Interview by Morgan McDaniel
Intro by Elise Olmstead
The beautiful world of Ryan Byrd is displayed in his colorful paintings. The stream of consciousness process he uses is evident, as the subjects, characters, and embellishments meld and mix into a perfect chaotic harmony. It’s as if a vial of LSD was accidentally poured onto a child’s coloring book, but beyond the page, the art encompasses us and envelopes us in its environment. The whimsy and wild spirit of Ryan Byrd can keep you entertained for hours. We attempt to get a glimpse inside his mind with this interview.
If I may start at the beginning, whereabouts in your time on this earth did you start getting into being artist?
Well I’ve been an artist my entire life, I probably I could draw things that you can tell what they were when I was two-and-a-half years old. I really I didn’t start doing these psychedelic style paintings until about 3 years ago. When I did the first one, it changed everything, changed my purpose, changed what I wanted to do. I was pretty enthralled by the whole thing to the point that it changed my entire life, that’s pretty much what or who I’ve become now, is the person who makes these things. That happened three years ago on Halloween when I did my first painting, but before that I had years of training in illustration, tattoo work, I was a tattoo artist for 10 years as well.
You mentioned that you had been a tattoo artist for some time. How do you feel that working on that particular medium – that is human skin – how do you think that’s influenced your work with your current paintings today?
Well human skin is really just another medium to tackle, the biggest thing about working on tattoos is patience, and understanding take your time, complete this line, make sure its healthy and spot on just like you wanted to do, you got to stretch the skin, you focus on one little thing at a time, do it again and again hit the pattern, then you use your visual ability that you learned as an artist throughout life, dealing with value shading, light sources, all other assorts of fine things, make things stand out, to color, create levels of depth. The process is extremely slow. How it has influenced my artwork, when you work as a tattoo artist,, you’re asked to draw and illustrate and tattoo such a large variety of every little thing in life. That it enhances your Ability as an artist to be able to render things about you, because you’ve drawn things so many times, you’ve studied them, you learn to do it (roses, certain animals, fish, tigers, dinosaurs) whatever it is, you learn to get it together and put it as a control, certain textures and gradients doing it as a career every single freaking day. You never stop learning and drawing, increased my ability to do a huge variety of different types of subject matter.
I noticed in your artwork that you cover a very broad number of subjects, what is your favorite subject to cover?
Well I have a lot of subjects that I love to paint, I’m heavily influenced by a lot of different artists thru the year, along with a lot of Sci-Fi and fantasy elements, I used to be gamer geek, so superheroes and monsters and cools from dungeons and dragons, fantasy beasts and sphinxes and stuff like that. I would lie if I didn’t say that one of my favorite subject matters, as an artist, today is the female form. I like to always paint the figure a lot, and just appreciate the anatomy and curvature of it, I do that quite a bit, but however these days, I would say the answer is more akin to these geometric overlays everything in the entire universe, is what I’m trying to paint the most. My mind sense or sees things, I don’t want to really say how or whatever, there’s a definite vibrational connection of energy or flow that I can visually make out that is a pattern that overlays everything in the entire universe, very Aztec and alien looking. That pattern is like the foundation for starting all my paintings, then my mind starts seeing stuff within that realm. The dream realm, a lmost like painting in a subconscious way, and that is what it starts to overlay on top of that matter, like everything that there is starts to form I see it, I construct it, and then I start from there, and I like to that a lot it underlies all the stuff that I paint.
If you would, describe your mental process or your way of thinking as you’re creating a piece or painting; is it a stream consciousness or much more structured and deliberate?
Totally a stream of consciousness, there’s nothing too deliberate about it art all. You want to set off with an intention, my intention is usually pretty simple, just set out to paint and see what comes out. See what happens in that flow. My mind picks up on things it starts to create it and build as it goes, almost like a kid playing with minecraft or legos, even though it is a piece, since its paint or what you paint on, it can layer up, you can see through the layers, when you use more transparent and colors, things to experiment and learn how to layer colors into each other naturally. But it is really just in that flow, like I don’t even try honestly when I paint there is no fear there’s no anxiety just no expectation there’s no idea where the paintings going to go or where I wanna wind up with when I’m done or what its gonna be, sometimes I have an idea of what I wanna paint, and it will direct itself and it might get on there or not. For the most part, it’s total consciousness flow.
How long does it take for you on average to put together a piece like this, given that you descriubed it as a stream of consciousness, is it something that just comes out at all, could you describe for me please.
How long does it take? Depends on the size of the piece, or how much I want to work on it, maybe 4 5 6 times in a month and a half, for 4 or 5 hours at a time, sometimes 8 or 9. I’ve been know to put in 16 (hours) and do the whole thing in one night. However, my process is extremely fast, when my mind goes into a certain state or that flow of consciousness it has the ability to just start laying down images of things right out over, relatively quickly, I feel like I’m a pretty fast painter. The one I painted at resonance festival, I would say that I worked on maybe 6 to 8 hours a day, for two straight days, so that would give pole a real good idea on how ling that would take.
The Jamwich is, of course, concerned with the music and the artistry surrounding the jam scene. How do you think that environment or atmosphere influences what your painting, like you had mentioned painting during musical sets. How do you think that directs or inspires your work?
First off, I want to say that environment is probably the best environment that I could imagine exists on this planet today, most of the people are very consciously minded on that’s scene. To be part of it, like I am, the gratitude is immeasurable. I feel it daily, it’s just beautiful. How it influences, oh my god, greatly it influences I believe because painting is at such a subconscious level, I’m not making my choices consciously, but the choices still being made, when I grab a tube of paint, I have a bunch of them laid out in front of me, and my hand just automatically you goes to what colors next without thought whenever I put the brush in the paint, there’s no thought. When I’m painting canvas, there’s no thought. But how it influences me the most, the music itself actually drives my paintbrush to paint the virbrational movement and flows, so where I start painting, all I’m doing is dancing and moving around to the music, creating that geometric pattern from our earlier question, and the music actually guides and think it controls a lot of what happens in my canvas, the actual musical vibrations, the people, the energy, I can almost feel a sense of channeling the energy that are at these events, and its something you can feel, the energy the happiness, the joy, the revelry, all of it. It’s pretty amazing, so I think while I’m on that scene, and I’m doing a painting, I paint faster and better, and it becomes more vibrant, there’s definitely in energy I get from the crowd, that helps the work go along, I will give it a lot of credit.