Never Quit

By Ryan Smoluk, Canadian Artist

In the making of this art piece no unicorns were hurt….No one was hurt or killed. Only my feelings were hurt, which we will talk about later.

April 2012 I attended an awards event in New York at the United Nations. One of my paintings (the Path) was chosen to represent world Autism Day, the painting is reproduced on a postage stamp available worldwide.

Ryan Smoluk "The Path"
Ryan Smoluk “The Path”


I met and talked to many people at this event one being an attractive lady about my mom’s age, Keri Bowers. We talked about our up and coming projects. I was busy completing my Arts degree at the University of Manitoba. We agreed to stay in touch.

Keri and Ryan in New York
Keri and Ryan in New York

In the summer of 2015, after I had finished with University, I was doing speaking engagements about autism awareness and teaching art workshops to school children. Keri and I stayed in touch. She told me about a film she was co-creating titled “Normal People Scare Me Too,” She explained that all the people involved in the film, cast and crew had autism.

The project sounded really interesting to me. I know a lot about autism! I have it! Autism is a lifelong neuro-developmental disorder, and it affects social functioning. The most difficult part of autism for me is the depression I experience. I asked Keri to let me do the art work for the film’s screen opener. She had seen some of my art work in a book, “Artism: The Art of Autism” by Debra Hosseini. Keri liked my style and said if my art worked for the film she would use it… promises. I thought, I’m an artist! How hard can this be?… WRONG!!

Ryan in his studio
Ryan in his studio

The style of the artwork was to be urban graffiti pop art, very vibrant colors, and lots of movement, strong and edgy. This is starting to sound a little complicated, but I am up for the challenge. Keri explained the vision for the film, now conceptualization is supposed to be my strongest ability …am I really up for this?

All summer long we communicated via e-mail, me sending new concept photos of the piece I was working on every few days for Keri’s feedback. She is loving my art, but saying, “It might be cool for the disk art, with a ‘louder’ red, and added credits, copyright and wording. It’s not quite the right vibe for the DVD cover.”

So I worked harder doing more and more. Keri is still loving it but telling me “I want the cover to SCREAM graffiti in the alley; perhaps more crude and more color.” Now I’m getting a little discouraged and feeling frustrated.

Ryan's art for Normal People Scare Me Too
Ryan’s art for Normal People Scare Me Too

When you paint a picture you just can’t erase it, it’s not like working with computer graphics. Art takes a lot of time to do. I just wanted to quit but I believed in this project so I kept going.

My vision for this art piece is to let children all over the world who have autism, see art that they can identify with. I wanted to inspire their imaginations. To me this piece would represent autism. I wanted children with autism to feel a connection through the art, to let them know that they are not alone.

Art is the one area where our imaginations can run free…we have total control. There are no boundaries, in art we are all equal. But then I had an epiphany, I just realize that I had gone off in another direction. OH CRAP!! Keri e-mailed me and let me know that she loved my art work, however, she felt I had gone too far off track and lost sight of the true vision for the film and was feeling that it was not a good fit for the cover, but was happy to use the image in other ways.

I was shattered.

Life doesn’t always turn out the way you want it too. I understood what I had done, that this was MY vision. I e-mailed Keri to explain what I had done, she said she had time to think about the piece and my vision and loves my idea and she would love to feature my art in her film. YESSSSS!! I’m so glad I didn’t quit when things got a little tough.

summerstudio2 (1)

Ryan Smoluk’s art can be found on

Keri’s email to Ryan just before he wrote short blog…


I love the pics of (you) Ryan, in the summer studio. The art work shown is brilliantly awesome. Your work is amazing.

Re: Normal People Scare Me Too cover, I see how hard you worked to create something beautiful for the hopeful cover, and the piece is beautiful – just not the aesthetic going for.

Art is such a personal thing, yet I get why you are upset. I remember many a time I worked my butt off for a consignment (one right now as we speak, actually,) that doesn’t meet the needs of the consignee, and I had to redo or start over. It’s part of the art world when working with others and not just to our own aesthetic.

If you are game, I do have an idea for accessing two possibilities. 1) I can send a sketch of the aesthetic I am going for (more specific in this way) and you interpret the composition/colors for use on the cover. 2) Let’s use the piece you created (both in the film (not cover) and in a blog.) You write a blog to be published with your art in the Art of Autism online newspaper about your experience. We’d also use some of the pics your mom sent to me, especially the summer studio. You could write anything you desire – even reflect your upset with me. Purge yourself. This would be very good to help others see where, for example, being an artist and working with the public can be daunting.

You decide. if you are up to the challenge. I hope we can turn this upside down together to make it all work out well in the end. That’s my middle name (metaphor) Let me know.



In asking for and supporting Ryan to work beyond our situation by writing this blog (among other possibilities) I now realize that we had one fundamental misunderstanding. I was talking cover art, and he was talking opening credit art. Those are two different things in a film. If I had realized that was his vision – the opening cover art – we would never have had this discomfort occur.

Of course I’m using this wonderful piece in the film for the opening. Another piece will be used for the eventual cover.

I agree with Ryan… never quit! And even beyond that, since this occurred between Ryan and me, I pitched Autism Asperger’s Digest Magazine (I’ve been a contributing writer for two years now) to pitch a new concept: working with self-advocates to write their own story, with me supporting them and the editing before publication. The magazine said YES! We’ll roll out our first article in 2016, so stay tuned.

Keri Bowers – or find me on Facebook

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