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Something about the way layers of concrete and steel unfold while lining the veins of any great metropolis always appealed to local artist Ryan Orewiler. He notices the way that skyscrapers dart into the blue sky and considers the clashing of past and present between neighboring buildings while trying to capture the pulse of busy intersections full of rushing cabs. He discovers the angles and viewpoints that are both familiar and foreign and translates them to canvas for eternal visual enjoyment and consideration. 


On a trip to New York with his family as a six-year-old, Orewiler finished his first of many cityscapes by painting a scene of central park to remember his time there. Now his paintings bring with them scenes and experiences from Southeast Asia to the arches flowing down the Short North. 


“I’ve always admired the layering of pattern, shapes, color and overall energy of the city. Each city I’ve traveled to has its own unique qualities,” says Orewiler. “I try to give the viewer a little bit of a feel of what it’s like to be there.” 


Armed with a camera and aspirations to find interesting architecture to recreate in his own mix of expressionism and impressionism, Orewiler has traveled to the streets of London,  Jakarta and Tokyo taking snapshots for a series of his work. Multiple taxi rides and train passes yield thousands of photos, which are sorted through and used for future projects. A lot is seen and discovered while sitting on a bus or in a cab, and it almost becomes a running character throughout his work. 


“I have an admiration for taxi cabs and public transit. You can get a feeling for the people and energy of a place when you see it from something like the ‘L’ in Chicago,” says Orewiler. “It seems to be a running theme that a taxi always ends up in my pieces. There’s something about the boldness of the color of taxis from different places that gives them a place there.” 


With upcoming shows at Hayley Gallery in December and S. Dot Gallery in February, Orewiler keeps busy with his cityscapes, abstracts and now with a series of silk-screens that showcase local landmarks like the LeVeque Tower and the Smith Brothers hardware building. 


I grew up in German Village. As a kid, I would skateboard through downtown and enjoy the streets and buildings,” says Orewiler. “The city itself has been a great inspiration to my art.” 

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On his first trip to New York, a then 6-year-old Ryan Orewiler drew an aerial view of the city.

It would be years before Orewiler returned to the city, but the experience stuck with him. As his artistic career developed, he eventually became known for his abstract takes on cityscapes.


Though Orewiler’s painting has taken him across continents, he still counts his hometown of Columbus as one of his favorite cities to bring to life with his brush. Many of his Columbus paintings, along with some from travels to Chicago and Europe, will be on display in a show at Hayley Gallery honoring Columbus’s bicentennial, running Dec. 8-Feb. 8. Amidst the paintings, some silk screens of Columbus will also be shown.


“I’m trying to get a nice arrangement that will exhibit my travels and also highlight Columbus,” Orewiler says.Orewiler’s cityscapes are a loose rendition of images with an impressionistic feel. He uses bold colors for strong contrast. “I try to energize the viewer with the colors and the contrast,” he says.

Orewiler’s style has gained notoriety beyond Ohio. The Chicago-based Leigh Gallery regularly features his work. Back at home, Orewiler runs Studios on High Gallery in the Short North with several other artists.


Though he is skilled with the paint brush, Orewiler’s talents extend beyond one singular type of media. He also creates found object art, using light to create shape and shadows within sculptural pieces.

About two years ago, he taught himself how to use silk screen – through, as he puts it, “lots of trial and error.”


“I enjoy looking at pieces that are created that way,” he says. Orewiler grew up in a family of artists and craftsmen. As a result, he gained a healthy appreciation of structure and form, which he says transferred into a love of city architecture. Travel was also a large part of his upbringing.


“I was cultured at a young age. I was fortunate,” Orewiler says. Outside of Columbus, some of Orewiler’s favorite locales are Italy, Chicago and southeast Asia. Orewiler doesn’t paint on location – instead, he returns from each trip with a myriad of photos of architectural elements. He sifts through thousands of photographs to find about 20 to paint.


Though he grew up with photography, Orewiler doesn’t consider himself a true photographer. Rather, he views the camera as a tool – a means to an end. On location, Orewiler shoots photos featuring strong design and composition. He tends to gravitate toward historical architecture.

