shadows and stormy skies, as well as the mysterious, moody sweep of lush, stream-traced landscapes and autumn's golden light and sense of suspension and transition.
Alluding to subjects, avoiding mimetic representation . . . detail did not gain me meaning . . .
indirectly represent objects, directly represent or convey, atmospheric, subjective mystery of nature...not of an outer fact, but an inner life.
. . . structure his landscapes around geometric forms, a development that may have reflected the Swedenborgian idea that the natural world corresponds to the spiritual world and that geometric forms possess spiritual identities. Through these and other compositional devices, Inness created paintings to inspire an almost "religious experience" in his viewers.
. . . anticipated many of the most important tenets of modernism, an achievement that continues to inspire contemporary audiences.” All from “George Inness and the Visionary Landscape” Adrienne Baxter Bell

“. . . a perfect description for Inness' transcendent landscapes--gorgeous and radiant scenes that embody life's interconnectivity, mystery, timeless beauty, and untarnished hope.” Donna Seamen from Booklist

All rights reserved. Images on this website are the property of the artist. Any reproduction, use, downloading or storage requires the consent of the artist.