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Daily Inspiration: Meet Ryan Sinner

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ryan Sinner.

Hi Ryan, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today.
I grew up in the Englewood/Denver area. My parents scraped together what money they could to put me through a private catholic school. I was always known as ‘the artist’ of my class and the whole school. Considered ‘weird’ by my peers and noticeably poorer, bullying from my peers and some of the staff wasn’t uncommon for most of those years.

I’d receive birthday presents (bought by my peers’ parents) that mostly consisted of various art supplies or art kits and used those supplies gratefully but sparingly for years. I remember a day when we all had to sit in church while we took turns confessing to the priest; we were allowed to have homework or something to work on. When I came back from my session, I saw that my supplies were broken, stolen, and kicked around. In a church… I’m decidedly not religious now, but my artwork emanates themes from my religious past.

My first commission was when I was 15 or 16. My mom’s friend from work requested a large charcoal and graphite recreation of an old photo of a Marine from WW2. The success that came with this first commission was the first time I considered doing art for money, at least on the side. In high school, I got a lot of support from my art teacher, Brooke Speegle. She urged me to try new mediums, play with color, and pursue a career in making fine art.

By this point, I was already struggling with depression and undiagnosed ADHD, and most of my pieces were an expression of the undefined feelings I was exploring. At the time, I was stubborn and hesitant to step out of my comfort zone. Further, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to do art professionally, because I didn’t want to add financial stress to something that I liked to do for fun or to ease emotional turmoil, so I initially felt like I disappointed her in that aspect.

However, as years went by, I’d experiment with some of the many techniques and styles she had introduced me to. Many of these projects were completed with art supplies she had very generously given me as a high school graduation gift. I still find it funny that she would just take my art and submit it to art shows all across the state then just let me know if I need to show up somewhere because I won first place or something.

Years later, Brooke ended up hosting me as a guest speaker to her advanced art classes to teach them about digital art and being an independent artist. Going into college, art was tucked far in the back of my mind. My main focus was this new identity I was developing as a future space scientist.

For about 5 years, I was maybe only making one piece a year and my only creative outlet was curating my Instagram page. It wasn’t a lack of inspiration – I was finally living in the city that I so deeply admired, got to wander the art-filled alleys, and enjoy crappy coffee at 2 am at Leelas while the city lights reflected off the raindrops on the windows. When I was working as an Art Preservation Chemist at the Library of Congress in D.C., deeper inspiration struck again and I started to practice digital art and painting again.

I started to make more art with scientific themes to introduce my new identity to my old one. Also while in school, I got three pieces accepted into two different issues of “Scribendi Art & Literary Magazine” and presented in one of them: “Twilight Zone.” Another piece that was accepted was “Mercury in High Contrast” which has also been featured in the art-based lyric video of “Starlight” for the cinematic rock band STARSET.

Once I graduated, I started a job as a research scientist at Pioneer Astronautics which was a dream job for me since my undergraduate thesis cited several papers written by my new boss. After almost nine months of working on a NASA-funded project, COVID-19 finally reached the United States. A couple of months later we were on lockdown, then a couple of weeks later I had to leave my position. Knee-deep in a pandemic and I was unemployed.

I started doing mini-commissions to pay for small necessities during the lockdown. One week I’d have a couple of little pieces I needed to finish, then the next it would be three or four, then the next… I was able to keep up with my portion of the rent and feed myself. In the Fall of 2020, I was contacted by a fairly popular local YouTuber and I started to work on some graphic design for him and his business. In early 2021, I was hired full-time as a graphic designer and creative director for his YouTube channels.

By the end of 2021, I was also producing one of the live shows, co-running one of the channels, and learning more about video and audio mixing. Despite how fun it was to gain these skills and work on live shows, I needed to leave due to creative differences; I was only being paid just above minimum wage and rent had gone up. Luckily, in early 2022 I was offered a position as a Chemical Test Engineer and I’ve finally been able to fund my art and hobbies again – and with a TON of new technical skills under my belt.

Currently, I am an art resident at Half Crown Creative in downtown Fort Collins where I work out of my mini studio, display my pieces in their gallery, sell my works, and meet with clients. Having my own space has been incredibly motivating and inspiring! I’m working on multiple projects, like usual, but have been focusing on completing some acrylic painting commissions, adding St Vitus Cathedral to my architectural ink series, and finishing my series titled “Neon + Ink” consisting of minimalist yet detailed line work of various lit up neon signs that I’ve seen in cities during my travels the past year.

I’m hoping to have enough pieces for the series to do a gallery viewing in early 2023. I’m also looking to experiment with light more this upcoming year. This would include holographic, glow-in-the-dark, and reflective media combined with traditional media. I am also modeling for some collaborative photography projects and looking forward to getting better at that as well. I miss living in Denver so some more city-inspired works will be in production.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Getting here was not a smooth road. At the height of the pandemic, my mental health deteriorated severely. It was to the point of I was worried that I wouldn’t even be able to hold a full-time job again. However, early in 2021, I did research about what ADHD is and was surprised to learn that it isn’t just a diagnosis thrown at you if you suck at paying attention.

I found out that there isn’t something wrong with my brain, but that my brain runs differently. It’s like… everyone is running MAC OS in their brains and giving you controls/operators that aren’t compatible with your brain’s Windows OS if that makes sense. Ever since then, it feels like I’ve been re-learning ‘how to human’ and that has come with a lot less pressure and anxiety to be a certain way in my everyday life, resulting in work and art being much easier to handle.

I definitely still deal with debilitating anxiety at times, but a lot less of it comes from untreated or misunderstood ADHD symptoms or even my religious trauma that I feel like I’ve taken and turned around into something that I can embrace in my artwork. On top of this, I’ve dealt with chronic pain my entire life. After sitting in any position for more than ten minutes, I need to move because it feels like my muscles freeze up or my joints will break.

