Artist Spotlight: Ron Zakrin

Artist Spotlight: Ron Zakrin

I thought this image would be a good one for the Halloween weekend.  This image is what greets you when you visit Ron Zakrin’s website — I believe it is a wild monkey, with gold teeth, some gold chains, a lizard’s body, and some wings … it’s a little terrifying.  It is also a good example of Ron’s ability to successfully experiment with imagery and symbols.  He uses an eclectic group of symbols in a masterful and often dark manner that makes you think that this artist has a deep pool of ideas that is on the verge of overflowing.

He successfully shares his vision through imagery that ranges from this angry monkey, to stylized youth, to flipped over cars on fire, to a beautiful deer with an arrow in it, to a series of young male fauns.  Of course, Ron’s creative energies cannot be contained by painting alone, so he is also a musician who experiments with sound regularly, and is a founding member of the ”hard disco” band Ze Dark Park.

We were lucky to contain Ron’s creative energy for just a few minutes to answer some questions for our readers.

Thedetroiter: When did you start painting?

Ron: I began painting when I was 18. Drawing comics didn’t cut it anymore, and my girlfriend at the time was a kleptomaniac and she stole enough art supplies to outlast our relationship. That was a great start. I didn’t really make the leap of faith until a couple of years later, when I met the painter George Hriczik. George was an instructor at Macomb Community College in Warren, where I was enrolled in the graphic and commercial art program. I was a good student, but was also painting up a storm at home. Some friends and I started an art club at school and in order to make it legit we needed a faculty member to be an adviser. That’s when George and I became friends, he introduced us to the Detroit art scene, took us to artist’s studios, and galleries. One day in rendering class he pulled me aside and told me that the self expression that I so dearly embraced might be stifled in the commercial art world with it’s deadlines, compromises, and hierarchies. George gave me that push I needed to go balls out – he encouraged me to continue painting at all cost and since that day I made the decision to be a painter and have never looked back.

Thedetroiter: What style do you consider your work?

Ron: I don’t. I don’t think about labels and categories regarding my work. I’m an American Painter, and I paint narratives based on my own experience. I’ve heard such terms as pop-surrealism, – what in the hell does that mean? No, I don’t put labels on it, mystery is a rare commodity these days and I’m for more of it. It can be difficult still after all of these years answering this question of what my style is, but I don’t paint like anyone I’ve seen so far, so it’s my style.

Thedetroiter:Does beauty play a role in my work?

Ron: Always, but you have to remember that beauty is subjective. I hear people say that beauty is dead. Really? Why should we discard beauty in art when we embrace it in every other realm? It’s easy for a bad painter to embrace the “beauty is dead” anthem. But again, the subjectivity of beauty allows for steaming vomit on satin sheets to be heralded as beautiful by at least a few. Beauty to me is good composition, contrast, and color. Very simple, but simply hard to find.

Thedetroiter: What is your process?

Ron: Coffee, work, beer, sleep. Repeat.

My entire process has come from necessity, when I had few resources. It’s evolved, but it’s possible to trace elements that I use now with a flourish to their humble beginnings when I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. Having limited resources forces the hand of creativity and ingenuity.

Thedetroiter: What is the most difficult part about your process?

Ron: The work part.

Fabricating my own panels to paint on. I can’t stand using store bought canvases or panels. It takes longer to make my own and some of the more elaborate ones take forever, but they bare my mark, and while some may not notice, I know. Cleaning brushes is a drag too.

Thedetroiter: What inspires you?
Ron: Process. Getting carried away by an idea, lost in the work. Sometimes something I see on the street will trigger an idea, but usually that idea is only the genesis of something way deeper. You have to chase the rabbit all the way down the hole, even if it leads to a dead end. You have to follow an idea and develop it, if it ends up being lame that’s fine, you learned something vital along the way, developed new tools, nothing goes to waste. It gets used eventually and knowing that you stayed with an idea until you exhausted the possibilities is very rewarding regardless of the outcome. Although, catching the rabbit is preferred.

Thedetroiter: Who are your favorite Detroit area artists?

Ron: Thomas Humes, Tyree Guyton, Matt Gordon, Mark Heggie. I love the work Mathew Eaton is doing. Others whose names elude me.

Thedetroiter: What’s next?
Ron: I’m playing with fire now, literally. I did an installation called “Motor City Burning” at Start Gallery focusing on the local phenomenon we call Devil’s Night. I have been drawing with a blowtorch here and there, but this project provided the perfect opportunity to apply my “pyrotechnique”. The group show, called Jump in the Fire, runs October 14 -31 at the Start Gallery, so go check it out!

To find out more about Ron, visit his