Building a dream as a fine artist on the autism spectrum

Ryan Smoluk Culture Shock

By Ryan Smoluk

My art exhibit (Reflections at Great West Life) came to an end June 6th. It was well received and I met some nice people.

Thank God for the 2 strong women in my life, my Mom and my sister Lisa. They helped dismantle all my art, pack it up and lug it over to my studio. I love them dearly. I now have to prepare for my next open studio night July 6th (Editor’s Note: Ryan has open studio nights regularly at his studio in Winnipeg).

When a gallery shows an artist’s work it is expected that the artist show up to meet the audience and present an artist talk. Some artists have a problem with that. I personally enjoy that aspect of the artist process. I always encourage a question and answer period after my presentation.

Great West Life held a meet the artist luncheon and I did an artist talk. My good friend and mentor put together an awesome Powerpoint presentation of a collection of my new body of work. The audience watched the presentation on a huge overhead projection screen. Lots of ooohs and aaahs came from the audience. I’d like to share with you my creative process.

My Creative Process

I think the fact that I have a very vivid imagination helps my creative process.

My strongest ability is my ability to conceptualize. My mind is always running. That is both a blessing and a curse for those on the autism spectrum. I have taken courses on mindful meditation to slow down my mind. It does help.

I sometimes think about a project for years before I actually create it. I have a long list of projects that I will eventually get to. I am not a multi-tasker. Unlike many artists, I can only focus on one project at a time.

It’s important for me to document my thoughts. I try quickly to draw the images in my mind in my sketch book using lots of detail and color. I also make lots of notes. Sometimes my sketches have ended up in a gallery. I’ve learned to get by on very little sleep while in this mode. It’s all part of the process and the life of an artist.

Not everything in life is about making money. I hope I can make a difference in someone else’s life. I get a great deal of satisfaction when people come to see my work and they tell me “Yes, I get it!!” I enjoy meeting people and talking about the arts. Unfortunately many struggling artists give up because of financial concerns. Art supplies are so darn expensive as is a dedicated studio space to create your art. Without the support from grants and patrons in the arts community, many artists just can’t make it!

When my art is shown in a gallery it’s the icing on the cake. It’s so rewarding when people appreciate your hard work!

This Culture Shock painting was used as the feature poster for my solo show at the Actual Contemporary Gallery exhibit curated by Diana Thorneycroft and Howard Gervich.

Artist Statement: CULTURE SHOCK

The main theme revolves around the juxtaposition of various cultures represented by the four masks in each corner, with materialism and consumerism of the contemporary era. Painted with Indian ink and coffee crystals, the medium itself draws attention to the commoditization of agriculture and its affect on various cultures. Western/global culture is represented by the odd, bizarre and fragmented imagery floating throughout the foreground, and symbolizes the often twisted and dark fetishism of ideas and trends in mass colonialist western society.

As social media and marketing exploit this insane appetite for consumerism, the mental health of every culture is at risk and in turmoil.


Ryan with his sister Lisa

To view more of my art please visit my website at

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