Artist Ryan Smoluk shares his process of learning and painting about Mozart this last year.
Cover image: Ryan Smoluk “Ode to Mozart”
By Ryan Smoluk
So much has changed in the past couple of year on a global level.
The pandemic caught us all off guard, so many are still struggling. We are surrounded by uncertainty and incredible challenges.
The isolation has been devastating to so many. Connecting with others has proven to be extremely difficult.
IT HAS CHALLENGED US BEYOND BELIEF
I think its okay to feel a little uncomfortable; sometimes uncertainty can be a great motivator.
As an artist I am obsessively driven to be challenging myself creatively. The learning curve is endless and there is so much to learn.
Artists have to be willing to make many sacrifices for the love of the art. You have to love what you do. Money cannot be the goal or the motivator.
When this project came my way I was ecstatic I said yes immediately. I just needed to listen to Mozart’s music and paint what I felt.
I had just completed a series of paintings for a composer out of Miami, Florida – Jazz music to art (allwithoutwords.org). I really enjoyed that project.
Mainly Mozart is a nonprofit out of San Diego, California (mainlymozart.org). They organize huge outdoor music festivals and elaborate live symphony performances. The timing was perfect. I am so up for my next creative challenge!!
To be honest with you I have never listened to classical music. I love to listen to a wide range of genres. Mozart was just not one of them; I’m drawing a blank! Creatively speaking.
I guess I’ll just have to keep the faith and trust that the ideas will just come.
I asked myself, what would I do if I was an actor and I was offered a great script to play the lead role in a movie?
Don’t ask me why I immediately thought of one of my favorite actors, I wondered how he would handle this. The answer came!
I know that Daniel Day-Lewis would do intensive research on his characters. He would learn everything he could about them, even what makes them tick.
I promptly took a trip to my local library.
I acquired several books about Mozart’s life and several of his music C.Ds. I always like to listen to music while I paint. Music always inspires me. I understand why people use his music to meditate to. I believe in the healing power of music. I am pleasantly surprised at how beautiful Mozart’s music is.
I saw this film Amadeus which apparently was promoted as a true story. We will talk about this later.
CONNECTING WITH MY MENTOR
I could hardly wait to get together with my dear friend and mentor Diana Thorneycroft to share my exciting news. Brainstorming with Diana is always productive and lots of fun.
Diana liked everything about this project and thought it would be a great challenge for me. She’s right; I really think I can sink my teeth into this now!!
I said I would feel better if I could talk to someone who is actually knowledgeable about Mozart. Diana said leave it with me, let me see if I can find someone who will help.
MEETING WITH A PROFESSOR
Diana set up a meeting for me with the associate dean of the University of Manitoba faculty of music James Maiello.
I felt extremely grateful that anyone was willing to meet with me. I just assumed he was probably going to be some boring old dude. WRONG! He was a very interesting young guy.
James immediately put me at ease when he introduced himself. He looked straight at me with a big smile; he said, “Call me Jimmy”. I liked him right away.
I think he was genuinely surprised I knew anything about Mozart’s music.
While Jimmy talked my mind was racing. I was already conceptualizing images in my brain to paint.
We talked at great length I learned so much and left feeling inspired and eager to start painting.
MOZART PROLIFIC COMPOSER
Mozart was born in Salzburg, Austria Jan. 27th 1756.
He was a prolific genius composer who began composing music at the age of six. He went on to compose over 600 compositions. WOW!
In response to that film, personally I feel it was a grossly inaccurate depiction of Mozart’s real life.
The film made him out to be a silly egocentric misunderstood genius with an inappropriate sense of humor with little to no common sense.
MOZART WAS DIFFERENT
No doubt Mozart beat to a different drum, so to speak. He sacrificed greatly for the love of the music. I got that! There is no denying Mozart was a prolific genius who was obviously highly intelligent.
He was a quick learner, actually good at math at an early age. Unfortunately, he was forced to abandon those skills in order to develop more foreign language skills deemed more important at that time.
Mozart spoke several languages. He particularly loved the music in Italy, Germany and France. He especially loved their elaborate opera performances there.
MODERN TWIST TO MOZART
I have never been to a live opera or a symphony performance. Quite frankly they are out of my price range. In creating this body of work and studying about Mozart’s prolific life I feel compelled to complete artwork that will honor his memory with a modern twist. I would like to create art that will bring awareness to Mozart’s amazing contribution to the world of music.
Mozart had a sister Anna; she was five years older than him. Anna was equally musically talented as her brother. Unfortunately, at that time in history girls did not have the same opportunities available to them. Mozart and Anna remained close friends all their lives.
Mozart was frequently in ill health. He died in Vienna just short of his 36th birthday. He lived a busy productive life. Mozart loved living in Vienna where he felt free to compose the music he loved.
Mozart would be so proud to know that the music he created was still being listened to centuries later, that he is still remembered, and that people around the world love his music.
HIS GIFT TO US!
CANADIAN MUSEUM OF HUMAN RIGHTS
In October 2022, a body of my artwork was in an exhibition at The Crip Strength Art Festival, held at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. They incorporated ART BODY AND MIND. My project was called The Insight to Mental Illness. I created that body of work to help bring some awareness to those who are struggling after the pandemic. The exhibition then travelled onto the MAWA (mawa.ca) Gallery in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
PULFORD COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION
In October 2022 in an Art exhibition called Embracing Change, Pulford had a solo show of my earlier body of work; lots of scenery and wildlife paintings. I gave a speech on building a dream as an artist with autism; it felt great to be doing speaking engagements in the community again.
COSI FAN TUTTE OPERA
In April 2023 I am excited to share with you, as a result of working hard and creating this series of paintings for the Mainly Mozart Project. I have been asked to have a solo show at the Centennial Concert Hall Gallery. In collaboration with the Manitoba Opera Society. The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra will be performing one of Mozart’s Famous operas; Cosi Fan Tutte. I am so looking forward to seeing a live performance. I’ll keep you posted!
To view more of Ryan’s art visit www.ryansmoluk.ca
Special thanks to Manitoba Arts Council
Special thanks to Diana Thorneycroft for the photography of Ryan’s art.