Ronzworld: Artist Ron Williams Discusses His Unique, Hand-Painted Guitars

Ron Williams with his personally painted Chicago Open Air exclusive guitar signed by Dave Mustaine of Megadeth.

Ron Williams with his personally painted Chicago Open Air exclusive guitar signed by Dave Mustaine of Megadeth.
(Image: © Kate Page)

If you've attended a rock festival recently, chances are you’ve seen one of Ron Williams’ striking, hand-painted guitars.

Founded by Williams, Ronzworld Guitars are all painted by the artist himself, without the use of stickers, prints or wraps. Each design is original and done entirely by hand, which means that no two instruments are exactly alike.

Williams and his art made its debut at Summer NAMM 2016 and caught on like wildfire, leading Williams to partner up with leading manufacturers like ESP, PRS, Ibanez, Dean and Fender, among others.

This summer, and in partnership with The Music Experience, Ronzworld will launch the Official Festival Guitars Experience at a number of rock, alternative and country music festivals.

At each festival date, Ron and The Music Experience will raffle/auction off a limited number of official, one of-a-kind-festival guitars hand-painted by Williams. Fans can enter by making a donation to the current partnering charity for that festival date.

Guitar World recently spoke with Williams about his passion for painting guitars and more in this new interview.

How did you get into painting guitars? Was a career in art and music something you aspired to growing up?

I always played guitar as a kid and had bands when I was in high school. I really love the art and style of the Charvels and Jacksons from the Eighties. I also loved to draw and actually went to college for art. After graduation, I got a job in advertising doing storyboards. That led to a 24-year career as a creative director in New York City. I was eventually transferred to Florida about five years ago.

At the time, my family still lived in upstate New York. So, I was living in an apartment in Florida until we could move everyone down. My office was close to my apartment, and at night I had nothing to do. It was then that I decided to take up drawing again, but I discovered the art store in town couldn't get an illustration board like the one I used to draw on. I started thinking to myself, "All right. What am I going to paint?" Lo and behold, I saw a Jackson sitting in the corner of the apartment and decided to put some art on it. It came out great and I found a guy who could do a clear coat finish for me. I remember after I got the guitar back, it was the coolest thing in the world. So, it went from being something that I did out of boredom to what I’m doing today.

What kind of mediums do you use for painting?

It’s all acrylic. I started out using a paint brush, but found that the finish you use to seal the guitar turns bumps into a white haze. I now use acrylic paint pens. They look like magic markers but flow acrylic paint. There’s no edge because the paint goes on very thin, and the finish comes out ridiculously cool.

Ronzworld's Rock on the Range exclusive guitar.

Ronzworld's Rock on the Range exclusive guitar.
(Image: © Courtesy of Adrenaline PR)

Where do you draw inspiration for your work?

When I’m showcasing my own personality, I paint what I like. And since my favorite genre is heavy metal, skulls and tribal art are the aesthetic leaning I appreciate. But if it’s a commissioned project, I take the customer’s ideas into consideration. The body style of the guitar also helps out a bit too. There’s not a lot of “canvas space” on your typical standard Strat, and especially if you put a Floyd Rose on it. You get a little more space and can detail more on guitars like Explorers and Deans.

How long does the process take to go from concept to completed guitar?

It usually takes about a week. There's never any layout or plan. It’s just straight to the guitar. What I’ll do is take the guitar apart; sand and prime the surface, and then start painting. The art takes about two days and then it takes another four days or so for clear coat, sanding and polishing.

What’s been the biggest challenge?

The most difficult thing is the clear coat finishing because sometimes colors can contrast and shift. I know what works and what doesn’t as far as painting goes. The finishing is a tedious process.

Commissioned Zemaitis guitar painted by Ron Williams for Ronzworld, displayed at Winter NAMM 2016 .

Commissioned Zemaitis guitar painted by Ron Williams for Ronzworld, displayed at Winter NAMM 2016 .
(Image: © Courtesy of Adrenaline PR)

Are there any other projects you’re currently working on?

I’ve had a few people ask me about doing motorcycle helmets, which is kind of intriguing. It’s a small enough canvas to detail, and I don't have to take anything apart. As far as guitars go, I’m in talks with a few manufacturers about doing a limited run and maybe some custom shop work. We have a few things in the works that I’m really excited about.

What do you enjoy most about the entire process?

Being able to put something on the guitar is fun, and the guys I've been fortunate enough to work with give me the liberty to do what I want. When you’re finished and start to put the guitar back together and string it up, it’s the most rewarding feeling. It’s no longer just an instrument. It’s a piece of art.

James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.