This isn’t ideal for anyone but makes it harder for me to sit down and draw when my wrist feels like it’s being pulled apart or when I can’t even turn my head. There’s not much that I can do for a permanent solution and healthcare, as many of you know, isn’t cheap. One big challenge that I’m still facing is space. Not outer space. But actual space.

These projects require many unique materials, and I live in a tiny one-bedroom apartment with my partner. The lack of a workshop, or even a yard, makes it difficult to finish some of my bigger projects that involve sanding, grinding, soldering, fire, chemicals, etc. have been put aside since I moved up to Fort Collins. Having my current studio helps, but it is only a temporary solution. Someday I’d like to have a garage or workshop that can fit all kinds of tools, machinery, paints, supplies, and maybe even my little fumehood!

A challenge that I’m still overcoming is transforming my work style from commission-based to product-based. Having a shop space to sell my works is very nice, but the challenge of coming up with reproducible fine art designs and useful but beautiful products has been very educational. My stickers have been fairly popular and my recent print series of “HALLOWS” on silver metallic paper with gold foil is finally on display!

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Artist, scientist, and dabbler in all things creative – I don’t know what to call that. I like to explore new styles, new mediums, and new techniques – adapting my skills to fit any project I take on. My studies and jobs in spectroscopy, particle physics, and chemistry have greatly inspired some of my approaches to use color, along with equipping me with the knowledge to engineer and test different ideas.

At my current job, I chemically test electronics to ensure the absence of hazardous or toxic substances so that when they are in your hands or a landfill, they won’t cause as much harm to the environment; e-waste is so terrible and very preventable with the proper regulations, but something that the US is lacking in, and is a topic I’m passionate about. A lot of my work will touch on topics relevant to the environment and sustainability, equity and social justice, science and space exploration, etc.

So having the opportunity to make a difference using both my education in science and my skills as a creator means everything to me. I reuse materials as often as possible- for environmental and budget reasons. I specialize in human and animal portraiture in both traditional and digital mediums. For my work, I aim for darker aesthetics with technical flair. My work borrows a lot from goth, punk, and street art styles, with a cyber and technological twist.

On the other hand, my commission work can range from colorful and scenic pet portraits, digestible scientific models, and architectural inks, to full social media themes, Twitch overlays and emotes, and show graphics. Though I’m proficient with charcoal, graphite, and ink, I’m currently experimenting with acrylic and oil paints, street art, woodworking, electronics, animated graphic design, block printing, songwriting, and modeling. Jack of.. many trades.

For a while there, I think I was mostly known for my techy and spooky “Cyber Portraits” series that I started in 2020. Nowadays, I think I’m mostly known for my highly detailed ink pieces like my series of gothic cathedrals, and my highly detailed charcoal portraits. being that person who says “I wanna do that” at any given project or idea. Or maybe I’m more like the ‘friendly yet unsocialized and awkward punk scientist/artist’?

I’m unsure, but I do know that I would like to be known for inspiring others and making measurable changes in society, whether it be social, political, or scientifically based. I find I have a lot of pride in finally having a little public-facing studio but sometimes I look at some of these things I’ve drawn and I’m like. How did I do that? I surprise myself. Despite that, I couldn’t tell you what I’m most proud of.

I’ve been practicing self-appreciation and self-care a lot in the past couple of years, which I think contributed to a new profound sense of pride in every creative endeavor I start because at some point in my life just even trying to do some of the things I’ve achieved seemed out of the question or impossible, especially with my ADHD inhibiting my executive function and focus. I’ve found that taking pride in a ‘crappy’ doodle or a project that didn’t turn out quite right brings me a lot more peace and space to grow than criticizing myself does.

Perhaps I am most proud of myself for reaching this point in my outlook and mental well-being. Besides my unique style that may stand out in some of my work, I’d say my willingness to try something new and technically challenging is probably what sets me apart from others. Regardless if someone asks for the smallest conceivable portrait of their dog or If someone reaches out to me for some giant technical art installation that moves with the sun – I know I’ll make it work.

Alright so before we go can you talk to us a bit about how people can work with you, collaborate with you or support you?
I mean – I just tell people to reach out! Whether you want to reach me for a specifically commissioned work or have questions about pricing, I’m never pushy. The worst that happens is we don’t reach an agreement and we both save time and/or money! I’m reachable on any of my socials, but email is the easiest for me to keep track of. I’m also open to collaborating for sure!

I’ve been meaning to find someone who wants to work more on the music side of things lately, but I’m always up for any type of collaborative project! It helps me learn new techniques and see different perspectives, and it also helps me finish something because body-doubling is an amazing motivator for people with minds like mine. Also, it’s super neat to hear other people’s ideas because I’m so used to the things that my mind comes up with.

If people want to support me, I tell them to check out my Patreon! It’s a subscription-based service as low as $2/month (less than a cup of coffee per month) where I post works-in-progress, my step-by-step processes, new thoughts/ideas, peaks inside my studio and personal sketchbooks, videos, downloadable content, poetry/writing, exclusive content, and SO much more. I curate my Instagram and other socials to fit a certain aesthetic, but my Patreon is where you’ll get a better look into my creative mind and process.

This is also where you’d see upcoming projects or hear announcements about products or events before anyone else. My patrons currently probably already know about at least a dozen ideas I’m cooking up that no one else knows about. Since I know money is tight these days, I also just ask that anyone who wants to support me just share my socials and slap my stickers! Many of my clients come from word-of-mouth or personal references, so aiding me in securing a solid online presence is ALWAYS appreciated!

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Veda Holden

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