The energy, smell, architecture and cultural influence of the location all contribute to how he shapes the piece.


“When I paint, I look at it as an abstract form and shapes,” he says.

As a high school student, Orewiler focused on drawing and watercolor media. He didn’t put much thought into a career in art, but at the last minute, he put together a portfolio that earned him a scholarship to the Columbus College of Art & Design.


Orewiler found his freshman year at CCAD to be very competitive and challenging. In learning fundamentals like understanding chroma and hue, he found there were many things he didn’t know.

During his junior year, Orewiler started doing landscape painting for a class. His first painting was fields and cows, but he soon became disenfranchised with such pastoral scenes.

“They don’t have enough energy for me,” he says.


The traditional landscape is too peaceful for Orewiler’s liking. Perhaps as a result of the history of carpentry in his family, man-made structures and geometric shapes created by light hitting buildings resonate more with him.


In 1997, with his teacher’s permission, he began instead to paint city imagery.

Orewiler generally prefers oil paints. Since nearly the entire piece can be painted while wet, the medium allows for faster painting. “It’s more expressive,” Orewiler says.


He describes his work as a mix between impressionism and expressionism, as he expresses a moment and feeling in time through brush work. He tries to push value and create depth. “I want you to feel like you can walk in it,” he says of his work.


“Intelligent” brush work is important to Orewiler. Just a couple of brush strokes can create a structure, or a car. When painting an object, he analyzes lines, focusing on what makes the item unique: a headlight on a car or a single street lamp, for example. “An essence of maybe five brush strokes will make that form,” he says.


Orewiler likes to present his city scenery in a new light so the setting is not immediately obvious to the viewer. Sometimes, his abstractions can take on a minimalist style to convey a particular message. He likes viewers to dig into the piece, reading the imagery and interpreting their own stories.

“I’m showing the viewer what I see through my eyes,” he says.








In many other cities that are not in Ohio, a neighborhood of this caliber would likely command exorbitant rents and feature multiple homes with sale prices in the millions. At the very least, the neighborhood might be the province solely of wealthy professionals and retirees who may need a lot of things, but certainly not another piece of property that they will rarely, if ever, use. Most Villagers estimate the renter-to-owner ratio at about 50 percent. Consequently, you have people here of all types and ages. Upstart entrepreneurs, accomplished retirees, young renters, second homers.


I meet Ryan Orewiler, a thoughtful thirtysomething, upstairs at Caterina, a Euro-centric home goods store on the Village’s South 3rd Street, near a spectacular old bookstore as well as the first-ever Max and Erma’s Restaurant, which was a German Village gathering spot before it was built along every off-ramp in this part of the country.


The proprietor of the home design shop, Catherine Adams, a worldly and appealing woman, has loaned her upstairs gallery space to Orewiler, founder and director of the German Village Art League, for its first juried show.


Orewiler was raised in the neighborhood; he shows off the diverse collection of work that includes some of his own pieces, then offers to show me the “small apartment” on one of the nicest streets in the Village.


The apartment turns out to be the entire first floor of a two-story building; it includes a well-tended side garden and a spacious back patio, plus a covered back deck for those rainy evenings when you still want to be outside. 








Ryan Orewiler's paintings voyage through urban landscapes, capturing traffic jams flanked by bright advertisements, public squares stuffed with pedestrians and the subtle architectural details of old buildings.


But well before he traveled to cities such as Singapore, Berlin, Florence, Chicago and New York and captured them on canvas, he spent his childhood in the historical urban landscape of German Village.


"I have many memories skateboarding throughout these brick streets with my friends," he said. "I think it had a lot to do with making me who I am as an artist."


Last year, Orewiler decided to help breathe some new creative life into his home locale, where he resides again today, by founding the German Village Art League.


"I wanted to give back to my neighborhood. I also wanted to connect with other artists here and volunteer to help other artists connect," he said.


A CCAD graduate, Orewiler's work is up in multiple local businesses, and he shows regularly at Columbus and Chicago galleries.


"I kept hearing about other artists that live here that I had never met," he explained. "I spend eight to 10 hours a day isolated in my studio, as do other artists, and connecting, having dialogue and community, is important for feedback and critique."


