Q&A with…

Paul Ryding

What inspires your work? What designers or artists do you take inspiration from?

I have always tried to make a conscious effort not to be directly influenced by other illustrators.

The one artist who I owe my career to is Chuck Close. I’ve always had a love of portraiture and feel most at home drawing faces, but was nervous about making that my portfolio of work. I felt that having a more diverse folio of subject matter would allow for more growth; and I couldn’t have been more wrong. If you are forcing yourself to create work that doesn’t form organically, then the outcome suffers and ultimately the viewer can tell.

It wasn’t until a friend of mine saw a sketchbook portrait I drew and said “wow, you must love Chuck Close” who at the time I hadn’t even heard of. Once I saw his earlier works of huge photorealistic black and white portraits, that was it for me. In a way it just gave me permission to do exactly what I wanted to do.

Ironically, he has said “inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up to work” which has saved me many times from creative block. To me it’s about signing up to a daily process and let it slowly evolve over the years.

How do you come up with you compositions? What is your creative process like?

I will almost always be given a photo by the client and be told to have at it. The drawing part for me is very methodical and logical; taking up about 95% of the time allocated to the job itself. Once the portrait is complete, I will have to down tools and go for a walk to shake the cobwebs off. I will then go back to my mac and do the complete opposite becoming very free-form and expressive by almost attacking the portrait with ink-brushes, colour forms and so on. Once I have about 3-4 compositions ready, I will go back and start removing elements from the illustration and trim all the elements back to see what best compliments the portrait itself without overloading or distracting from it’s ultimate function.

Who has been the favourite portrait you have worked on so far?

I think you are only as good as your last illustration really so I am throwing myself under the bus here by saying my favourite portrait was a personal piece I did of John Coltrane back in 2016. It was mostly because it was a perfect happy accident that still frustrates me to this day as to what I did exactly to get that composition to be so balanced.

What Coffee Table books do you own?

Not many but I do always make sure I have the latest copy of Varoom Magazine on show at all times.