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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Denis Ryan. Interview. Jan., 2012

British painter Denis Ryan was elected into the Royal Watercolour Society In 2008 and is now a full member. His career began in film animation and, later, illustration. Successfully combining both, he worked on award-winning films such as Watership Down and The Wall, as well as numerous TV and film commercials, and has had commissions for illustrations from most of the leading publishing houses. Having worked in commercial art since leaving art school he is now concentrating on pursuing his love of fine art, in particular painting with watercolour.

Denis Ryan

Denis, How did you come to watercolor medium? 
Whilst working in advertising and film, I used both watercoour and acrylic paint. Later, when I decided to paint for myself I was heavily influenced by the marvelous watercolours of the super-realists, Goings, Salt and McLean, they really opened my eyes as to what you could achieve with watercolour.

Denis Ryan. Bernini's Elephant, Piazza della Minerva, Rome, Italy

What inspire you as an artist? How you pick the objects for your painting?
The subject matter is dictated I guess by the kind of painting problems I'm interested in.  The neon signs offer me the chance to paint the hard, shiny or rusty surfaces, the glass neon tubes reflecting light on or off offer me the challenges I enjoy painting.  All I can do is try and put as much of myself into it as I can, give it the attention it deserves.

Denis Ryan. Egyptian Minx Neon, Lisbon, Portugal. 19x24 cm

You work merely with reference photographs. Is there any danger of losing a life impression of the object and getting an abstract image with no connection to reality?
It's true, I take my own photographs, which I consider to be an important part of the creative process, but it's not the whole process.  I shoot a lot of photographs for a single painting, some in different light, and different depths of field.  This gives me the chance to edit or add whatever elements I consider to improve the painting.  It would be totally impractical for me to set up an easel and paint from life, and anyway I don't consider that the finished paintings are a direct copy of the photograph.  They end up looking quite different.

Denis Ryan. Crossing the East River, New York. 46x68

What is the part of real impression and imaginary things in your works? What is your opinion – should the painting tell a story or it can be self-valued by its technical quality? 
I don't really consider that my paintings tell a story as such. Sure I feel the signs I'm excited by are too often taken for granted, and by painting them I can bring them to people's attention. Hopefully they will enjoy them for the beautifully crafted objects they are before they all disappear. If people enjoy my paintings for their technical qualities then that's a bonus.

Denis Ryan. Night and the City, New York, USA. 35x25cm

How do you work on your painting? Is it the same routine every time or you happen to change the approach or steps of the process?  If the painting takes a long time to finish it how do you manage to keep a fresh eye on it? 
It's pretty much the same process for every painting.  Once the 'watercolour paper', mounted on board, is taped down to another drawing board so it is perfectly flat and does not move or buckle, I then trace down my image, then carefully draw it, making any adjustments I feel are necessary.  I then begin to paint, masking out some areas and building up other areas with various washes of colour.  The time it takes is not a problem, it passes quickly in fact - it's what I love doing.  I may drawing up other paintings in between.  When the painting is virtually finished, I put it to one side while I start work on a new picture, then after a few days or weeks I'll go back to it, take a fresh look and make some adjustments maybe, then finish the work.

Denis Ryan. Swimwear, Le Touquet, France, 2007, 15x21 cm

Your colors are more saturated than usual palette of realists artists. Do you have any color preferences? 
I love colour - the work of abstract painters like John Hoyland and Peter Haley, the tension and energy in their work is something I really admire. I think that years of working in film animation and being surrounded by colour must have had a subconscious effect on me. I don't set out to make colourful paintings, it's just the way I see things.

I usually build up the image using very thin washes of transparent paint, I use this to get the greatest luminosity I can. I know there are no visible paint strokes as everything is blended in, but that's just the natural way I paint. I had developed over the years in commercial art the skill of airbrushing, so I don't have a problem with using it, but it's not a technique I over-indulge in, I only use it if I feel the painting would benefit from it. As far as colour preferences go, I seem to be drawn to 'Quinacridone Red' a lot, it's like a magnet or a drug! Mostly though I mix all colours, very rarely using something directly out of a tube.

Denis Ryan. All Day, Chinatown, London, UK.14x24cm

Do you consider acrylic a transparent watercolor medium?
Well, to take acrylic paint, an industrial synthetic polymer, developed in the 1950's, carried and bound by water and give it life, needs a fair bit of  technical skill/craft, so yes I do consider it a watercolour medium.

Denis Ryan. Ionian Islands, Greece. 26x35cm

What brushes do you use?
I use a mixture of 'Winsor & Newton' and 'Cornellison' brushes, finest sable hair, usually short hairs - I like the springy quality.  Various sizes from very small '0' to '8' and then some larger industrial type brushes for big washes or flat colour.

Denis Ryan. Emmanuel, Paris, France. 15x23cm

What is your favorite paints and paper brands?
 I use 'Winsor & Newton watercolour and 'Liquitex' acrylic - great paint. I work on Daler-Rowney, Saunders-Waterford 'rough' watercolour board.

Denis Ryan. Crumbling Decadence, Venice, Italy. 28x40cm

Can you determine some special features of the British watercolor school? Do you feel yourselves as a part of it? 
There has been a long and illustrious history of watercolour painting in Britain, the public love it. And I'm proud to be an elected full member of the 'Royal Watercolour Society', my technique and approach to painting have improved immeasurably since I was elected. The feedback, ideas and encouragement from other members is terrific.

And last year (2011) I became a founder member of the 'ART OF THE REAL' collective, a group of four like-minded artists sharing the same philosophy, style, and approach to painting. This exchange of techniques and ideas has been fantastic and this year 'AOR' look forward to mixed shows in the UK, USA and China.

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