Eye On This Artist
I met Eva Ryan on a very hot Thursday afternoon at her studio that was currently being built, literately the walls just went up that week. She somehow managed to make a little work space amongst all the construction in the middle of her studio. Currently several studios are being built for the resident artists at The HUD Gallery in Ventura. She told me that everything would be done by next week for first Friday, although I had my doubts looking at all of the studios with debris and furniture all in piles. Eva has a very sweet disposition and did not let the chaos of the studio distract her from letting me shoot her while she worked.
When I was researching for artists to write about I was very intrigued by the work of this self taught 24 year old pencil and ink artist. There was something sweet, interesting and sad about her work that touched me and I wanted to hear her story. Eva has been drawing for a little over ten years, according to her website, and is inspired by American comic art and pencil portraiture. Eva’s thread-bare, beautifully graphic and laboriously detailed drawings are a mirror image of her lingering existential crisis and profound life experience.
Please enjoy this very honest interview from a very talented young lady.
One more thing, everything was done by First Friday and the studios look fantastic!
Did you choose, or were you chosen to create art work?
I have a couple thoughts on that. I grew up in Denver with my father, who consequently was an alcoholic but also a very talented musician, cinematographer and lover of the arts. He welcomed and harbored my free-thinking and creativity. He gave me the space that I needed to explore my craft. He would take me to museums and gallery openings on weekends, and he instilled within me that art has no boundaries and that art/creating could save my life one day, if I ever needed it to.
So, growing up in an artistic/intense household definitely was my preamble to becoming an artist.
But as far as being chosen? No. I believe that I was placed in the perfect scenario while growing up that allowed my decision to pursue drawing in a serious manner to flourish. But I chose to create and draw. I was not born knowing how to render a subject. I had to put the time into teaching myself how to truthfully observe an object, in the hopes of one day becoming a connoisseur of things.
"decamping" mixed media
What are your methods of visualization? How does the process of creating an art object begin?
Well, I work in series. Every series of drawings has a driving influence or idea behind it that is common throughout each drawing in said series. That gives me some focus and perimeters to work within. Also, I draw birds as my main subjects, so that provides some focus, as well.
I draw only what I know or what I have experienced in my life. Honesty and integrity is of the utmost importance to me and my work. So, depending on what my current series is about, I will start with a related life experience or idea and begin to play off that. Every drawing I do has its own concept. Not everything in a single drawing is planned all at once either. My drawings evolve from one day to the next while in process.
Yes, the concept and idea of the series is always in play throughout the process, but the drawing itself takes form as I go along. I am not a big planner. I get bored with too much constraint, and planning to me is constraining. As long as my driving idea is constantly at the forefront of the drawing, the rest of the paper is fair game for me to play and build upon.
How does the city you live in influence your creativity?
Honestly, my current city of residence has nothing to do with my work, other than I create and show my work there. I come from a more emotional place as an artist, so all of my drawings are based on life experiences that I know about. However I do make use of reclaimed and found objects (that I find in Ventura County), but I use these items not because I am trying to capture a “Ventura-esque” feel in my work, but rather I like the idea of making ugly, unwanted things, into structures that I draw my life on.
In your words, what does it mean to be a “creative”?
“The stuff comes alive and turns crazy on ya.” Ernest Hemingway said that. I believe that a true creative (1) finds this quote to be a realistic statement, and (2) welcomes this phenomena. Every piece of art that is worth caring about--whether it’s performing, musical or visual--is loved and valued because it is different, alive, or crazy. To make something great, the creative has to birth an idea and allow that idea to run away with itself. Everyone else who tries to control and mold is merely a sham.
"forming" mixed media
Name something you've done to further yourself as an artist that you thought wouldn't be successful but was, and something you thought would be great but wasn't?
The one thing that I thought was going to be a great idea but was not, was epoxy resin. I thought that pouring epoxy resin over my drawings was going to be fresh, exciting and beautiful. It was all those things, but it was also a distraction to the viewer and didn’t look as “show ready” as I had hoped.
The manner in which I was using the resin, with the exception of one piece, made me look like an amateur. I want to stick my foot in my mouth every time I bring one of those old pieces out. Yuck.
On the brighter side, I went through a creative epiphany this past year. I noticed myself growing bored, and I felt like I had a ton of things to say but with no creative and honest way of expressing them. I was in a four-month block. My drawings were crap, there was no catharsis after I would draw, so I constantly felt like crap. It was defeating. I needed to push myself.
My big push was reverting back to my roots as an artist. When I first started to seriously draw, I incorporated a lot of collage and text into my work. Somewhere along the line, I got obsessed with just the rendering aspect of drawing and “let go” of text and collage. This was a good thing, it gave me the room I needed to build my technical skill as a drawer, but it wasn’t enough to get my point across as an artist.
I let the text and collage come back, got a bit looser with my backgrounds and really focused on channeling my voice into my work.
Now I welcome a certain amount of uncomfortableness into each of my drawings. I had to teach myself to be OK with not always being OK.
This was a very scary and almost surreal point in my life, but I can stand behind my work 110% now. Why do you make art? And whom do you make it for?
