Ryan Weatherly’s bold and courageous expressionistic paintings have made quite the wave in the community. Weatherly’s pieces take the beauty of a singular portrait and add a distorted passion, with his bright use of color and an energy that leaps off the piece. The uniqueness and depth of his work is unparalleled. I spoke with Weatherly about his work and his current showing at Capitol Hill’s own Blindfold Gallery.
How would you describe your art?
I’d describe my paintings as imaginative, intuitive, emotional, psychological, gestural, colorful, and sometimes even aggressive. They are large and alive with movement. I think that the large size makes the paintings more powerful and also invites the viewer to move closer and farther back, to add to the already moving action in the paintings. I’m interested in the complexity, chaos and contradiction that go along with “what it is to be human” and the paintings are supposed to encompass sets of human content.
Have you always wanted to be an artist? How young were you when you realized you had talent?
I have always been interested in art as long as I can remember. I can recall when I was about 10 years old writing a paper on “what I wanted to be when I grew up” and choosing artist as my ideal career. In high school art classes I began to notice that I had talent. My teacher at the time gave me my own space to work in, and let me just paint whatever I wanted instead of following along with the class assignments. That was really encouraging and may have been the first time that I thought maybe I really did have some talent.
What draws you to portraiture?
To me, portraiture has an interesting depth of content, at first the meaning seems simple, but when you really think about it a portrait contains massive amounts of underlying meaning, from the emotional and psychological notions of a person, to the finite nature of the body and the human need for recall and memory (to have an identity / feel alive).
I also think that portrait’s meaning and use has changed dramatically after the camera was invented, and continues to with digital photography. I think from a contemporary vantage point the portrait can become an armature to hang complex human oriented ideas on, and in this way I see a connection between painted portraiture and abstraction.
What inspires you? What is your process when coming up with a new piece?
I’m inspired visually by modern art history and contemporary painting, film and photography. I always need an image to activate my imagination. This usually comes in the form of photos, images from historical archives, books, magazines and film.
I like to create portraits out of images that were not intended to be portraits such as cropped scenes from films, mug shots or hospital documents. I think of this as a contemporary way of thinking about portraiture.
It’s very hard to determine where the paintings begin; I am always collecting and gathering images at all times. Black and white images are particularly inspiring because they’re inherently simpler and more abstract than color photography. Because of its simplicity, they cause a more immediate reaction from me.
I’ll normally choose an image that I respond to on a high emotional level, then transform an original image into something new, through collage and painting on top of the photo.
Do you find you’re expressing yourself in these paintings, or other people? Or is it a combination of both?
I think it must be a combination of both. I use intuition, imagination most of all; however; these are always in response to something outside of myself.
You have new work up at Blindfold in Capitol Hill. Are we going to see the same type of work or is there something new and different with these pieces?
I think the work has progressed and is organized a bit different but they are in the same vain as what I have been doing for some time now. In the past I only painted faces, but the new work has more of the body, so I think there is a new sense of distance in this group of paintings.
Has the Seattle / Capitol Hill community influenced your work at all? What has it been like being embraced and supported by the Hill Community?
My work has changed dramatically (for the better) since moving here three years ago. So yes, I imagine that it has influenced my work quite a bit. I am really happy to be showing at the Blindfold gallery, I think it is a great space in a great part of town. Capitol Hill has a certain pace, liveliness, and color that I think corresponds to the work I do, so I am very pleased to show it in that environment.
What are you currently working on? Where can we find art to buy and updates on your work?
I am just beginning to work on some new ideas for my next body of work. I like to leave a lot of room for improvisation, so I am not sure what the final outcome will be. I’ll be in a group show this coming September at the South Seattle Community College Gallery titled “Being Human.” Otherwise you can always follow me on my website RyanWeatherly.com.