A staple of FM100’s morning show and long-time Memphian, Ron Olson has been a creative force of energy and enthusiasm for our city for more than 25 years. His most recent contribution comes not in the form of his on-air musings, but a more tangible, visual art. The upstairs of Olson’s home appears to look more like an art studio these days, brimming with paint brushes, canvases, easels, and well-used palettes.
“I love playing golf, but now I think that I could be using that time to paint two pieces,” he admits. “I even wake up as early as 6 a.m. on Saturdays to paint, and I start tinkering with stuff and preparing gesso [used as a canvas primer] the night before.”
Where did Olson’s newfound creative outlet come from anyway? He says he’s had a creative streak all along – he’s enjoyed writing and photography through the years. However, Olson pinpoints his impulse to paint to a piece that his wife, Vicki, received from well-known local artist Charles Chandler. Intrigued by Chandler’s work, Olson picked up a paintbrush and created an imitation, which increased his curiosity. Nearly a month later, an opportunity to contribute an original painting to the 2011 Celebrities on Canvas benefit for the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art came along, and that’s when he decided to continue the hobby.
Of his inspiration, he says, “All the ideas come from my head, and sometimes I sit down and have nothing planned. I just keep telling myself, ‘Don’t be afraid. It’ll turn into something.'”
Since he donated the first painting, Olson has been asked to do other work for nonprofits, including the Humane Society of Memphis & Shelby County and The Bodine School. He has also sold pieces at places like the Orpheum Theatre, where he set up his guitar painting series before and after “Million Dollar Quartet” shows and Square Beans Coffee in Collierville also sells his original work. Olson hopes to feature his work in restaurants in the future and admits it would be cool to exhibit in regional galleries, like Little Rock, Nashville, and New Orleans.
“I do realize I’m a newbie, but I’m learning to get past that and know I’m getting better … when a lady from Le Bonheur bought a couple of pieces, I stopped asking if this was worth it,” he shares.
Perhaps what’s starting to win over art buyers is Olson’s proclivity toward a mixed media style, as he incorporates various elements like acrylics, bamboo, tissue paper, spray paint, and even mop bristles to achieve a textured look. From golf clubs to angels, no subject is off limits, and don’t put it past him to use doors and insulation boards in lieu of canvases. His originality is explained best when he says, “You can’t copy someone else’s stuff; it doesn’t come off.”