Honestly, as a child growing up in an alcoholic household and being exposed to profound situations at a young age left me feeling alone and anxious. I needed a way out. I needed a higher form of expression that I could call my own. I desperately wanted to help myself and give my father a reason to be proud of me, so I started to draw.
Drawing makes me feel, but it also makes me feel good. Through art, I am getting in touch with myself emotionally and connecting with other people, whilst doing something fun and feeding my soul. But most importantly, I draw because I love it. I love it more than anything else.
I primarily draw for myself. But, I guess you could say that I draw for my father, as well. He passed away suddenly at age 53 from a massive heart attack when I was 17 years old. His passing, and the events leading to and from his death, were the “worst-best” things that have taken place in my life thus far. The feeling of loss and the sadness associated with losing an immediate family member is something that I have to carry with me now. That is not necessarily a bad thing.
My life is not horrible now because my dad died, it’s just different. The act of grieving as a teenager, seeing other kids out in public with their fathers present was the worst experience ever, and I will carry that with me. But now, all of those depressive emotions are slowly turning a new leaf. Compassion and empathy is what has started to fill the hole that was made in my torso the day he died. All of those feelings and experiences have made me a better artist and a better person. His passing is the biggest source of fuel to my fire. Every time I sit at my drafting table he is the first thing that pops in my head, if only for a second.
What is your biggest challenge personally as it pertains to making your work?
Stepping away is my Catch-22. I get so excited and so crazed that I keep going and going and going, especially when I am in the middle of something that is tedious and takes mass amounts of focus. There is a lot to be said about being brain deep in a drawing. Anyone who is fan of 0.005 micron pens has experienced this at some point while drawing. This flurry of detail and focus, sometimes makes it hard for me to come up for air once I’m in the zone. I have over-worked many pieces because of this. I unfortunately have to remind myself daily to leave my studio when I have something to come back to, otherwise I’m S.O.L., and I return the next day with no work to jump into, and, on top of my soiled attitude, I wasted expensive paper.
"Jezebel Breaths" mixedmedia
How do you deal with critics?
I don’t. I just accept it and move on, especially if they offer me comments with zero substance. If there is one thing I have learned, it is to pursue and show each piece of work with conviction. If I am not willing to stand by my work why should anyone else? Now, the people who offer up constructive criticism, they are the best. They are the best because 1) they actually looked at my work and thought about it, and 2) they respected me enough as an artist, or at least saw enough potential in my work, to merit taking time to talk to me and offer some sort of advice or guidance.
Do you find yourself more attracted to work that is not like your own, or work that has similarities to yours?
I am attracted to work that is more like my own. I tend to gravitate toward ink drawings and illustrative works. I feel as though I can relate to these types of artists’ experiences while drawing more than, let’s say, an abstract painter. I can better understand and appreciate the technique and skill that goes into illustrative work rather than other genres of art. Also, when I see some work that has a likeness to my own that is 20 times better than mine, it lights a fire under my ass that pushes me further and harder the next time I go into my studio.
When you are bored with yourself and your work in the studio, what do you do to get out of it art wise?
I have a few tricks up my sleeve that I use when I suffer from boredom. The first is music. I find new music to listen to. A great song can send me over the edge into a creative downpour. Also, I ask every artist in my studio who I am close with, for their opinion and maybe some direction. Hashing things out with other artists has always been a huge help for me. I go look at great art at museums, galleries or even online. And lastly, getting out of the studio for a day or two or five is a great way to separate yourself. I get obsessive and sometimes separation is all that is needed.
Who are you most inspired by; another artist, relative, pet?
There are many things that inspire me; other artwork is definitely the pinnacle of my inspiration. My top four artists that blow my mind are as follows:
Jonas Lara (which is funny because our work is very different). He is another Ventura County/L.A.-based artist. His work is the most intelligent. You have to stare at it for awhile to understand what you are looking at. There are things on top of things, paint underneath photographs, graphite lines on top of canvas. He is very prolific, and that’s commendable. Hands down.
Ryan Carr is another artist based out of Ventura County who inspires me. Our styles share a likeness, so it’s natural that I would gravitate toward his work. The attention to detail and the discipline he pays to his craft is a force to be reckoned with.
Jennifer Gunlock is a Los Angeles-based artist who does these huge, beautiful, mixed-media drawings on Stonehenge that give off an architectural vibe. She is a prime example of what it means to be original. I saw her work at a gallery in L.A. and I fell in love!
And lastly, Zak Smith. He is a renowned contemporary artist from New York who is now based out of Los Angeles. He is honest with all his artistic endeavors, from interviews to his pen-and-ink drawings. I strive for his level of honesty in my life and within my work. He also friend me on MySpace when I was 13 and I thought that was rad.
Is there something happening in your career that you are looking forward to? Any exciting projects on the horizon?
I have a show in Los Angeles with Create Fixate that’s happening in November. I’m pretty stoked for it. I have been working real hard and I can’t wait to see all my current work outside of my studio walls.
Describe yourself in 5 words.
Eva Ryan Studio
1793 E. Main Street Ventura, California 93001