In less than a year, the German Village Art League has ballooned upwards of 70 members. Many members are local, although artists from as far away as London and Hong Kong who maintain a connection to the neighborhood have also joined. The roster also extends beyond painters and sculptors, including performing and word artists.


"We are open to all forms of art. I am hoping to have people from different art disciplines step up to help form subcommittees since the GVAL is growing so quickly," Orwiler said.


"As a working artist and a GVAL volunteer, it has been very time-consuming. I admire those volunteer organizations such as the Ohio Art League that have lasted over 100 years."


The German Village Art League had its inaugural juried exhibition, Unify, at Caterina Ltd. earlier this year, as well as an exhibition and live art event honoring the German Village flower - the red geranium - in June.


According to Orewiler, the organization aims to have between two and four juried exhibitions annually, and hopes that eventually, someone will donate a permanent exhibition space in German Village.

Currently, the league has The Language of Art on display at the Columbus Metropolitan Library's Carnegie Gallery, juried by four of its members - two visual artists (Leni Anderson and Sean Cooper) and two poets (Gordon Brooks and Robert Abbott). While much of the poetry was performed during the show's opening reception, a great deal of it is also displayed within the exhibition.


In partnership with the German Village Business Community, this year the art league has also assumed responsibility of the neighborhood's biennial Art Crawl, following the German Village Society's decision to skip the event due to funding and staffing concerns.


The Crawl is a nod to the tradition of arts patronage and collecting that continues to this day among German Village residents. It has morphed over its 15 or so years of existence from a gallery walk (when the neighborhood had more galleries), to a dinner with invited artists, to its current incarnation as a makeshift look at local talent.


For the 2009 edition, several garages along Macon Alley will serve as temporary galleries for works by over 30 artists. The event will also showcase wares from local businesses and offer samples from neighborhood restaurants, along with adult beverages.


Members of Actors' Theatre will show up in costume and the band Stockton Way will perform, and visitors will be invited to contribute their own creativity to three large "Make-a-mural" pieces made just for the occasion.







“Ryan Orewiler is a Columbus College of Art and Design graduate who lives in German Village and has work in numerous public and private collections, including the Leigh Gallery in Chicago. Orewiler’s paintings stem from his own photos, ambitious and fresh. The artist is not afraid to use bright industrial colors.


His large city scenes, often complex, form a panoramic whole while the eye travels from section to section. One of his best known series- Times Square in New York- includes over 40 paintings, all of which have sold except for one, Times Square 4 (above image), which is displayed at Studios on High Gallery. This work is one of Orewiler’s major efforts. A long painting, oil on canvas 31"x 44" inches, it depicts the famous square in broad daylight, with passerby in a variety of attire, rushing and pausing while the light changes. They’re on the go in the hub of America. One woman, who resembles a mid evill nun is standing in Times Square. “And she was really there, explained Orewiler. “I try to capture a split second in time, an interesting figure or subtle interaction.


Glass doors and windows blink, as do a multitude of actual signs. Yellow and red cars and trucks- there are a million vehicles in the naked city - and they were “really there. Here are walls once transversed by Superman at a single bound. Above our heads? - the TV news and of course, the space where the ball descends on New Years Eve.

By tilting a light pole “just a tad, Orewiler has manipulated perspective, allowing the viewer to sense the rush of wind among high buildings. This artist has “covered cities, their rivers and lakes, in Europe, Hong Kong, and Indonesia. He is good at including people in urban scapes, and he understands shadows and light. Here in Columbus, he painted great scenes with the Smith Brothers Hardware Building and the Wonder Bread sign in Italian Village. His American Gothic and Mona Lisa, are sites familiar to Short North habitues. In Broad Street News, a bright painting, a fire hydrant and the newspaper stands almost march off the canvas.

Orewiler is quite a strong painter, adept at panoramic and colorful. His scenes in german Village, and , yes, Indonesia and other exotic sites, often reveal his gift for simplicity, and for the play of light on warm, soft, colors.









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Ryan in Rome, Italy


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