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Painter Beverly Ryan on the Creative Process

Eating the Cake, oil on panel, by Beverly Ryan. Awarded the Cora Rupp Memorial Award for Best in Show - large works. (click for full size)
Eating the Cake, oil on panel, by Beverly Ryan. Awarded the Cora Rupp Memorial Award for Best in Show – large works. (click for full size)

As an Art League instructor, Torpedo Factory Artist, and now a student again, Beverly Ryan has a lot going on right now. But she still found time to tell us a little bit about her creative process — and the painting above, which was Best in Show for the “mini” (large works) portion of “Mini MAX.”

What was your goal with “Eating the Cake”?
Beverly Ryan: This painting developed out of a previous work called “Tower.” Both paintings make indirect references to environmental issues — drilling for and using fossil fuels. Oil derricks figure in both works.

Tower by Beverly Ryan
Tower by Beverly Ryan

Originally the intention was to make the wedding cake form more pronounced, but just one well-defined layer and a crown at the top survived the process. The active black strokes at the bottom again reference petroleum production — drilling, spills, splashing, chaos. The phrase “You can’t have your cake and eat it, too” provided my title. In my opinion, we are eating our environmental cake.

Why are you a painter? Why oil and encaustic specifically?
I have worked in several media, but when I found my way to paint, I knew I was “home.” The directness of painting is perfect for me as I work through evolving ideas. Oil paint and encaustic paint create rich surfaces and surface tension is important to my work.

Eating the Cake (detail) by Beverly Ryan

What is it like working on an MFA? How is it affecting your work?
I am enrolled in the low residence MFA program at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. So far, it has been a very challenging experience being a student again. The academics in the program are demanding. The experience has encouraged me to consider my studio work as research and to think of my process as collecting data. This attitude about the work appeals to me. The exposure to new artists and critiques from my professors has been eye-opening.

What’s your creative process like from an idea to a completed piece?
I work intuitively. There usually is a small germ of an idea that gets me started, but the paintings change as I work. I build, destroy and rebuild until it becomes “something.” I figure out how to make a painting as I paint it. I have learned to trust the process and have a dialogue with the painting.

Dandelion II, encaustic on panel, by Beverly Ryan
Dandelion II, encaustic on panel, by Beverly Ryan

I am most happy creatively when this “conversation” with the forms, colors, lines, ideas leads me to new conclusions. I like to surprise myself. I like to end up in a new place every time.

What are you working on now?
Presently I have four directions developing. One is my ongoing longtime pursuit of rich abstracted forms. Another is the exploration of linear structures – webs. Another is soft sculpture canvas forms. The last includes imported images of drones in drawings and paintings that suggest maps, vectors, strikes, continents. It’s all research and the outcome is unknown. My job is to keep the faith and see where the process takes me.

Cabaret, oil, by Beverly Ryan (from the May 2015 exhibit, “The Influence of Fauvism”)
Cabaret, oil, by Beverly Ryan (from the May 2015 exhibit, “The Influence of Fauvism”)

“Mini MAX” is open through December 1, 2015.

Interested in studying with Bev? Check out her upcoming Art League classes.

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