Ryan Brady is an artistic chameleon, capable of creating both comic book-style illustrations and fine-art oil paintings. Born and raised in Portage, Brady moved to Grand Rapids to get his Bachelor’s Degree in Illustration from Kendall College of Art and Design. Since then he’s displayed work at venues across West Michigan, including at Glitter Milk Gallery, Kalamazoo Institute of the Arts, UICA and the Meanwhile Bar, among others. With an upcoming show in November at Have Company (136 S. Division Ave, Grand Rapids), Brady, 28, chatted with Revue about what it takes to be a diverse artist and why the unknown inspires him.
Why do you choose to work in such a variety of styles?
I switch up between painting, drawing and inking to add variety to my work and to keep myself from getting burnt out on one medium. What people should know about my work is that there is a divide. My personal fine-art work has little to do with my illustrations. Fine art is the study of what inspires oneself and you create a body of work involving a certain concept. Illustration is work for hire.
A lot of your fine-art work involves the occult, what drew you to that topic?
I’ve always been interested in the occult, mythology, natural decay and destruction. This sort of curiosity of those themes creates endless material to reference and ideas or concepts start to flow. The occult and mythology have opened my eyes to a world where a lot is unknown or uncertain. Since a young age I’ve been drawn to the unknown. What drives me to use them as themes is the alternative lifestyle or teachings they preach and connectedness with nature.
What has been a seminal experience in your career and why?
I’d say working on an organic farm for three years. You witness a lot of life and death, the changes in the environment. To be able to see the moon and stars at night in the country is worth all the hard labor during the day. I learned a lot about myself and it has inspired my work immensely.
What are the best and worst aspects of being an artist in the Grand Rapids area?
The best part of being an artist in Grand Rapids is all the opportunities to show your work. There are so many shops and small galleries on Division that are always looking for artwork to hang up. There is so much support for artists here, and it’s all very well organized. Organizations like Avenue for the Arts work hard to make this city a little more interesting. First Fridays Gallery Hop, Art.Downtown and The Market are all great outlets for anyone trying to get involved with the local arts. Like many other cities, making a living as an artist in Grand Rapids is difficult. Most of my friends, including myself, work full or part time jobs to support themselves and do artwork on the side.
How was it growing up as a budding artist?
I have a very supportive family who has always encouraged me to pursue what I love. My grandmother was a great pastel artist and her work hangs at my parent’s house. I was always surrounded by her work which was inspiring. My uncle Scott started taking me to different art museums and artist lectures in downtown Kalamazoo at a young and impressionable age. I remember looking through magazines and books and seeing these drawings and paintings used to tell a story or sell a product and it blew my mind that you can get paid to do this stuff.
What’s integral to the work of an artist?
Staying motivated and having self-discipline. It’s easy to not work on something as there are so many distractions in life. A supportive community helps, too. I’m thankful to live somewhere where so many artists are working hard and doing things that push the city forward. n
For more on Ryan Brady visit ryanbradyillustration.tumblr.com or follow him on Instagram at: TidesOfRuin.