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Exit Interview: ABN Chats With Ryan

July 26, 2010

(c) Bravo

With his all-American good looks, raw talent and unmistakable laugh, Ryan was arguably one of the most well-liked “Work of Art” contestants. Up until his final project, Ryan had won the hearts of audiences and befriended several of his fellow contestants, yet continued to struggle creatively, leaving the judges indifferent or underwhelmed with his work. After creating what was deemed a mound of child-like art by the judges, Ryan met his artistic fate, leaving many sad to see him go.

So what has this Chicago-based oil painter been up to since his time on “Work of Art?” Continuing to teach and mentor aspiring artists and following his dream of establishing himself as a realistic oil painter, Ryan has begun to make his mark in the Chicago art scene. Straying from the blog-o-sphere and other social mediums, Ryan is a young man with an old-school approach of what it means to gain recognition as an artist. He may not be a maverick with child’s art supplies, but is making a name for himself as an oil painter, a medium which Ryan continues to explore and master as an artist.

Here, Ryan opens up to ABN about life after “Work of Art,” why he thought his final piece should not have lost and what he does in his spare time.

-interview by Marylyn Simpson, ABN Contributing Writer

ABN: Artistically, what have you been up to since “Work of Art?”

Ryan: Not being broke, that’s good. I don’t know what’s going on in the economy right now, but at least in terms of my field and what I’ve been doing, I certainly have money again. I have a ton of students and I’m selling paintings, I hang out and paint, wake up at noon, sort of the same thing I usually do.

ABN: Wow, that’s awesome. So, you’re living the dream?

Ryan: Yeah, totally. I’m not loaded yet and I don’t have major gallery representation. But I’m one of the only artists I went to college with that’s actually still doing it and not working at Starbucks or having some other job.

ABN: Looking back on the challenge, what would you have done differently? Simon advised to stay away from making art that looked childish. Do you regret the outcome of your piece? Is there anything you would have done differently?

Ryan: Given the challenge and the materials we had to use and the fact that I would never ever make that type of work, before or after the show for that matter, I still don’t think I would have changed anything. Given the challenge, and the materials, the restricted time, I think my piece made sense. I thought it was kind of interesting the way it was, even though it wasn’t a fantastic piece. A lot of people after the show have been going online and defending their piece that got them kicked off. I don’t do that. I don’t Tweet about it. I don’t blog. I don’t really care.

ABN: What was going through your mind when you were in the hot seat and when you heard the judges’ decision?

Ryan: My piece was not anything great, I would never ever make anything like that before or after the show, but given the situation and the overall bad quality of the work in the room, I was not expecting to be sent home. I thought it was Jaclyn for sure, but she creates a lot of drama so they wanted to keep her on because she was pretty interesting. I was not expecting that at all. I was quite shocked.

ABN: How has the show influenced you as an artist? From a business standpoint, how has it influenced the sales and popularity of your work?

Ryan: It was an interesting experience; it was an incredibly stressful experience. I had like post traumatic stress disorder for a little time there after. I kept waking up every night, thinking I was being filmed and screaming while half-asleep, so that was pretty traumatizing. It took me a little while to get over that. It hasn’t effected the type of work I do, I’m still doing the same sort of themes in my work, still painting the exact same way that I did before. It was a strange experience–but it’s not one that I regret.

In terms of business, right after the show started I sold paintings and made quite a bit of money off them. I have gotten attention from galleries and other people. It’s funny, I have a lot of fans, a lot people have told me they like me the most or I’m one of the favorites, even though and they’ll even admit, they didn’t like anything I made on the show but it has directed them to my website and the work I actually do. They like my personality and that has turned them on to my actual paintings and actual work.

(c) Bravo

ABN: Have you noticed increased hits on your website or blog and increased Twitter followers since being on WOA?

Ryan: I don’t Tweet, and I don’t blog. I’m kind of against that. If I did, I might have a larger fan base but I don’t care about that either. Initially when the show started, I wasn’t pictured that much, a handful of people would friend me on Facebook after the episode and then suddenly after the last two episodes, like 300 people a day have been wanting to be my friend, e-mailing me, calling me. Especially after last night’s episode where I referenced my Jehovah’s Witness upbringing. I have had over 100 e-mails from people who are ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses and are like “Wow, I’m proud of you and it’s good that you stood up for your beliefs” or I guess lack there of. People (have e-mailed me) who went through the same crisis where a lot of people that they knew and group up around don’t want to talk to you any more and don’t want anything to do with you.

But I will say for the record, I have reconnected with my mom and despite what happened in the episode, she loves me to death. We have talked a lot and that’s the main thing that happened after I came back from the show, if anything happened in my life it was reconnecting with my mother. I sort of made it my goal. I realized we had this split in our lives and I was going to take initiative. I was going to talk to her and explain everything. We needed to reconnect because this is stupid and we have (reconnected), she has come back into my life.

ABN: You mentioned earlier that you don’t blog or tweet, so how do you promote yourself? How did you promote yourself before the show, and how do you now, after “Work of Art?”

Ryan: In terms of my paintings and painting sales, that is all word-of-mouth because I’m not officially represented by any galleries. In terms of my art lessons, I’ve always done either by word-of-mouth or Craigslist or other advertising mediums like advertising in an art store, etc. Since the show, tons of people have been e-mailing me daily, wanting lessons and I’m going to have to start turning people down because I’m not going to have time to make my own work or sleep for that matter.

(c) Bravo

ABN: You seemed to be pretty close to Erik and Mark during the show. Do you still keep in touch with them?

Ryan: Through both the phone and Facebook I have stayed in continual contact with Erik, Mark, and Trong. We were roomies and all down to earth. Because of this we shared a common bond—no empty posturing, no pretension, just roommates who talked at night before bed. They are all great people.

ABN: Throughout your time on “Work of Art” you had never won a challenge. Does it bother you that you went home without winning a challenge?

Ryan: No, not really. I was easily the least advantaged artist given the time restrictions and material restraints. I’m a painter’s painter, mono-maniacally driven to make intensely detailed, layered, slow art. Given this fact, there was little possibility of winning a challenge. It took me time to loosen up and give into the structures of each challenge. By the time this happened, I was so sleep deprived, confused, and generally demoralized, that I decided to make this weird installation/sculpture replete with child drawings.

ABN: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Ryan: I hula hoop and read continental philosophy on a daily basis.

Click here to see China Chow’s thoughts on Ryan’s artistic ability.

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