Ron Monsma reflects on his art at the latest Arts Lecture Series

No comments

By: Kate Luce


Known for his highly-developed still lifes and figure work, Ron Monsma, associate professor in fine arts, dove in deep with his pastel drawing and oil paintings at the latest Arts Lecture Series on March 19.

To kick off the Arts Lecture Series, Monsma spoke on the influences affecting him. Dutch masters and their intricate still lifes have been a major influence for Monsma. Italian oil painter Caravaggio, George Braque and Ben Nicholson also come to the forefront of his influences. 

Monsma’s work investigates movement, cubism-influenced composition and interesting placements of objects in still lives.  In the grand scheme of his work, Monsma’s work revolves around the cycle of life.

Even among the still lifes and figure pieces, Monsma says that his work is a self-portrait, reflecting his life experiences and feelings through his work. However, sometimes his work doesn’t have that deep a meaning, rather it was just an investigation.

“Sometimes a great painting is just about itself,” Monsma said.

To kick things off, Monsma spoke about his still lifes throughout the years, showing a multitude of drawings and paintings. Many of his still life work is pastel, which can give texture to elements in the art.

Throughout the years, his art has kept some elements. Monsma prolifically adds fabric to his still lifes, focusing on intricate folds and sometimes patterns. Much like Dutch masters, fruit has been a staple to his work, but to counterbalance the ‘birth’ of fruit, weathered walls, bricks and stones symbolize history.

Nests are another recurring theme in many works. Much like fruit, nests have meaning tied into birth.

Now, Monsma ‘keeps it simple’ with his still life work. He has scaled back the intricacy of compositions while staying true to his themes, color choices and narrative ideas. 

Focusing on figure work next, Monsma showed viewers several examples of his work. Even with the different subject matter, the cycle of life is a theme present. He even delved into a few stories about how his work came to be.

Monsma went in-depth with the process of his work. He typically tones his paper first with gouache or watercolor, and then dives straight into his subject, first establishing darks and lights. It’s not set in stone when he’s starting drawing and paintings off. He adds and adjusts to compositions as he needs.

“I take away what I need. I add what it needs,” Monsma said.

Lastly, guests looked at some of Monsma’s landscape drawings and paintings of Indiana and Michigan. While he doesn’t do them that often, landscape work is an enjoyable and fast process. For him, landscapes are ‘bread and butter’ work, meaning there is a market willing to pay for the work.

The talk finished with a short Q and A session.

Monsma has been teaching drawing and painting courses for the past 23 years. Monsma is a prolific artist, featured in shows throughout the country. Currently, he is represented by the Miller Gallery in Cincinnati, Ohio. 

By the end of the academic year, he is set to retire.

Erenstein M. Raclin School of the Arts will upload the recorded lecture to Youtube in the coming days. To view more of Monsma’s work, visit his website:

Leave a Reply