AHA member Ryan Wollard is an artist from Maitland, Florida who started Charity Paintings to help support the causes he cares most about. Through Etsy.com, the popular online store focused on handmade goods, Ryan sells paintings of a wide range of famous people—from Steve Martin and Tina Fey to Edwin Hubble and Harvey Milk—with 100% of the proceeds from the sale of each painting going toward his favorite charities.
So far, Ryan has donated over $1,300 to support nonprofit organizations like the Nature Conservancy and the United Arts of Central Florida.
Humanist Network News interviewed Ryan to learn more about his inspiration for art and why he supports the American Humanist Association:
HNN: How did you first learn about humanism?
In college. I credit two classes at Valencia Community College for inspiring me: 20th Century Humanities and Humanities of the Renaissance. I learned of humanism, and many other “isms” and was inspired to create art, read, and share.
HNN: Were you raised in a traditional religion? What made you leave the faith?
I was raised in the Seventh Day Adventist Church (SDA). I attended SDA schools through 12 grades. I was always a skeptic. I never really had an “aha” moment. The stories never added up for me. I could never reconcile the bipolar god of King James with the modern cuddly take on Christianity prevalent at church. God was full of fire, love, wrath, forgiveness, vengeance, and magic. None of these things seemed logical or practical for an all-powerful being. They came across as petty, insecure, and of human origin.
HNN: How long have you been an artist, and what interested you most about doing portraits?
My mother, Renee Wollard, is an extremely talented artist who has specialized in murals. She has always encouraged my creativity. I studied sculpture and drawing in school, but I didn’t start painting until the year 2000. I made portraits from the beginning. Over the past decade I taught myself and my style evolved. I remember milestone pieces where I first captured the nose, chin, or eyes. I like painting portraits because I get to look very closely at a subject. I study them and do my best to capture their humanity. I strive to capture the essence of the person and tell a story.
HNN: What’s your favorite painting among your artwork?
I painted George Washington Carver for this project, and I love it. He has a huge mustache and the background is deliberately painted peanut tan. My favorite part of the piece is the sparkle in his eyes. I was glad to sell it, because the money went to charity, but it was hard to let that one go.
HNN: Why are you donating the proceeds of your art to the American Humanist Association?
Because more people need to hear that you can be good without god. Because the world is an incredible place where magic and superstition are completely unnecessary to feel awe. I started Charity Paintings because I want to inspire change using original artwork as my vehicle. I want to share my love of original paintings while motivating people to support important organizations in the community.
HNN: What do you think about the potential for “humanist art” as opposed to traditional religious art?
This is interesting. As an artist many of my favorite pieces of all time were inspired by one myth or another. The Birth of Venus nearly brought me to tears when I saw it in person. As did Michelangelo’s David. Mythology is a powerful tool for inspiration. Humanist artists can tell stories too. Powerful stories that invoke great emotion and celebrate humanity.
HNN: If you could have dinner with any three people (living or dead), who would they be?
Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich of WNYC’s Radiolab on NPR, and John Steinbeck, who wrote the human condition better than anyone. Ever.
We thank Ryan Wollard for supporting the American Humanist Association through art!
To learn more about Charity Paintings or to purchase the Bertrand Russell or Ayaan Hirsi Ali paintings, visit www.etsy.com/shop/charitypaintings. Paintings start at an affordable $50.00 with 100% of the proceeds benefiting the American Humanist Association (simply “write in” the American Humanist Association with any purchase during the checkout process.)