I see myself first and foremost as a man who loves life, and loves to express myself through art. An artist.
So I paint. OK, so I have a some unique personal challenges which mean I cannot use my hands Many people know me as Donald Ryker, the expressionist artist who paints using his head. That’s because due to having Cerebral Palsy, I paint using a pretty clever rigged-up hard hat.
My paintings are colourful expressions of who I am, how I feel about life, and who I’ve been influenced by – Franz Mark’s freedom from traditional colors, Monet’s layers and texture, and Van Gough’s clear pigments and loose brush strokes.
My favorite subjects are lions, birds, dogs, and peaceful landscapes.
I hope you enjoy browsing the site. You can also see original Donald Ryker paintings in person.
Donald Ryker – self portrait
I paint because I love to.
Blue Horse is one of the first horses I painted. It reminds me of the fun I had riding horses when I was little. Being up on that horse was a whole new world. I was up high, I was moving free of my wheelchair, and I was with a warm wonderful animal. Horses always connected with me even when I was still seated in my chair. It is amazing to have that huge head come down to say hi.
I chose the blue color for the calm peaceful feeling I get from it. The sky is limitless and here is sky together with the amazing animal. Tints of dark to light phthalo blue formed the horse and purple and blue glaze give more shadow. The background was originally green, and I made it much more complex by layering red and purple. I like the simplicity of the paint on the horse and the complexity of the background colors.
I always had an interest in art and the natural world around me.
I began painting at 16 years old in high school, then picked it up again seriously in college, and ended up majoring in fine arts.
I've been painting ever since. You can see a video about this.
I have always had Cerebral Palsy. That affects the messaging between my mind and muscles and makes it difficult for me to use my hands. Head painting is the easiest way for me to control my brush and create what I want. I might be the only hard-hat painter in the world.
Check out some videos I made which show how I adapted and honed my skills.
My painting style is Expressionist.
In Expressionist Art it is clear what the subject of the work is, but there is also an artistic interpretation that goes beyond what you see in photography or realistic painting.
An expressionist artist is not just documenting what is seen in the world - they use color to evoke emotion and include their own creativity in their work. The viewer is invited to join in the artist’s freedom and use their eye and mind to interpret the color and shape to see what the artist has created. There is a vitality, feeling, and often a story to see.
I like to create the world around me on my canvas and add a piece of myself.
I am inspired by natural subjects and landscapes that show movement, whether it is the setting sun, a turning head, crashing waves, the blowing mane of a lion, or the gaze of the subject looking at the viewer. I capture a moment in time that evokes feeling for me and I hope for the viewer.
I spend a lot of time thinking about what I will paint next. Often something happens which inspires me. Once I have found a subject matter:
I select a photo for inspiration and sketch it on my canvas with charcoal
I choose my color palette and mix my paints from scratch by adding pigment to heavy medium. I often build my paint and glazes from a range of tints and shades of an initial color I have mixed. I always want my paintings to be vivid and it is important to me to go beyond the primary colors to use the variety and range of hues in the natural world.
I fill in the base colors to establish shapes and areas of light and dark. That color will influence what you see through the next layers.
I begin to build layers of impasto glaze, my special high texture stained glass look.
After I have developed the look I want for the subject and background I emphasize the source of light using shadows and highlights.
Finally, I add my signature hard-hat stencil in the lower right corner.
I have a few videos on the site where you can see me in action.
Look through the online gallery here.
Or check out details for permanent viewing of original art, or temporary exhibitions, here.
If you coming to my town, give me a heads up, and you are welcome to visit my studio.
There are a few videos showing me painting or at past exhibitions you may be interested in also.
Commission A Painting
Get in touch about exhibiting my work or commissioning a piece,